The Road to Trust: 6 Ways to Build Trust with Co-workers

“Be bound to one another by the bonds of charity, treating each other with respect, helping one another, bearing with each other in Christ Jesus: if you really try to live like this, there is no doubt that the Lord, our God, will be in your midst” (St. Angela Merici).

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I’ll be honest; I’ve never put much thought into building trust at work. Thankfully, I’ve almost always been in positions where trust felt like a given rather than something I had to work for. However, over the last year and a half, I’ve had a crash course in it that I wasn’t quite expecting.

About a year and a half ago, I was promoted to a director role in my organization. All of a sudden, I had multiple people reporting to me and way more responsibility. On top of trying to develop trusting work relationships with my co-workers, I was now working with clients on a one-on-one basis. I had to somehow convince them not only would I make sure they were taken care of but also that they could trust me and our process, even if they had never worked with me before.

Many months later, here I am to share what I’ve learned about building trust, in the hopes that it can help you, too. 

Be Patient

Building trust isn’t really about building trust. It’s about building a relationship. But building relationships takes time. It’s not about being best friends with your co-workers, but it’s about developing a working, positive atmosphere. Only in that kind of environment can trust grow. 

Be Vulnerable

On a recent episode of the Abiding Together podcast, the hosts shared a quote from Jean Vanier about how when we share our weaknesses and struggles, it’s more edifying than when we share our positive qualities and success. This thought has been on my mind ever since.

When we share our personal experiences, whether they are good or bad, we’re telling the other person that we trust them enough to hear this small personal detail. It’s OK to admit our weakness, and it’s OK to celebrate our success. Obviously, you don’t want to share some details of your lives with your co-workers, but opening up about your shortcomings or mistakes will give your co-workers an unspoken “thumbs up” that they can come to you with their own. 

Ask for Help

This tip was a hard one for me to learn, and it’s something I still struggle with daily. Once I had more responsibility in my new role, I began to work as if I had to do it all on my own. I never wanted to burden others with something I could just do myself.

Trying to do everything yourself is a very quick way to burn out, which almost happened to me.

After a lot of guidance from some mentors and co-workers, I began to realize I can only do this job by relying on others. Once I began to actively ask for help, I soon saw something I didn’t expect: collaboration. Asking for help opened up a way for me to practice trusting others, and, eventually, it helped my team and I to rely on one another, especially when things got hard.

Invest in Your Co-workers

Just as I had to get better about asking for help, I also had to get better at showing up when others asked me for help. Not that I ever turned up my nose to helping someone, but my new position was the first time I had people coming to me multiple times a day for help. I wanted my team members to know that they were heard and that I would be there to either coach them through their issue or figure it out with them.

Showing up for others and giving them your time and your talents goes a long way, inside and outside of the workplace. Try offering to help, even before you’re asked. Go out of your way to check in on someone. Buy a coffee for that co-worker who has been stressing to hit a deadline. By showing a little kindness, you’re telling them they’re worth your time. 

Be Quiet!

I wish I could say I were a very introspective person, but my default is to be reactionary and vocal. This tendency can serve me well in certain circumstances — but not all. As my team of co-workers grew, so did my need to hear from others and, more importantly, learn from them.

This realization has been a pleasant surprise. Once I was able to make room for others to share their voice, they were encouraged to be vulnerable and ask for help. It opened up space for trust to develop. I am now a strong believer that listening is one of the best ways you can learn and grow.

Consistency Is Queen

They say that in the workplace, culture is king. I think there is a lot of truth in that statement, but if culture is king, then consistency is queen. 

The longer I’ve been in this role, the more I realize that consistency is synonymous with reliability. Who doesn’t want to be known as reliable? I want my co-workers to know that if I say I am going to do something, they can count on me to do it. If I make a commitment, I am going to be there. I don’t want people on my team wondering if I’m going to deliver. 

If I’ve learned one thing throughout my career and personal life so far, it’s that trust takes time. Whether it’s learning to trust a new love interest or building trust in your team at work, it won’t happen overnight, and it requires an investment in the relationship. But as soon as you allow trust to grow, both the team and the work can really thrive.

Annie Schunior is a communications specialist working for the Catholic Church in the city of Detroit. In addition, she does communications consulting for non-profits and online ministries as well as some freelance writing. Most days, Annie can be found with coffee in hand, toting around her 2 year old son or finding DIY projects to do around the house with her husband. You can follow her on Instagram at @annie_schuns.