How To Develop Trust Between Managers and Employees

Limit lecturing, listen to learn, and work smarter.

Any positive working relationship is based on trust. An environment of trust assumes that both parties will be safe, and it carries with it an implicit message that you have each other’s best interests in mind. That is why employees can accept criticism and even anger from a boss they trust. The employees know deep down that the boss really means to help.

Once trust is lost, it is hard to recapture and can destroy a relationship. To have optimum working relationships, all parties must feel a sense of trust. So how do you develop trust between people in the workplace? Following are ways to be proactive and create an environment of trust apparent to all.

Limit lecturing

To ensure that employees will make good decisions, managers often begin to lecture. If you reflect on this, you will soon realize that lecturing implies that you do not have faith in the employees’ decision-making abilities. This can result in their becoming defensive. In addition, the employees can lose faith in their own confidence to make decisions. If people do not have faith in themselves, then the manager’s faith in them decreases even more and the lecturing begins again.

Even well-intentioned lectures convey the subtle, negative message that the employee has, or is expected to do, wrong. This often results in defensiveness and resistance. All people are sensitive about being told what to do, and they often want to prove themselves in the workplace. Telling or lecturing staff robs workers of the satisfaction of using initiative. So rather than lecture employees, consider using reflective questions about what they think.

Listen to learn

Listening to learn and valuing people’s feelings and ideas is what promotes the ability of managers to effectively communicate with and influence their staff. Listening to learn means not inserting your opinion and not judging what the person says while he or she is speaking.

For most managers, their first reaction is to evaluate the employee from their own point of view and then approve or disapprove of what the person says. This can shut down the employee’s self-confidence, initiative and open communication. An easy strategy for replacing this tendency of listening autobiographically is to cultivate the habit of listening to learn.

Listening is a skill that can be improved—and improvement starts by taking the position of a good listener. It’s getting ready to hear what is about to be said and refraining from the all-too-common practice of hearing a few words and then jumping in with a response. You may have experienced the feeling that arose when someone finished your sentence before you had finished it yourself. The feeling is not a positive one. When a manager interrupts an employee who is attempting to communicate, it prompts a negative emotion. Interrupting is an indication that you don’t care about hearing the other person’s viewpoint as much as your own.

A manager who listens well acknowledges their employees’ feelings and opinions. Being a better listener is the surest way to improve communication and build trust. It is important to let people know that you are willing to listen, even though it may not result in agreement. Listen before you talk, and when you feel a temptation to interrupt, ask yourself: Will I be more effective if I listen first?

Work smarter

Many people often say, “If I want something done right I have to do it myself.” Yet effective managers know that delegation of tasks is essential for building trust in the workplace. When you hold onto tasks and don’t delegate, you deprive your employees of an opportunity to advance their skills.

Accept the fact that growth comes through struggle. Babying your employees hinders their professional development and implies that you don’t have faith in them. Focus on treating your staff as responsible and empowered individual to increases their chances of becoming just that.

Once the employee completes a task, the objective should be to focus on progress rather than on perfection. If the person’s result does not meet your expectations, you can still find something positive to comment on while helping the employee understand what the initial expectations are. This is far more effective than comments that foster guilt or a sense of failure. A positive approach prompts incentive for the next task.

There isn’t any empowerment more effective than self-empowerment. Continually ask yourself how to communicate in a positive way. People change more by building on their strengths and aptitudes than by working on their weaknesses. This does not mean that an area of weakness should not be worked on, but it does mean that a manager’s emphasis should be on what the employee can do, rather than on what the employee cannot do.

Without trust in the workplace, communication and teamwork will erode. Additionally, morale will decrease while turnover will rise. However, by using these three strategies you can build your employees’ trust in management, thereby making their workplace a healthy environment filled with innovation, creativity and ultimately higher profits for all. 

About the Author

Dr. Marvin Marshall is an educator, writer, and lecturer, known for his programs on discipline and learning. More information is available at