How to Build Trust in the Workplace

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Managing Oneself" by Peter F. Drucker. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is it important to foster a culture of trust in the workplace? What does trust have to do with career success?

Trust is an essential component of working effectively with others. Trust gives you credibility, creating a pool of people who know your skills and track record. Also, most jobs involve working with other people in some capacity—so, if you can’t foster trust and collaborate well, it will hinder your ability to advance.

Here’s how to build trust in the workplace, according to Peter Drucker.

Building Trust in the Workplace

In his book Managing Oneself, Drucker explains how to build trust in the workplace and thereby improve the quality of your working relationships. Just as you now know your own preferences, you must recognize that everyone you work with has their own strengths and values—Drucker recommends that you find out what those are. You do this by communicating with them. 

He says to begin by describing the results of your self-reflection to your colleagues and then asking them to tell you the same information about themselves. You must also observe your colleagues closely to gain as much information about them as possible. This allows you to understand each other and work together more effectively, complementing each others’ preferences. Drucker’s advice applies up and down the hierarchy, helping you to manage your managers. For example, you might start communicating with them in a style that suits them.

Trusting Your Colleagues

Author Simon Sinek would agree with Drucker on the importance of trust between colleagues, and he outlines a further reason why trust is important in his book The Infinite Game. Sinek argues that trust between colleagues is a core component of workplace psychological safety. This allows you to open up to your colleagues and your boss (and vice versa) if you need help or if you made a mistake, which you may be afraid to do if you don’t trust those around you. 

A sense of trust in the workplace therefore leads to people catching and rectifying problems early on, rather than fearful employees sweeping potential issues under the rug until they become difficult.

How to Get to Know Your Colleagues

Drucker is clear on the benefits of sharing the insights of your self-reflection with your colleagues and manager and on getting them to do likewise, but he doesn’t give an exact template for how these conversations should take place. This raises several problems: A discussion about your own strengths and values would possibly make for some stilted water cooler chat, and it’s hard to know how to encourage your colleagues to invest equally in this process.  

Forbes gives some more concrete suggestions of how to get to know your colleagues’ working style. They recommend asking your colleagues about the challenges they face and offering to assist them. This links to another step they suggest: to help your colleagues so they feel obliged to help you in turn. They also advise you to explain the benefits of effective collaboration to your colleagues, such as the possibility of a bonus, to open the gateway towards accommodating each other. 
How to Build Trust in the Workplace

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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