Biz Strategies: Building trust in the workplace

A couple of weeks ago, this Biz Strategies column covered the importance of creating a physical environment to elevate wellness at work. But beyond that, what garners contentment in the workplace?  

If you guessed trust, you are in tune with what is most valued at work. In fact, University of British Columbia professor John Helliwell has earned international renown for his pioneering work on happiness and wellbeing in the workplace. His research shows that people are happier when they live, work and play among others whom they trust. When social time and trust are higher, positive emotions become more frequent, and negative ones less likely.  

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Similiarly, Dennis and Michelle Reina of the Reina Trust Building Institute have authored books on this topic. Their extensive research proves that, “trust is the critical ingredient and trustworthiness is the descriptive word that helps to define authentic leadership. Without trust, employees have little interest in being creative, taking risks and collaborating.”  

In other words, their energy begins to wane and performance is diminished.

In 2010, Deloitte LLP conducted an Ethics & Workplace survey in the United States claiming:

  • 30 per cent of American employees planned to look for a job
  • 48 per cent of the group mentioned above cite a loss of trust in their employer as the reason
  • 65 per cent of Fortune 1000 executives believe trust will be a factor in voluntary employee turnover in the near future

Trust can be eroded through commonplace betrayals and doesn’t necessarily mean major upheavals like corporations mismanaging workers or executives committing crimes. Instead, a lack of trust can result from finger pointing, taking credit for other’s work or workplace bullying, to name a few hindrances.

So how can leaders build a culture based on trust? Mainstream ideas such as sharing the organization’s vision and values, setting performance goals and clear communication are frequently lauded as trust-building strategies, but what about other methods that aren’t in the spotlight?

These three lesser-known ways are comparatively important to achieving a culture that thrives on trust.

Be consistent in what you say and do. Nothing derails trust quite like confusion, so be clear and concise in how and what you communicate. Carry that consistency through to your actions as well.

Stay open-minded to ideas so that employees feel their input matters. If you move forward with their ideas, give credit and if you choose to go another route, offer an explanation of that decision. They will appreciate being heard and the opportunity to better understand the decision.

Impose a workplace philosophy of equality and respect — how you treat people, but also, how they treat each other. Zero tolerance for dissonance goes a long way to fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared success.

Imagine if employers focused on trust to boost happiness in the workplace? If employees are happy, they will be more productive with a caveat that they need to genuinely believe that they are valued. So phoniness doesn’t cut it here and it’s imperative to attach value to what that person is taking home with them versus how many widgets are getting made. Interestingly, if that value is in place, the result will be more widgets.

At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Open Forum speaker series. She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for a Small Business BC Award in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Learn more at

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