3 Things Companies Can Do Today to Build Workplace Trust

June 5, 2024

50% of employees don’t believe that their HR is trustworthy.[1] This is a detriment to companies because low trust in the workplace leads to high turnover rates and employees not comfortable with seeking help or sharing ideas.[2] On the other hand, employees who trust their employer:[3]

  • Report less stress
  • Have more energy at work
  • Work more productively
  • Take fewer sick days
  • Engage more at work
  • Are more satisfied with life
  • Suffer less burnout

Stephen M. R. Covey refers to the cost of mistrust as a “low-trust tax,” and the benefits of a trust-filled workplace (decreased cost and increased speed) as a “high-trust dividend.” [4]


How Employers Can Gain This High-Trust Dividend

According to Paul J. Zak, an employer can cultivate trust by “setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way. It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.”

Three ways employers can gain this high trust dividend are:

  • Clear and open communication and sharing of information.
  • Allowing employees discretion in how they do their work.
  • Being vulnerable and human.


Clear and open communication and sharing of information

When employees engage in clear and open communication and sharing of information, workforce engagement will improve. This also allows for good workplace relationships and social interactions, which are a major factor in building trust. People are wired to perform better when working with people they care about. Stress will decrease, and teamwork is more possible.


Allowing employees discretion in how they do their work

Is it really a surprise that showing trust to employees fosters trust in return? When employers trust their trained employees to do things the way the employee functions best, motivation and innovation increases. In fact, nearly half of employees would rather have autonomy than a 20% raise, according to one survey.[5]


Being vulnerable and human—it’s science

When leaders ask for help rather than just tell employees what to do, this stimulates oxytocin production in the people around them, which encourages trust and cooperation. Instead of making the leader look incompetent, this actually makes them more likable, again, because humans are wired for cooperation and relationship. A good leader is a servant leader, who inspires employees through example.

A good leader will take emotional risks by being honest and vulnerable with employees.[6] According to workplace-trust guru Simon Sinek, leaders who are willing to step into danger and discomfort convey trustworthiness and protectiveness.


Leaders can start building workplace trust today by offering real transparency and sharing information openly, giving employees freedom in how they do their jobs, and being vulnerable and human in front of their employees. The presence of trust will lead to a happier, more productive workplace, which overtime will pay out a high trust dividend. On the other hand, the consequences of not cultivating trust will cost a company both financially and psychologically.

When you think about it this way—how can a company afford not to invest in becoming a trust-filled workplace?


[1] https://zety.com/blog/is-hr-human

[2] https://www.achievers.com/blog/building-trust-workplace/

[3] https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust

[4] https://hbr.org/2016/07/the-connection-between-employee-trust-and-financial-performance

[5] https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/services/workforce/publications/provide-autonomy.html

[6] https://simonsinek.com/stories/simons-top-tips-for-how-to-build-trusting-teams/

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