A blog about reputation, marketing and employee morale.

Ten ways to build employee trust

Posted by Janet Smith on August 25, 2008

Your employees are watching you all the time. They are observing you more than you can possibly imagine. Even your employees themselves are unaware of just how much they monitor what you say and do, and for one very good reason. They seek constant assurance that you, the boss, can be trusted.

And bosses never stop assessing employees for the very same reason.

Without trust, the boss-employee relationship is really a non-relationship. In the absence of trust in either direction, there is dysfunction, negativity, and reduced productivity with poorer quality work. Loyalty goes out the window.

So what are your employees always watching for, consciously and subconsciously, as they evaluate how much you can be trusted? Here are ten of the top behaviors that will show your employees you are worthy of their trust.

  1. Sincere listening. When employees talk to their boss, they need to feel that what they have to say is more important to you than anything else at that moment. Never act irritated or impatient during the conversation—no matter what’s going on or how busy you are. If it’s genuinely not a good time to talk, say that, and decide on a time to talk later in the day that works for both of you.
  2. Eye contact. During those conversations, take your hands off the keyboard, put down the reports you’re reading, don’t answer the phone. Give the employee your undivided attention.
  3. Positive responses. No matter what the topic of conversation, strive to remain positive. Employees need lots of pats on the back and encouragement, so if you’re being told about a decision they’ve made that was excellent, or how they handled a difficult situation, be sure to show appreciation and dole out some praise.
  4. Consistency. You and your employees will discuss bad news or unpleasant information from time to time, of course. It’s vital that you remain calm, or at the very least, that you don’t raise your voice or throw things. Focus on what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Consistent behavior (professional and mature) is essential to developing and maintaining trust.
  5. Empathy. Show your employees that you care about them and their problems—work related or not. Demonstrate concern when you hear about their flat tire, hospitalized mother, crashed hard drive, or encounter with a difficult customer.
  6. Delegate. Micro-managing sends a clear message to employees that you don’t trust them to do the right thing. Delegate, let people do their jobs, and don’t breathe down their necks. Which leads us to…
  7. Acknowledge that we are all human. And human beings make mistakes, including your employees. If you can’t handle this fact, you shouldn’t be a boss. If your employees are fearful of your response if they screw up, they’ll do less work and be less innovative. If no mistakes are being made, not much work is getting done.
  8. Fairness. Fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same — and since every person is different, you actually shouldn’t treat everyone the same. But by and large, policies should apply to everyone. Also, don’t allow anyone to be able to tell who your favorites are (because you’re almost certainly going to have them!). And make sure that credit is given where credit is due.
  9. Kindness. Smile at your employees. Be nice to them. Thank them frequently for their many contributions.
  10. Apologize. If only leaders understood the allure of humility. When you do something that results in extra work for an employee, apologize. When you over-react to a situation, apologize.  Followers love a boss who is humble enough to apologize.

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