Career Talk 22.07.21 (Updated)

These are the secrets to building trust in tough workplace situations

Trust in the workplace doesn't appear overnight, but the more you know, the quicker you can build it up between teams in your workplace.

Business consultant


Without trust in a workplace, the whole operation can fall apart. You have to believe that, no matter what, your colleagues have got your back. You’re building that equity without even knowing it; every time you take an interest in someone’s work or weekend, go above and beyond to help someone or even check in to ask how someone’s doing.

It’s not always going to be as easy as setting up a face-to-face meeting in, say, a big multinational when you’re a graduate. So Tsedal Neeley of the Havard Business Review came up with some dope ways to patch trust between colleagues and how to build it properly. We’ve just whittled it down to the gems. Let’s start with what you need to do to build trust in a hurry.

Ways to patch trust is you need it fast

building trust

Swift trust

Quick, instinctive and instantaneous, swift  trust is the kind of trust that’s needed when you need to work with someone you’ve never interacted with before. It’s usually required in urgent instances where you need to get something done fast – doctors and emergency services workers use it all the time. It’s the notion that team members or co-workers can learn to swiftly trust one another from their very first interaction.

You don’t just have to be putting out fires though. You may need to do this with members of your office from diverse backgrounds to get results right away, even if you don’t have the same grasp of each other’s languages for instance. Of course, with frequent communication between teams, the need to call on this dies down. But until then, make sure you’re available and put yourself out there when you can.

Passable trust

Passable trust is the term used to refer to trust between teammates that’s build up at a distance, whether by email, social media, or communication channels like Slack. When you’re a long way away from your team, how are you gonna decide who to approach for something? Obviously, it’s going to be the person who answers their emails the fastest, or tweets often about the subject you need help on. Things like making yourself available and being vocal on subjects builds up equity in a team, so see too it that you do.

Passable trust doesn’t need to deepen or develop very far for it to be useful. Social media and email is transparent enough that you can keep a reasonable level of trust going regularly, which is why it works between global teams and large companies so well. So long as you stay online, it’s all good.

Ways to build sustained trust

building trust

These two strands of trust will serve you just fine when you’re in a tough spot, but HBR also recommended two ways to build real, workable trust between you and your fellow colleagues. It all revolves around your knowledge.

Direct knowledge

Do you know that one of your colleagues likes to work outside the office to get stuff done? Or that another prefers a good old-fashioned conference call to a big group meeting? That’s what direct knowledge is. Having good direct knowledge is knowing what your fellow employees’ working preferences are and meeting them half way on a collaborative activity. You won’t get this info right off the bat, so make the effort to source it straight up with some out-of-hours conversation. It’ll help you in the long-run.

Reflected knowledge

The clue’s in the title here – reflected knowledge is where you look at yourself and your own actions with regard to other teams of people in your office. Think about how your interactions work well and how you can do better. For instance, rushing to finish a job might come across as disrespectful to a team that prefers to take time and properly finish something with care. Or your penchant to crack open a beer at 4pm or knock off for a tea break at 3, might be inconvenient for a team that works solidly through the afternoon.

However you decide to build up trust, just remember that the office is full of delicate figurines and communication is what keeps them from tumbling off the shelf. Build trust using good communication skills and you’ll improve teamwork and morale, as well as delivering better results for you team. Facts.

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