A reputation of being trustworthy is one of the most valuable assets that individuals in leadership positions can have. Trust is a critical factor in gaining and maintaining the confidence of employees and customers. It ultimately plays a pivotal role in contributing to the success of workplace relationships and, in turn, the overall organization.

A number of factors influence the level and longevity of trust in relationships. Unlike a purchased product, trust does not come with a short- or long-term warranty that guarantees it for a defined timeframe. Once established, it can last for years, be eroded gradually, or disintegrate after a single action. To be sustainable, it must be built on a foundation of ethical behavior, credibility, and integrity.

Breaches of trust can have adverse consequences. Depending on their magnitude and scope, they can damage relationships, undermine overall organizations, and have a negative impact on society at large. Widespread unethical conduct in corporations has the potential of contributing to and exacerbating economic challenges on a national or global scale.

Within an organization, the lack or presence of trust in leadership influences morale, engagement, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Results of the latest Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey conducted in 2014 by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicated that “trust between employees and senior management” was the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. “Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” ranked at the top.

The following are tips for contributing to the organization’s success by building trust in workplace relationships:

  1. Ensure that there is consistency between your words and actions.

    Your credibility will be reinforced by “walking the talk” and diminished when what you say is not reflected by the actions that you take.

  2. Be mindful that trust is fragile when making decisions that have the potential to jeopardize the confidence others have in you.

    Pause and consider various alternatives.  Reflect on the perceptions and outcomes that can result from each course of action.

  3. Guard against the dangers of using rationalizations or other excuses to provide justification for taking inappropriate actions.

    When faulty reasoning of this nature is applied in situations, it can destroy trust and lead to other negative consequences.

  4. Apply a “glass house standard” in gauging your integrity.

    Consider how your conduct would be perceived if videos of your workplace interactions were placed on YouTube for all to view.  Adopt the perspective expressed by Will Rogers, “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

  5. Communicate a consistent message, regardless of the setting.

    Be mindful that your credibility will be damaged if your comments flip flop based on what you believe those who are listening would like for you to say.

  6. Recognize that making negative comments about others who are not present can harm workplace relationships and cause distrust.

    Those who hear your remarks may begin to question whether they are indicative of what you are saying about them.  Before engaging in these types of discussions, consider the quote by Ruth Anne Crouse, “What Peter tells me about Paul tells me more about Peter than it tells me about Paul.”

  7. Be truthful in your communications.

    Trust can be undermined or destroyed by knowingly making false statements or providing inaccurate information.

  8. Only make commitments that you intend to fulfill.

    In the event that unforeseen obstacles prevent you from accomplishing what was agreed upon, promptly inform those involved.

  9. Be aware that criticizing others in public can cause resentment and embarrass all who are present.

    However, providing constructive criticism, as necessary, in a private setting can increase the potential of accomplishing intended objectives and your ability to preserve relationships.

  10. Demonstrate respect on an ongoing basis in your interactions with others.

    An environment of respect is conducive to enhancing trust in your workplace relationships.

  11. Listen for understanding.

    Listening is a way to show that you care about what is being said and also about the individual.

  12. Recognize that a reputation of trust requires ongoing attention and self-discipline.

    The efforts required to establish your reputation are extensive when compared to the missteps that can mar what you have built.

Portions of this article by Barbara Richman were published previously in the Memphis Business Journal.

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