Trust: The New Workplace Currency

How to get it and why it matters.

Improve Your Trust Building Odds

Three Communication Tips that Elevate Trust at Work

Finally, good news about building trust! It comes from a Pew Research Center Study, Social Networking Sites and Our Lives, which found, "The typical Internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people can be trusted."

Discussing these results in a Fast Company article, NYU Professor Adam Penenberg highlighted what he calls the study's "surprising takeaway" this way: "... it's the idea that the Internet, in particular social networks, engender trust, and the more time you spend on them the more trusting you become."

So is more social networking the easy how-to answer for building trust in the workplace? If only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, on the workplace front, trust and employee engagement continues to decline. A new Maritz Research Poll offers a sobering glimpse at trust diminishing issues facing organizations. Their research found:

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• 25% of participants said they had less trust in management than a year ago

• 14% believed leaders in their company were ethical and honest

• 12% reported an employer who genuinely cared about employees

• 7% thought senior management's words and actions were consistent

Why is trust at work continuing to decline? The Martiz study summarized it this way: "Poor communication, lack of perceived caring, inconsistent behavior, and perceptions of favoritism were cited by respondents as the largest contributors to their lack of trust in senior leaders."

But don't let statistics like these discourage you. You don't have to wait for your organization to recognize and solve trust related workplace issues. Building trust is not about them in senior management giving it to us, and trickling down. Building trusting relationships at work is a personal choice anyone can make.

You can start your own work group pocket of trust by applying these trust building basics, and developing a foundation of effective communication.

Here are three trust-elevating communication tips to get you started:

1. Expand your vocabulary: I don't know. I made a mistake. I was wrong. People trust people who are accountable, who take ownership for their actions and are willing to say they don't know, made a mistake, or were wrong. Trying to justify an inaccurate position, cover up a mistake, fake knowledge, or act like something didn't happen leads nowhere. Trust is built by people who, when they don't know, find out; when they make a mistake fix it, learn from it, and share that learning to help others avoid it.

2. Listen with undivided attention. Put the phone, tablet, gadget away. We're so busy communicating we fail to communicate. We think because we said something, sent something, posted something it was understood. We confuse communicating with understanding and silence with listening. Real listening requires focused attention and a quiet mind. There are few behaviors more powerful in building trust than receiving someone's focused and undivided attention on what you're saying.

3. Check the facts before sending, telling, or sharing. As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." When information shared by you is consistently credible, factual, and useful, you build trust. Just like there are urban legends, lies and distortions floating around the Internet, there are at work, too. People who don't pass along rumors, half-truths, and speculations, but verify the facts first, are those others trust.

Communication that elevates workplace trust is a dialogue, with a foundation built from integrity, forthrightness, and honesty. It's more trust-enhancing to tell a staff member or co-worker, "I can't share that information right now" than to tell a half-truth, spin-it, or lie. Want to increase your odds of building trust in your work group? Practice effective communication skills applied with a genuine and authentic approach.

 

Nan S. Russell is a workplace expert with real-world experience, and the author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way.

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