A Comprehensive Guide on How to Build Trust and Rapport at Work

By: Corey Blake, CEO in Psychological Safety

CONTENTS

➔ Why Build Trusting Relationships in the Workplace?

By the numbers, the impacts of trust are astonishing.

➔ Three Absolute Necessities to Build Trust in the Workplace

We’ve got three secret ingredients to building trust. Can you guess what they are?

➔ Build Trust in Teams to Unlock People’s Potentials

Turn your dysfunctional team into a dynamic powerhouse with our five key strategies.

➔ You’re Overlooking the Importance of Trust in Leadership

If you’re a leader, we’ve got news for you. Are you ready to receive it?

➔ How Do Leaders Build Trust with Employees?

Learn how to go from being “just the boss” to the ultimate sage to your people.

➔ Rebuilding Broken Trust at Work

Baby steps. Baby steps.

➔ Strengthen Your Trustworthiness by Building Trust with Stakeholders

Share these trust secrets with your stakeholders and watch your relationships skyrocket.

➔ Building on Trust Creates Amplified Results Over Time

Are you prepared to commit to the journey?

➔ In Conclusion

We’ve given you the keys to the kingdom of trust. It’s up to you to unlock it.

Imagine being part of a team that operates like the most well-oiled machine, where collaboration, open communication, and mutual respect are the foundation of every interaction. A team where challenges are met with enthusiasm and with a collective determination to knock it out of the park together. A team where you can feel the electric atmosphere of “fun” radiating from person to person because they innately respect each other’s talents and know they can rely on one another to win big for the organization together. This is the power of a high-trust environment.

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, building trust and rapport in the workplace has never been more crucial. As Harvard Business Review aptly states, “Employees who experience a high-trust culture are 106 percent more energetic at work and 76 percent more engaged than those who are in a low-trust environment.”1

“The impact of trust on employee performance, creativity, and overall satisfaction cannot be overstated.”

However, cultivating trust and rapport in the workplace is not an easy feat. It requires consistent effort, elevated self-awareness, and a commitment to personal growth from both leaders and team members. The good news is that with the right strategies and tools, any organization can transform its culture and release the untapped potential of its workforce.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of building trust and rapport at work, provide actionable steps to create a psychologically safe environment, and delve into the specific role of leadership in fostering a culture of trust.

Whether you’re a seasoned executive or a new team member, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the trust-building process that is essential for creating a thriving, high-performance workplace. Discover how building trust can revolutionize your organization, one relationship at a time.

Why Build Trusting Relationships in the Workplace?

Picture this: You’re a leader of a team that’s firing on all cylinders. The energy is electric, and the ideas are flowing. When challenges arise, your team turns toward them with the kind of excitement that demands your respect—where arguments and debates are thrilling opportunities rather than energy-sucking loops!

When you build trust and rapport with the people you work with, magic happens. Not only do employee engagement and productivity skyrocket—while turnover takes a nosedive—but being able to deeply trust one another is the difference between a group of individuals who just “work together” and a high-performance team that can see around corners and impressively innovate.

When trust and rapport are the foundation of your team, performance, creativity, and communication all get major upgrades, like unlocking the secret level in a video game where overcoming each new level becomes more exciting, as do the treasures you stack one upon the next.

And let’s not forget about the power of productive conflict. When trust and rapport are strong, your team can engage in healthy debates that lead to breakthroughs. Teams who trust each other enough to communicate openly about difficult topics are that much more willing to engage in temporary conflict on the pathway to incredible outcomes.

Perhaps the best part of building trust and rapport is the sense of vitality and satisfaction that results. When you’re part of a team that trusts and respects each other, work doesn’t feel like work anymore. It’s more like being a family of superheroes who use their abilities to fulfill a remarkable purpose together.

Employees who experience a high-trust culture are 106 percent more energetic at work and 76 percent more engaged than those who are in a low-trust environment.

Paul J. Zak, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Harvard Business Review, January–February, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust.

Organizations that increased the ratio of employees who strongly agree that their fellow employees are committed to doing quality work from three in ten to six in ten could see a 29 percent reduction in turnover and absenteeism, an 11 percent improvement in profit, and a 6 percent increase in engaged customers.

“State of the American Workplace,” Gallup, February 15, 2017, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx.

Among Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2019, an average of 87 percent of employees said they trust their employer, which correlates with more than three times the quarterly stock performance of their less-inclusive peers.

Christopher Tkaczyk, “How Companies Can Unlock the Full Human Potential of Employees by Establishing Trust,” Great Place to Work, February 27, 2019, https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/how-companies-can-unlock-the-full-human-potential-of-employees-by-establishing-trustture-blog.

Three Absolute Necessities to Build Trust in the Workplace

How do you build trust and collaboration in the workplace? These are essential components of creating a top-performing, engaged, and innovative team.

While it may seem like a daunting task, there are three essential elements that can help you foster a culture of trust within your organization.

When you focus on establishing common ground, deepening psychological safety, and elevating your employees’ trust-building skills, you’re well on your way to unlocking the full potential of your team and driving meaningful results.

Create Common Ground

First things first: you’re going to want to establish some common ground; a shared understanding of what trust looks like and how it can be broken.

A way to find common ground among your team is by bringing each and every person from the team together to guide them in sharing their past experiences of being on a high-performing team. You’ll then use those rich realizations of what was required for a successful team experience to determine the commitments your team is willing to make regarding how they will interact.

(A sample commitment might look like this: We listen to understand, learn, and support one another.)

Like a trust contract, but without the legal jargon!

Deepen Psychological Safety

There’s no trust without addressing the elephant in the room: psychological safety. (McKinsey & Company agrees with the necessity of psychological safety, stating that 89 percent of employees say that psychological safety is essential to the workplace and it is the responsibility of business leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace.2)

Psychological safety is the ring that holds important keys to unlocking trust in the workplace, and we’d argue that vulnerability is the master key.

Yep, you read that right.

Being vulnerable with your colleagues is a trust-building superpower, combining both courage and authenticity to maximize rapport.

Psych Safety Definition

To create a psychologically safe environment, focus on the three pillars of psychological safety:

  • Be present with each other (put away your electronic devices during meetings).

  • Suspend judgment for each other’s behaviors and decisions (leave your eye-rolls at home).

  • Release the need to “fix” your colleagues’ personality traits (ask if advice is requested before assuming; oftentimes it is simply more valuable for people to feel heard).

Elevate Employees’ Trust-Building Skills

To begin building trust in teams, you’ll want to level up your employees’ skills. Send them to a trust-deepening boot camp (with less yelling and more high-fives).

Start with personal development—teach them how to level up their awareness and become trust champions:

  • Open their eyes with an online course on mastering trust where they will learn the ways in which they enhance or deplete trust in their daily interactions with those around them.

  • Leverage coaching to expedite their individual accountability for exhibiting trusting behaviors with their colleagues.

  • Create lower-stakes situations where they can practice their new skills, which will enhance their ability to behave in trustworthy ways as the heat gets turned up. Like trust training wheels—a safe place to practice allows them to wobble and fall without scraping their knees too badly!

Team Group Circle Adobe Stock 391956294

Build Trust in Teams to Unlock People’s Potentials

Once you’ve established common ground, started the process of deepening psychological safety, and are creating opportunities for your team to elevate their trust-enhancing skills, what’s next?

Let’s dive into how to build trust in teams to unleash the power of your people.

  1. Bond your team together. First things first, consider kicking off this next phase of creating trust among your team with a bonding experience that sets the tone for extraordinary change. We’re talking about an experiential retreat where team members are challenged to show up in ways that demonstrate their courage and vulnerability and establish a sense of awe for one another. As Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Playbook: 60 Highly Effective Actions to Help Your Group Succeed, says, “There’s this armor that we all wear all the time . . . and the hugely ironic thing that I discover over and over again when I go inside a high-performing culture is that they find ways to take that armor off together.”3 If you want to know the single key to improving trust and communication in the workplace, start by reaching for the kinder story.

  2. Elevate both accountability AND support. Here’s where things get interesting: you’ll want to challenge your team members to step into more of their potential through measurable outcomes in their performance. Determine an ideal metric where you and they want to see demonstrated improvement. And you’ll want to also increase the support they receive to ensure their success. You don’t want to just hand them a jetpack for the first time and say, have at it! When you increase support, you’ll be giving them a safety net so they can soar with their trust-powered jetpack at the same time!

  3. Introduce a do-over process. Remember when we used to yell “do-over!” as kids when things didn’t go as planned? Well, it’s time to bring back that kind of simplicity. By giving your team members a chance to attempt more trusting behaviors again without judgment, you’ll lighten up the potential for people to feel triggered or overwhelmed by shame in those moments when they’ve exhibited less desirable (aka less trustworthy) behavior.

  4. Practice in low-stakes ways. We mentioned this above, but practice deserves emphasis because it’s too often overlooked. Let your team members hone their trust-building skills in situations where the pressure is off and they can receive some coaching as they learn and grow. Similarly to how bumper bowling encourages kids to practice rather than sitting on the sidelines out of fear of embarrassment, we first want to make it easy to play with these new concepts while building their confidence.

  5. Acknowledge and reward behavior change. Culture transformation tends to first occur in pockets where most people won’t be present to witness their teammates demonstrating courage. Use acknowledgment and public reward to reinforce the behavior change you’re starting to see and want to see more of. Think of this like giving out trust trophies, but without the cheesy music and confetti (unless that’s your thing).

Gallup21 Percent Trust Leadership2 Transp

You’re Overlooking the Importance of Trust in Leadership

When employees strongly agree that their leaders implement specific actions that build trust, a staggering 95 percent fully trust their leaders.4 That’s right, 95 percent! And the benefits? Improved employee engagement, performance, and retention: the trifecta of workplace wins!

But here’s the kicker: according to Gallup, trust in leadership has taken a nosedive since the start of the pandemic. Only 21 percent of US employees strongly agree that they trust the leadership of their organization.5

Consider if only 21 percent of us trusted GPS. We would still be using paper maps! Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

So, where are leaders going wrong? It’s time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see where you might be depleting trust and undermining your team-building efforts.

  • Inauthenticity. Many team members struggle with being themselves in the workplace, and this includes those in leadership roles. For many of us, the hard work of learning to trust ourselves is not something we’ve received professional instruction in. The result leads to others feeling less inclined to trust us too! So when it comes to your own authenticity, consider if you’re being honest about what is driving you, inspiring you, motivating you. We all carry an emotional backpack where we shove our life experiences including our thoughts and feelings. We don’t take these backpacks off, and yet, when we arrive at work, we often pretend they aren’t there. If there are parts of yourself that you’re hiding from others and you’re refusing to open your backpack, you might be showing up as inauthentic, and as a result, depleting trust with your team.
  • Fixed mindset (aka ego). You probably think you’ve adopted a learning mindset, and maybe you have; but if you’ve ever stopped listening to others because your thoughts were so loud, you’ve likely experienced some type of fixed mindset—when you literally close yourself off to learning more about a given situation because your internal thoughts carry more weight! When your team sees this behavior from you, what you’re teaching them is they don’t need to listen to others either. If you’re not consistently demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow, your team is likely to find themselves stuck on a trust-depleting treadmill—exerting a lot of energy while going nowhere.
  • False promises. These are trust-killers. Integrity means aligning your words and your behavior. If you say you’re going to do something, you better follow through. And if you don’t, you would be well advised to respectfully address your decision head-on. If you promise your kids a trip to Disneyland but never get further than the parking lot, how excited would you expect them to get when you prepare for a trip to Legoland next year?
  • High expectations without adequate support. Setting a high bar without the necessary support to vault over it is a recipe for failure. Leaders who set up their people to fail are demonstrating a lack of empathy that pulls the trust safety net out from under their team, which will inevitably lead to their falling, harming themselves, and ultimately blaming leadership. With every subsequent injury, they’re likely to become less apt to attempt to leap at all for fear of impending pain they would prefer to avoid.

  • Excessive micromanagement. There is nothing like hovering over someone’s shoulder with a magnifying glass to send the message you don’t trust them. (And if your inner voice is shouting that there is a reason you micromanage—because your people are incompetent!—then you and your team need this trust-building work more than you may care to admit!)
  • Leaking intense emotion. As a leader, you have the right to get frustrated. We all do. But sometimes we can get caught up in the belief that our frustration entitles us to leak our anger onto the rest of our team. If only everyone felt this pressure, we could get out of this mess! What we sometimes forget is that we catch more bees with honey—our trustworthy behaviors—as opposed to disturbing the nest and sending our team into a panicked frenzy where people are likely to get stung.

How Do Leaders Build Trust with Employees?

As the wise sages at Harvard Business Review put it, “In short, trust begets trust. When people are trusted, they tend to trust in return.” Trust is a tango—you’ve got to lead with confidence and show your employees that you are trustworthy and have their back.

So, how do you approach building trust in teams as a conscious leader?

Let’s get to work!

First, Set the Vision

Any great coach is going to first tell their team a story of what a winning season looks like. As you do, lead with trust to inspire trust in your people. And don’t be afraid to pepper in some vulnerability. As the cofounder of House of Beautiful Business Tim Leberecht writes, “More than purpose or perks, employees value heartfelt moments of connection that meet their needs as social beings.”6 So, as you’re setting the vision, include a story about a time when you struggled or made a mistake. Show your employees that you’re human, too.

Communicate Before, During, and After Change

When your team knows where things stand, they tend to feel more grounded, reducing fear and anxiety that might otherwise introduce time-consuming drama into the workplace. Communication is a trust compass—they’ll always know where they’re headed.

Model the Preferred Behavior

Your team is constantly watching your behavior to see what is expected of them. As a leader, you must be on board with improving your own behaviors so that you become more and more trustworthy if you expect anyone else to take your request seriously. Here are a number of areas you’ll want to be aware of modeling for your people:

  • Align your walk to your talk by embodying your company’s core values, particularly when it feels least convenient. If respect is one of your core values, you better be demonstrating respect in ALL situations. That means not using humor in ways that might diminish others. That means behaving respectfully with the customer who is outright disrespecting you.

  • Deliver on your promises. Your word is your bond (even if you didn’t use the word “promise!”).

  • Diffuse workplace drama with grace and curiosity. People will get aggravated. People will vent. People will feel they are treated unfairly. Try and pummel that behavior with a hammer, and you’ll further deplete trust. Really listen to people’s grievances until you’ve heard and felt them. Then, instead of rescuing your team member, help empower them to become the change they are after.

  • Own your mistakes. Intentional or otherwise, own your trust infractions. We are all guilty of trust infractions that go against what we preach; you included. Lighten up. You’re human. Own those moments with your team and then hit the reset button to give yourself another shot at better behavior. Then watch the jaws drop as your team members try and figure out what just happened! (These are the moments of cognitive dissonance where they literally see you behaving in more trustworthy ways!)

  • Maintain confidentiality. Don’t overlook the value people place on being able to speak openly with you. Be a trust vault—keep whatever they share with you in confidence safe and secure. If you feel it is imperative that others know what you’ve been told, then give that person the option to be the one to tell those who need to be in the know. And if the responsibility still falls with you, be upfront with that person about why you’re going to share what they’ve told you and with whom you’ll be sharing it. Telling them directly builds trust (even if they don’t like your decision, they are apt to respect your willingness to tell them face to face). Waiting for them to find out through the grapevine . . . that’s more apt to crush the trust you’re working hard to build.

  • Avoid triangulating. We all like to feel like we belong, and that includes leaders. But sometimes a leader inserts themselves into team dialogues where they don’t really belong (often out of a desire to feel connected). This can backfire as it often undermines the team who may carry favor with that leader (aka the “boss”). A leader who inadvertently triangulates can undermine the team without even realizing it because the people who don’t belong to that team may perceive favoritism, which then works against building trusting relationships.

Finally, Lead and Support Transformation (aka Change)

As the team’s leader, you’re the one to claim full responsibility for this trust transformation. Demonstrate your commitment to this work.

  • Deepen psychological safety across your team by inviting more of their humanity into the workplace.

  • Master active listening as if you were a trust detective—learn to hear beneath the surface of what people are saying.

  • Develop your people by helping them learn that they are in control of most of their own psychological safety. Empowerment tools and training for your people will lead to fewer triggering events and less drama getting dropped into the workplace. Developing your people is like handing them a stress shield—they’ll feel protected and empowered.

  • And lastly, develop yourself. You can’t model change if you don’t change. Let your people see you engaging in the work alongside them. Let them see you wrestle and stretch as you grow. Take an online or in-person course with your leadership team. Experience a trust-building retreat. Lean on the support of executive coaches. Show your people you care and watch the trust skyrocket.

Trust - Mistrust Trust Adobe Stock 279098689 1200w

Rebuilding Broken Trust at Work

Because trust is fragile by nature, it is easily broken, especially in the workplace where so many personalities and preferences are thrust together in the same space. But broken trust is not irreparable. In fact, how you approach repairing broken trust is often the key to deepening trust most effectively.

How Trust Is Broken in the Workplace

First let’s identify the ways trust can be broken:

  • Not walking the talk—when people say one thing but are seen doing the opposite.

  • Favoritism—some people are allowed to get away with untrustworthy behavior while others are held to more stringent standards.

  • Too much change and not enough support—team members are asked to metabolize more change than they are being supported to handle.

  • High expectations with no or low support—when people hear the message, “This is highly important, you must be successful, fingers crossed, hope you figure it out,” without an invitation to sit down together to determine the support an employee will need to ensure a win.

  • Adding to drama and gossip—the need to connect is so great that human beings will join the office bandwagon and contribute to drama just to feel a sense of belonging, which places trust on the precipice of tumbling over the cliff. Instead, try stepping out of the drama of people’s stories about the situation, and model how to combine benefit of the doubt with healthy curiosity. The real story behind what is occurring is likely relatable, whereas the creative stories people tell may validate a less-than-ideal opinion of a colleague.

  • Breaking confidentiality—when people trust that they can open up to one another, sometimes that might lead to them complaining about a coworker during times of high frustration. A break in confidentiality occurs when what was said is repeated to others, thereby contributing to office drama and reducing psychological safety. Instead, employees need to learn how to help ensure someone feels heard, but then also know how to empower that colleague to open up a direct conversation with a fellow employee which would build trust between them.

The Impact of Broken Trust within Teams

When trust is hindered at work, there are significantly detrimental outcomes we have to be aware of. We love to bring up the below list summarized from SHRM’s article “Broken Trust Is Bad for Business.7 According to SHRM, there are five outcomes to a low-trust work environment that harm the organization and its people:

  • Low engagement. When employees do not trust their managers and leaders, it can lead to low employee engagement. They begin to question their fit within the company and have less pride in the organization overall, which negatively affects their motivation and productivity.

  • High turnover. A lack of trust can prompt employees to leave the company because they are not confident in the organization’s direction or the leaders’ motives. This not only increases turnover rates but also incurs additional costs related to recruiting and training new employees.

  • Reduced innovation. Trust is essential for innovation as it encourages employees to take risks, which are fundamental for breakthroughs and advancements. Without trust, employees may hesitate to engage in innovative behaviors, fearing potential negative repercussions.

  • Productivity damage. Employees are less willing to go above and beyond for leaders they do not trust, leading to a decrease in discretionary effort.

  • Erosion of trust through daily interactions. Trust can erode not just through significant events but also due to daily behaviors and interactions such as failing to prepare for meetings or being slow to respond to emails. These subtle patterns of behavior, if unaddressed, can lead to employees becoming disengaged and minimally productive (until they quietly quit!).

How Do We Repair and Rebuild Broken Trust at Work?

Now that we have identified several of the ways we impair trust and the impact on our organizations, let’s unpack how to rebuild trust at work. The following is our recommended pathway to take a moment where trust was broken and turn it into an opportunity to catalyze significantly deeper trust.

  1. Own the infraction. Even if you had good intent, someone who feels you have broken their trust is not likely to respond well to your excuses for their injury. Fact is, they experienced a break in trust and owning your involvement is imperative. To own the infraction, you will want to claim your portion of responsibility for this depletion of trust.

  2. Hear the impact. Team members who feel seen and heard after a trust break are less likely to inflict further damage while they are suffering. Feeling seen by the person who initiated the infraction—and feeling that their pain is recognized—tends to reduce the adrenaline coursing through their physical body. Your ability to hear their experience helps them shift from their primitive brain (which is likely in fight-or-flight mode) so they can regain access to their rational brain and shift from catastrophizing what occurred to using the moment as an opportunity to improve the trust between you.

  3. Make amends and commit to improvement. Once you’ve owned the contribution of your behavior to the harm they are feeling and felt the legitimate impact on them, it is time to apologize (because now you more deeply understand what you’re apologizing for!). State your apology in earnest and commit to not making that same infraction with them again. (For more on making amends, check out this article from Psychology Today.)

  4. Acknowledge the infraction to all witnesses. Most of us miss this important step. If anyone else witnessed your trust infraction (for example, those in the same meeting as where the infraction occurred or those in close proximity who might have overheard your infraction), they will hold onto that story unless you give them an alternative.

  5. Invite support. We all have our work with trust that we have to do individually as we learn to better understand ourselves, AND none of us can do this work alone. Model what it looks like to enlist support from others.

  6. Extend forgiveness to yourself and others and then get back to work. The sooner we admit that we cause injuries—big and small—to one another, the sooner we can lighten up around our infractions. When we know everyone is in the same trust boat, in those moments when we are the ones who blew it we can more easily own it, apologize, ask for forgiveness, and move on. Shame spirals are far less likely when we’re in this together! (For more on the power of forgiveness at work, check out this HBR article: “The Power of Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ and ‘You’re Forgiven.’”)


Strengthen Your Trustworthiness by Building Trust with Stakeholders

Trust between team members is one of the first building blocks to creating a more caring company culture. Once that work is underway, expand this work of deepening trust outside the four walls of your business and into the surrounding ecosystem where your customers, vendors, and investors reside.

As recent Deloitte research revealed, “trustworthy companies outperform their peers in market value by up to four times.”8 Holy smokes! 4x!!! Yes, please.

How to Build Trust with Stakeholders

Sustaining a trusting company culture in the long term necessitates leveling up your relationships with all stakeholders. Before you dive into this work, it is important to recognize that every stakeholder matters. If a stakeholder has any effect on your business (which all stakeholders do!), then each and every one of them is contributing to the overall enhancement or depletion of trust within your company ecosystem.

So just as you are teaching your team members how to deepen trust between each other, with some intentionality, you can do the same with every stakeholder relationship. The result of focusing on stakeholder relationships in this next phase is an increase to employee engagement combined with an even deeper sense of psychological safety, which will act like a moat around your business, protecting you from outside forces.

Below are a couple of ways to get started!

  • Build trust into every stakeholder interaction. Consider the systems and processes that impact trust between your organization and the people and entities in your entire surrounding ecosystem. Ask yourself how trust is infused into each of the main areas of conducting your business.
    • How is trust approached during every stage of the buying process?

    • How is trust approached during negotiations, or legal agreements, or purchasing needs?

    • When a stakeholder reports that trust has been negatively impacted, what is the process for restoring trust and showing that stakeholder they matter?

  • Involve stakeholders in your trust-building initiative. Just as you are now championing the personal development of your people, begin finding ways to champion the personal development of your other stakeholders. There is no law against sharing what you are learning or introducing your stakeholders to unique opportunities for transformational growth.
Trust - Confident Woman Adobe Stock 716338073 1200w

Building on Trust Creates Amplified Results Over Time

Finally, we get to the good part—what all becomes possible as trust increases and psychological safety deepens.

As a result of creating trust and deepening psychological safety, you’ll see an increase in employee engagement. People will feel more confident, empowered, and willing to meet productive conflict head on. As more teammates lean into productive conflict, they will begin to own their roles in entirely new ways. There is a palpable excitement to being on a winning team, and that excitement is ripe to be leveraged into outcomes that were previously impossible.

A handful of the outcomes you can expect include the following:

  • Better ideas rising to the surface

  • Quicker (less expensive) learning curves

  • Greater pride in the work contributing to better performance

  • Team members revealing certain talents they have not yet brought to the business so they can be leveraged

  • Quicker warnings about projects (or people) that are veering off course

  • People looking out for one another in ways that lead to greater success and less turnover

One organization we’ve worked with to deepen their company culture’s trust saw a per-employee revenue increase of 8 percent for those actively involved in the work to build on trust as compared to colleagues who were not. And when team members participating in the trust-building work were partnered with managers doing the same, they saw an astounding revenue increase of 35 percent!!!

Another company enjoyed a relatively seamless $20 million acquisition integration in part as the result of our work to build trust. At the individual team member level, a quieter salesperson stepped in to own a significant growth initiative she is now leading for the entire sales department. In addition, two others are now leading a major web platform revision that had been stuck for several years!

So much becomes possible through this work when you play the long game. So, how do you play?

Investing in the Long Game of Trust

What does it look like to invest in the long term around building team trust?

Once you’ve got your individual teams engaged in trust work and you’ve carried that work out to your other stakeholders, then it’s time to focus on attracting trustworthy stakeholders for the future you are building.

Below are a few areas to infuse trust into your systems and processes for the long term.

  • The employee journey. From recruitment, hiring, and onboarding through to performance reviews, rewards, and recognition, trust should be a focus of the entire employee lifecycle. Attracting those who value trust and personal development is key or they will subconsciously undermine your culture of trust. Then, onboarding them into your unique trust-building vernacular and methodologies will ensure the likelihood that they get on board the trust train, as does rewarding and recognizing their good behavior.
  • Internal public relations. As trust increases over time throughout the company, leverage the emerging stories of transformative relationships by reflecting those stories back to your teams. This mirroring of the ongoing transformation is what reinforces more of the ideal behavior you’re after, so your trusting culture becomes self-sustaining.
  • External public relations. As people become comfortable with their stories of deepened trust being shared internally, inevitably some will become comfortable with those trust stories being shared externally. People who experience the gift of high trust are eager to share that gift with others. Sharing the stories of how trust is built and practiced throughout your organization can act as a beacon to ensure ideal stakeholders see you and recognize the value you place on trust when they do. Over time, these externally shared stories, leveraged across social and traditional media, are what will fortify and protect the trusting culture you’re building for the long haul.

In Conclusion

Throughout this comprehensive guide, we’ve explored the essential components of building trust and rapport in the workplace. From understanding the power of trusting relationships and the impact of broken trust to the crucial role of leadership in fostering a trustworthy culture, we have covered a wide range of topics that are critical to the success of any organization.

Investing in trust-building initiatives is not just nice to have, but a necessity for businesses that want to thrive in today’s competitive landscape. By creating a psychologically safe environment, empowering employees to develop their trust-building skills, and leading by example, leaders and their organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce and achieve remarkable results while feeling an incredible sense of fulfillment at the same time.

However, building trust is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and commitment from everyone involved. As we have previously explored, even small decisions and daily interactions can have a significant impact on the level of trust within a team or organization.

If there is one big key takeaway from this article, it is this: trust is the foundation upon which all successful relationships are built, both in and out of the workplace. By prioritizing trust and making it a central part of your organization’s culture, you can create a work environment where employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated to bring their unique talents—and their full, whole selves—every day.

So as you embark on your own trust-building journey, remember that every step you take, no matter how small, has the power to transform your team and your organization. By consistently demonstrating trustworthiness, empowering others to do the same, and cultivating a culture of psychological safety, you can create a workplace that not only achieves great things but brings out the best in everyone involved.

DEFINITIONS

trust (v.): to place confidence in the integrity, ability, and intent of any member of a team, department, or organization to communicate openly and honestly, behave in the best interest of one another, and hold each other accountable to their commitments

psychological safety (n.): the degree to which members of any given group feel they can risk speaking up without being met with rejection or humiliation, thereby revealing more of the full person they are


1. Paul J. Zak, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Harvard Business Review, January–February, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust.

2. “Five Fifty: Is it safe?,” McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/five-fifty-is-it-safe.

3. Daniel Coyle and Emily Adeyanju, “Author Talks: Unleash Your Team’s Full Potential,” McKinsey & Company, June 22, 2022, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-on-books/author-talks-unleash-your-teams-full-potential.

4. Denise McLain and Ryan Pendell, “Why Trust in Leaders Is Faltering and How to Gain It Back,” Gallup, April 17, 2023, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/473738/why-trust-leaders-faltering-gain-back.aspx.

5. McLain and Pendell, “Why Trust in Leaders Is Faltering and How to Gain It Back.”

6. Tim Leberecht, “Leaders Win Trust When They Show a Bit of Humanity,” Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/04/leaders-win-trust-when-they-show-a-bit-of-humanity.

7. Rebecca R. Hastings, “Broken Trust Is Bad for Business,” SHRM, March 7, 2011, https://www.shrm.org/topics-tools/news/employee-relations/broken-trust-bad-business.

8. Jo Iwasaki, “How Boards are Nurturing and Measuring Stakeholder Trust,” Deloitte Insights, February 2, 2023, https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/insights/topics/leadership/build-nurture-measure-stakeholder-trust.html.