How Leaders Build Trust in the Workplace

October 11, 2022

Leadership can make or break a team dynamic. In a recent survey of people who resigned from their jobs, 56% cited “poor management” as their reason for leaving.

400x300Overture.pngWe’re not surprised. We know that whoever is seated at the head of the table influences morale, motivation, and overall turnover rate.

After working with hundreds of companies and candidates, we also know that employees who trust their leaders are more likely to stay and engage with the challenges at hand.

If you’re in a leadership position, you know managing employees can be challenging, but earning their trust is another feat entirely. Nevertheless, we believe achieving a positive, productive company culture is worth the effort.

Explain the “why”

The most fundamental role of a leader is to define and steer a team (or department or company) toward its goals. In turn, employees must contribute their skills and time to those goals.

This structure is enough to keep the team functioning, but building trust requires something deeper.

Leaders need to explain why.

Employees don’t want to feel like they’re being led blindly. They want to trust that their leader is pointing them in the right direction, and that requires justification. Even if the goal seems obvious, like “increasing sales by 20%,” the employees putting in the work should know where that number came from and how it’s contributing to the organization’s long-term goals.

Even in larger companies where a middle manager is passing down information from the executive ranks, that middle manager should do their best to translate and put changes in context.

How leaders practice this:

  • Provide justification when presenting decisions
  • Ask employees if they have questions
  • Connect short-term goals to long-term ones

Play Fair

In a survey of 5,000 employees, “plays favorites” was among the top traits listed for bad management. In a biased environment, employees can feel they’re less likely to get a promotion, more likely to be assigned undesirable tasks, and overall, less valuable than colleagues. To avoid this, employees need to trust that leaders will be fair and objective.

Leaders should work to form positive relationships with all team members.

We know leaders can never be perfectly objective. Like everyone, they have personalities that naturally mesh well with certain individuals. However, it’s their responsibility to work outside their comfort zone.

To do so, good managers, directors, and supervisors should possess strong interpersonal skills. When leaders go out of their way to form positive relationships with everyone, not just a select few, employees will feel seen and understood. Most importantly, they’ll trust decisions don’t result from personal bias.

How leaders practice this:

  • Schedule regular check-ins with each team member
  • Look for opportunities to offer praise
  • Avoid participating in gossip

Invest in Growth

Each employee has their own career goals, skills, and interests. Whether that means progressing to a new title or refining an existing skillset, they hope their position allows room for growth.

They put trust in leadership to 1) recognize their goals and 2) look for opportunities to help them get there.

Before someone joins the team, leaders should take time to understand what motivates them. They should also regularly check in on their employee satisfaction and discuss whether their role fulfills their needs. Doing so not only prevents turnover, but shows employees that their leader wants to help them progress personally.

How leaders practice this:

  • Know everyone’s long and short-term goals
  • Look for opportunities to improve employee skills
  • Provide constructive feedback

Are you looking for your next leader? Our seasoned team members would love to offer you a search consultation.


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Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
(319) 366-3688


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Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 632-4738


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