Eight behaviours that build trust
Interpersonal trust is essential for an organisation’s success. Low interpersonal trust between employees results in high staff turnover, low employee engagement, and unnecessary monitoring, duplication and bureaucracy. New research by Roffey Park on trust in work relationships has highlighted eight specific behaviours that tend to foster interpersonal trust.
Transparency in interpersonal relationships is about being open and honest in communication. It is about having open conversations with colleagues and presenting them with your honest view rather than concealing or spinning information. By being open and honest we assure people that there is nothing to hide. Lack of transparency may give the impression that there is a hidden agenda.
Sticking to commitments
Doing what we say we will do means that others can rely on us and this is key to building interpersonal trust. A number of our interviewees said that the main reason they trusted their colleagues was because they completed the tasks that they had been assigned to and delivered results.
Trust is generative. By that we mean that people are more likely to trust another person when they feel trusted by that person. When we extend our trust and let others feel trusted, it creates reciprocity and encourages our trustee to trust us in return.
Investing in relationships at a basic human level rather than just transactionally to get something you need is another behaviour that our interviewees suggested as important in building trust. This behaviour is about getting involved in more than just work-related dealings and getting to know someone at a more personal level. This does not mean ignoring boundaries between what is personal to you and the world of work. It does not mean disclosure of things that you hold as deeply private. It is about letting people know what makes you tick and being appropriately open about your views and concerns.
This is about communicating the same messages to colleagues and not changing what we have already agreed. Equally important is consistency in behaviour, which allows those who work with us to anticipate what we might do in different situations.
Showing respect to people regardless of their status or power is a great way of building trust. And we can demonstrate respect by showing our appreciation of the effort others are putting into their work.
A number of interviewees said that they are more likely to trust someone who listens to their point of view. Apart from building trust, listening to another person’s point of view, even if you disagree, is very important. Listening will help you place yourself in another person’s shoes and look at things from their perspective. When you listen to your colleagues, they feel valued and it also gives both parties a better understanding of the situation so you can make better decisions. Listening is also another way of showing respect and making others feel trusted.
Being vulnerable is another behaviour that was deemed important by our interviewees. This is more than just apologising, it is about taking responsibility for our actions and trying to make things right if possible when they go wrong. It is about owning up to your mistakes and imperfections.
What do you think about these behaviours? Do they resonate with your experience? What other behaviours do you think are important in maintaining and building interpersonal trust in organisations?
The Wheel of Trust provides an overarching model for the behaviours we have described above. The questions can be used as a self-diagnostic tool to identify the behaviours which should be visible in order to raise the level of trust in your relationships with colleagues.
Note: We interviewed 17 individuals over a seven-month period. By speaking to people at three-month intervals we gained a real insight into their lived experience of trust, or lack of it, as well as how judgements about trust are formed and how trust changes over time. You can download the report ‘The lived experience of trust: People’s stories of trust in the workplace’.
Author: Dr Meysam Poorkavoos is a Researcher at Roffey Park