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Why Your Team Doesn't Trust You And What To Do About It

Successful leaders are trusted leaders, however building trust in the workplace takes great effort and can be quickly eroded.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Being trustworthy is critical for any leader's success (and any individual for that matter). Team members either consciously or unconsciously evaluate their leader with every interaction and whilst it takes much effort to build trust it can be quickly eroded.

Trust Busting Behaviours

Trust in relationships, at a psychological level, is complex and I don't want to dumb it down and solve the issue in one blog. I do however, want to encourage you to take a look at your own behaviour over the last week and determine if you are eroding the trust you have with your team.

You are on the slippery slope of trust erosion when you . . .


  • Don't share with them  it is difficult to trust someone you know little about. Sometimes an unwillingness to open up to people can be interpreted as having something to hide.
  • Take all the credit or blame them when things go wrong  maybe this isn't you but someone you know.
  • Play favourites  in any team we find people we "click" with and others we don't, however those who are on the "outer" will read this as favouritism.
  • Don't know much about your team members personally  when our boss shows no interest in us we see that as not caring or that they dislike us.
  • Are always too busy to talk  this closely follows number four and although your team appreciate how busy you are, they will soon give up communicating with you which leads to assumptions and relationship breakdown.
  • Don't trust them  you may have good reason not to trust some people, however trust is a reciprocal relationship.
  • Are inconsistent  trust is based on predictability and when you are inconsistent in your actions you are seen as less reliable and less trustworthy.
  • Break promises and commitments (and you're still looking into that issue you said you would resolve)  When someone doesn't follow-through on a promise we feel let down. When this happens regularly we no longer trust that person.
  • Don't support the team  your team expects that you will go in to "bat for them" when things get tough.
  • Have your office door closed more than open  in the Australian workplace we often interpret a closed door as meaning something secretive is happening. Frequently having a closed door also shuts you off from the team.
  • Are not ethical  you won't admit to this but I'm sure you can appreciate the difficulty in trusting an unethical person.
  • Are unclear about the team's vision and or plan  team members need to know where they are going and how they will get there. When you can't provide this they will lose faith in you.
  • Don't ask for their input and or ignore their opinions  excluding people or ignoring them is a sure way to ruin a relationship. At best you will get compliance, at worst they will undermine your authority or leave.

No doubt you see that perception plays a big part in the above list. It may never be your intent to exclude people or not care about them, however you will be judged on your behaviour and not your intent.

6 Key Trust Building Behaviours

The solution to building trust in the workplace may well be to just do the opposite of everything in the above list. We can however narrow this further to the top six behaviours which will help you build trust with your team (and colleagues).


1.  Be self-aware  no one likes to think that they are untrustworthy, however try to step outside yourself and observe your own behavior. Are you displaying trust busting behaviours? You might also ask others for feedback.

2.  Build relationships and show you care  this may take an effort particularly for some introverts who are not strong on relationship building. Make time in your schedule to be available for people and don't be so inflexible that you can't stop and chat for five minutes to ask a team member about their weekend, family or hobbies. Make people feel significant by asking for their opinions during meetings and input to problem solving. Acknowledge people's efforts even with a simple thank you.

3.  Be a role model  to create a trusting environment, give people a reason to trust you and display the trustworthy behaviours you want to see in others.

4.  Keep your promises  do what you say you will do every time. Don't make promises you can't keep. If you couldn't deliver on a promise then explain to the other person why and explore possible alternatives.

5.  Communicate openly and honestly  communication is two-way and requires you to listen. Team members greatly appreciate a leader who listens and shows they have listened. Be honest in all your communications and don't hide behind excuses. If you cannot divulge some information then acknowledge this and most people will respect your position. This also shows people that you can keep confidences. 

6.  Be good at your job and let others be good at theirs  As a leader, team members look to you for advice. You don't need to be the technical expert but you do need to be good at the leadership and management tasks as well as having an appreciation for the technical elements. Respect people's abilities, help and support where needed, but don't micro-manage people.


This post was a little longer than I imagined but I hope you can appreciate the importance of building trust in the workplace and how to go about it.

If you would like support or guidance, or know someone who might, please connect with me via the details below or simply use the contact us link. All initial consultations are free.

We can offer coaching, facilitation, consulting or speaking services to make your workplace more productive.

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