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3 Steps To Building Trust In The Workplace

05 June 2013

Discover the critical role trust plays in company culture. Explore survey findings, and learn how to foster trust for a productive workforce.

A company culture is formed through the level of trust in the organisation. The trust colleagues have in each other influences how they function. However, where there is limited, or no trust, bureaucracy exists, resulting in excessive process, as people don’t trust each other to do what’s right and what’s needed.

Trust is the necessary precursor for feeling able to rely upon a person, cooperating with and experiencing teamwork with a group, taking thoughtful risks, and experiencing believable communication (Heathfield,2012) - all necessary elements for a successful, productive workforce.

A recent Hogan Assessment Systems survey produced the following results: of the 700 plus people who completed the survey, 74% said they trust their co-workers. This sounds like good news, however 81% of the participants indicated that they had been lied to, stolen from, cheated, betrayed, or treated dishonestly by a colleague. While most people appear to be trusting, and don’t intend to behave dishonestly in order to get ahead, these results showed that there are a few deceitful individuals who have a notable impact on their colleagues.

In another Hogan survey, of over 1000 people, 81% of the respondents rated trustworthiness as the most important personality characteristic of their bosses. In fact, while comparing personality data with performance rating, subordinates’ rating of their managers’ overall effectiveness was tied directly to the degree to which managers were trusted.

In their book, The Emotionally Intelligent Team, Hughes and Terrell describe trust as the glue that holds teams together, especially during challenging times. Governments have also acknowledged the importance of trust and passed legislation, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, to encourage corporate integrity and protect not only individuals but communities as a whole. However, Schwalb (2013) recently mentioned in an online MMC article, that it is not uncommon for trust to be lost in organisations during economic distress, like that being experienced currently by many countries in the world.

So what can organisations do today to improve the trust factor? Hogan (2013) suggests three steps to avoid the devastating effect of betrayers on morale, engagement, and efficiency:

  1. Adopt trust into the definition of leadership in order to build and maintain high-performing teams. Employees, who have been betrayed, tend to fight back through disengagement and lowering productivity levels.

  2. Select leaders using valid assessment tools, instead of relying on intuition.

    Dr Chamorro-Premuzic found that deliberate betrayers tend to be confident and charming and therefore perform well in selection interviews. However, robust psychometric instruments can often identify these character flaws and predict potential employees’ likelihood of derailing on such negative behaviour.

  3. Provide leaders training and development opportunities that aid in matching, as closely as possible, their identity and reputation.

Your identity is based on your dreams, hopes and aspirations, while your reputation is based on others’ evaluation of your behaviour during repeated interactions. An inconsistency gap between identity and reputation can corrode relationships and obstructs a leader’s ability to inspire followers.


Schwalb, A. (2013). The importance of trust in the workplace. MMC a new dimension in human resources.

Hogan Assessment Systems, Inc., 2013, Trust & Betrayal e-book

Heathfield, S.M. (2012). Trust Rules: the most important secret about trust. /od/workrelationships/a/trust_rules.htm

Maria. (2012). Trust in the workplace: what does it mean to you?


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