How to build trust with co-workers (both remote & in-person)
Trust is essential for any high-performing project team. Each team member needs to
believe that their counterparts will be accountable for their individual efforts and
responsibilities, and it becomes challenging to work together when trust is damaged
We are wired to trust. The synapses in our brains that formulate this thought process
develop when we are just a few years old. Trust builds when someone does something for
us that we expect, and we learn we can rely on their actions.
But how can we develop trust with others in the workplace? And what are some ways to
accomplish this when team members work in different locations? Let’s look at some steps
you can take to build and strengthen trust with your colleagues.
This doesn't mean telling every minute detail of your off-work life and boring your
coworkers with story after story. And it doesn’t mean telling your deepest, darkest
secrets. But water-cooler conversations where co-workers share personal stories is a
great way to build trust. Showing people that you work with that you trust them with
your personal information will encourage them to do the same. You share, then they
share, and so on and so on.
Assume Good Intentions
This is key. You are going into your work relationships believing that the people you
work with are trustworthy. And that they want good things for you and the company. When
you have a good outlook, others will too.
People who see each other frequently are more able to pick up on the subtle, unspoken
issues that they may be dealing with. If you make a point to actually see your coworkers
regularly, you increase the number of chances to have conversations and increase connection.
If you’re a manager, it’s called “management by walking around”. The more you connect,
the more connected you are.
Everyone wants co-workers they can count on. Ones that will behave how they expect every
time. If you smile every morning and then one morning you frown and avoid eye contact,
that is disarming. It’s not news that if you agree to do something, do it. Following
through in some ways and not in others will aggravate co-workers more than if you never
did anything at all.
Be Easy to Read
In the work world, silence is not golden. It’s frustrating. If you go silent in a meeting
or on a call with no reason for it, co-workers are left to guess. And that’s never good.
Explain your silence and don’t make your team have to wonder what’s going on.
Nothing is more trust-building than knowing someone is in your corner. Checking in on
someone who seems to be having a rough time; pitching in when the workload is overwhelming.
These and more will cement a work relationship.
Consider the Depths of your Trust
Consider the Depths of your Trust
Maybe you trust one person for follow-through on a particular task but you might not trust
them with a deeper, heartfelt conversation. Maybe you’ll divulge deep secrets to your
officemate but not to the guy in accounting. It’s OK to have different levels of trust
with different co-workers. We won’t all connect the same with the same people. Foster
all your relationships but be OK with the differences among them.
Hold People Accountable
Some people just don’t see the importance in trust. Maybe they’ve not worked as part of a
team. But if you’re repeatedly behaving in a way that doesn’t engender trust, you need to
hold them accountable. And if you can’t help but see a path to a mutual trusting relationship,
then maybe it’s time to make a different choice.
Telling the truth and following through on promises can be powerful tools to create a mutually
beneficial work environment.
What if your workplace is spread out? What if everyone is working remotely? Well, there are
many ways to ensure a successful working relationship even if everyone is spread out.
If you’re in a remote team situation, you don’t have the benefits of all your other senses
to help clue you in on how a person is feeling. You may have a little visual from a video
conference but the bulk of your interactions are verbal. Listening will be your greatest
asset for building trust with remote workers.
When day-to-day communication is more difficult, constant feedback is critical. Making sure
you are tapping in to the thoughts of remote workers other than at established meeting times
will help them feel more in the loop with the company from wherever they are. And when you
get feedback, act on it. Trusting remote workers to share their ideas is one way of the
street. Your follow-through is the return trip that cements the trust bond.
It’s easy to say “Thank you” when someone hands you something in person. It’s much more
complicated when that something comes by email that you don’t get for 24 hours. Showing
appreciation is essential with remote workers who can feel isolated. Make sure you let
the appreciation flow freely.
Create an Inclusive Culture
Sometimes remote workers can feel “less than” because they’re not in the building or with
other staff. Making sure that the entire company is striving to promote an inclusive environment.
Co-workers, regardless of their location, feel equally valued and important to the project and
All these tips will create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect which will increase
productivity, help worker retention and make a most enjoyable working environment.