The Trouble With Trust: Cultivating, Preserving And Restoring Trust In Business

Posted on Mar 12 2016 - 1:24pm by Editorial Staff


Trust is elemental to every relationship in life, from parents and children to romantic partners, but it is hard to deny that trust is most essential in business. Leaders need to trust that their employees will do work properly and productively, and the led must trust that their bosses are discerning and decisive. Without trust, a business will never thrive — workers at all levels are forced to check and double-check their peers’ work.

However, trust is dangerous, as well. Without careful maintenance, trust is easily abused, as evidenced by the wealth of business scams that take advantage of those who grant trust indiscriminately. Among small businesses, trust is exceedingly troubling. For many owners, it is difficult to trust newcomers with tasks vital to their young business’s life.

Still, trust remains an indispensable component of a structured organization. Therefore, it is central to success to learn these simple tenants of developing and upholding trust from the newest hire to the chief executive.

How to Value Trust

Like the concept of “courage” or “goodness,” the idea of trust is well-known yet nebulous. At its simplest, trust between two entities (perhaps a company and an employee) requires that both parties expect the other to refrain from causing harm when one is vulnerable. For example, if an employee suffers a family emergency, she trusts that her employer will not fire her, or if a company loses a few major clients, it trusts its employees will not immediately jump ship and find alternative employment. Entities that take advantage of such weak circumstances are not capable of trust.

Many studies have shown that trust is vastly powerful within an organization. Trust among coworkers inspires sensations of empowerment, which allows employees to take risks that further innovation and make progress. Without trust, there is no collaboration, as honest communication is unlikely, if not impossible. Without trust, leaders are unable to delegate tasks to subordinates, and workers are unwilling to heed leaders’ advice. Without trust, an organization crumbles from top and bottom — so here’s how businesses can build it.

How Leaders Build Trust


Only about 40 percent of workers confess to having full confidence in their bosses, and fewer, about 38 percent, feel comfortable expressing opinions and ideas to their employers’ leaders — despite the fact that more than 82 percent of workers believe that trust is essential for an effective work environment. Thus, it seems that a surprising majority of managers and directors are not doing their utmost to build trust. Fortunately, with some minor changes in daily behavior, any leader can demonstrate trust in his or her subordinates.

The easiest change is to speak less and listen more. Many managers attempt to enforce proper action with endless lectures, but this prevents employees from developing self-confidence and learning self-guidance. Instead, leaders should encourage their workers to provide input and listen carefully, refraining from interjecting with judgement or correction.

Another important action that communicates trust is the bestowing of responsibility. Leaders who mistrust their employees will be overloaded with tasks and perpetually stressed. Handing some of those responsibilities to employees demonstrates trust in those subordinates’ quality of work. Additionally, leaders can bequeath business credit cards to especially hardworking, honorable workers who have built up enough trust. The more critical their responsibilities, the more trust will grow for their superiors.

How Subordinates Build Trust

Trust is certainly a two-way street, and subordinates are just as accountable for earning trust as their bosses. Reliability is one of the most sought-after traits of new hires, but employees’ trustworthiness isn’t valuable if it disappears after training. Thus, the following characteristics are useful to place on resumes, but even more advantageous when revealed on the job.

  • Honest. It is easy to fact-check in the modern, infinitely connected world, and deceitful employees do not usually stick around long.
  • Punctual. Coming to work, meeting deadlines, and making quick, smart decisions encourage leaders to develop trust.
  • Obedient. For every corporate rule, there is a good reason behind it. Employees that push boundaries when it comes to the code of conduct are too much of a hassle.

How to Rebuild Broken Trust

There will be instances when either the leader or employee misbehaves, overstepping the boundaries of their relationship in some way, and damages the carefully maintained trust. One mistake should not be enough to send a business reeling; in fact, it usually should not even be cause for dismissal of either party. However, it is imperative that the broken trust be rebuilt sooner rather than later.

Most organizations follow a step-by-step method of resolving broken trust: Work together to uncover the cause of the breach in trust, admit and accept responsibility for the violation, and make appropriate reparations. From this, the offended party has the power to end the relationship or grant forgiveness, reestablishing the trust needed for the business to survive.

About the Author

Editorial Staff at I2Mag is a team of subject experts.