You Want Your Employees To Trust You. Here's How To Make It Happen.

Jul 19, 2023

Eager to inspire trust within your team but unsure where to start? Or perhaps you're a more experienced leader, looking to strengthen the bonds of trust that hold your team together? Either way, this post is for you.

Today we'll be journeying to the heart of trust, a concept that's as elusive as it is essential. We'll explore the three fundamental bricks that build the wall of trust: expectations, needs, and promises. We'll delve into the fragile nature of trust and how to handle it with care. And we'll discover why trust is a journey, not a destination.

But that's not all. I thought I'd also reveal some surprising insights about trust that you might not have considered before. Insights that could change the way you think about trust and how you build it within your team.

So, if you're ready to unlock the power of trust and transform your leadership style, keep reading. This isn't just another article about trust. It's a roadmap to building stronger, more productive relationships with your team. And it starts right here, right now. Let's dive in.

Understanding Trust: More Than Just a Word

Trust is a small word, but it carries a lot of weight. It's a fundamental part of our relationships, both personal and professional. But what does it really mean to trust someone or something? Let's break it down.

What is Trust?

At its core, trust is about reliance. It's about believing that a person, a company, or even a product will deliver a particular outcome. It's the confidence that your team will complete a project on time, the assurance that your car will start in the morning, or the certainty that your favorite coffee shop will make your latte just the way you like it.

But trust isn't just about reliability. It's also about vulnerability. When we trust, we open ourselves up to the possibility of being let down or hurt. This vulnerability is what makes trust so powerful and so essential to our relationships.

The Three Core Elements of Trust

Trust isn't formed out of thin air. It's built on three core elements: Expectations, Needs, and Promises. Think of these elements as the bricks that build a wall of trust.


Expectations are the beliefs we have about how someone or something will behave. They're shaped by our past experiences, our perceptions, and the information we have at hand. In a workplace context, expectations might include things like believing your team will meet their deadlines, or that your boss will provide constructive feedback.


Needs are the basic requirements we have in any given situation. They're the things we simply can't do without. In the workplace, needs might include feeling safe and respected, having opportunities for growth and development, or receiving fair compensation for your work.


Promises are commitments that are made to us. They can be explicit, like a contract that outlines your job responsibilities and compensation, or they can be implicit, like the unspoken agreement that your boss won't micromanage your every move.

Each of these elements plays a crucial role in building trust. When our expectations are met, our needs are fulfilled, and promises are kept, trust is strengthened. Conversely, when these elements are missing or inconsistent, trust can be damaged or lost.

Trust is Dynamic

It's also important to remember that trust isn't static. It's a dynamic, evolving aspect of our relationships. It can grow stronger over time, as people consistently meet our expectations, fulfill our needs, and keep their promises. But it can also be damaged or broken when these things don't happen. That's why it's so important to continually work on building and maintaining trust in all of our relationships.

In the end, understanding trust is about recognizing its complexity and its importance in our lives. It's about knowing how to build it, how to maintain it, and how to repair it when it's been damaged. And most importantly, it's about understanding that trust is the foundation of all successful relationships.

Expectations: The First Brick

Expectations are the assumptions or beliefs we have about what should happen in a given situation. They're like a mental blueprint of how we think things will or should unfold. In the context of the workplace, expectations play a crucial role in the trust-building process.

The Origin of Expectations

Expectations are shaped by a variety of factors. Past experiences are a major influence. If a team member consistently delivers high-quality work, you'll expect that trend to continue. Similarly, if you've had a boss who was always available for guidance, you might expect the same from future managers.

Expectations can also be influenced by what we've seen, heard, or read. For instance, if you've read articles about companies that prioritize work-life balance, you might expect the same from your own workplace.

Expectations in the Employee-Manager Relationship

In the employee-manager relationship, expectations work both ways. As a manager, you might expect your team members to be punctual, meet deadlines, attend meetings, and treat others with respect. In a large way, these expectations form the basis of your evaluation of their performance.

On the other hand, your team members also have expectations of you and the organization. They might expect to receive fair pay, constructive feedback, opportunities for growth, and a safe and inclusive working environment.

The Role of Communication in Setting Expectations

Clear communication is key in setting and managing expectations. It's important to articulate what you expect from your team members and to understand what they expect from you. This can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.

The Impact of Unmet Expectations

When expectations are met, it reinforces trust and strengthens the employee-manager relationship. However, when expectations are not met, it can lead to disappointment, frustration, and a breakdown in trust. That's why it's so important to manage expectations effectively.

Needs: The Second Brick

While expectations are about what we think will or should happen, needs are about what we require to function effectively. They are the essential elements that we seek to fulfill in any given situation or relationship. In the context of the workplace, understanding and addressing these needs is a crucial part of building trust.

The Nature of Needs

Needs are fundamental. They are the basic requirements that must be met for us to perform at our best. These needs can be physical, like the need for a safe and comfortable working environment, or they can be psychological, like the need for respect and recognition.

Needs in the Employee-Manager Relationship

In the employee-manager relationship, needs play a significant role. Employees have basic needs that drive them into every interaction they have at work. These needs might include:

  • Safety and Security: Employees need to feel safe in their working environment. This includes physical safety, like safe equipment and procedures, as well as psychological safety, like feeling free to express ideas or concerns without fear of retribution.
  • Development and Growth: Employees need opportunities to learn, grow, and advance in their careers. This could mean access to training programs, clear paths for advancement, or constructive feedback that helps them improve.
  • Respect: Employees need to feel valued and respected. This means being treated fairly, having their ideas listened to, and being recognized for their contributions.
  • Recognition: Employees need their efforts to be acknowledged. This could be through formal recognition programs, personal praise from managers, or a culture that celebrates success.

The Role of Needs in Trust

When these needs are met, employees are more likely to trust their managers and their organization. They see that their well-being and success are valued, which strengthens their commitment and engagement. However, when these needs are not met, it can lead to dissatisfaction, disengagement, and a breakdown in trust.

Promises: The Third Brick

Promises represent commitments made to us. They are assurances that a certain action will be taken or a particular outcome will be achieved. In the context of the workplace, promises play a vital role in building and maintaining trust.

The Nature of Promises: Implied and Explicit

Promises can be explicit or implicit. Explicit promises are clearly stated and leave little room for ambiguity. They tell your employees exactly what they are going to get. For example, an employment contract that outlines your job responsibilities and compensation is an explicit promise. Similarly, your company's mission and values statement, which might make explicit promises about how employees will behave within the company, is another example of an explicit promise.

On the other hand, implicit promises are not directly stated but are inferred from actions, behaviors, or circumstances. For instance, your company's logo or marketing can make an implicit promise. If you have an ad that shows two happy people working at your company, then your company is making an implied promise, in the eyes of your potential candidates, that if they work at your company, they will be happy too.

Promises in the Employee-Manager Relationship

In the employee-manager relationship, promises are often made by the manager to the employee. These promises can take many forms, such as:

  • Compensation: Promises of fair pay for work done.
  • Career Advancement: Promises of opportunities for growth and promotion.
  • Work Environment: Promises of a safe, respectful, and inclusive workplace.
  • Work-Life Balance: Promises of respect for personal time and commitments.

The Role of Promises in Trust

Promises are a key component of trust. When promises are kept, they reinforce trust and strengthen the employee-employer relationship. However, when promises are broken, it can lead to resentment and a loss of faith.

It's also important to note that the more a promise aligns with an employee's needs and expectations, the more likely they are to trust the person or entity making the promise. For example, if a company promises opportunities for career advancement, employees who value growth and development are likely to trust that company more.

The Importance of Keeping Promises

Keeping promises is crucial in maintaining trust. If circumstances change and a promise can't be kept, it's important to communicate this to the affected parties as soon as possible. Transparency and open communication can help manage expectations and prevent a breakdown in trust.

The Fragility of Trust: Handle with Care

Trust is a delicate thing. It takes time and consistent effort to build, but it can be damaged or even destroyed in an instant. Understanding the fragility of trust is crucial for maintaining healthy and productive relationships in your workplace.

The Impact of Unmet Expectations, Unfulfilled Needs, and Broken Promises

When expectations are met, needs are fulfilled, and promises are kept, trust is strengthened. However, when these elements are not met, trust can quickly erode.

Unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and doubt. If a team member consistently fails to meet deadlines, for example, you may start to question their reliability and commitment.

Unfulfilled needs can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. If an employee doesn't feel safe, respected, or valued at work, they may become disengaged and less productive.

Broken promises can lead to resentment and a loss of faith. If a manager promises a promotion but fails to deliver, the employee may feel betrayed and lose trust in their manager's word.

The Consequences of a Breakdown in Trust

A breakdown in trust can have serious consequences for your team and the wider workplace. It can lead to lower morale, decreased productivity, increased turnover, and a toxic work environment. It can also make it more difficult to build trust in the future, as people may become more cautious and less willing to open themselves up to potential disappointment or betrayal.

The Importance of Repairing Trust

When trust is damaged, it's important to take steps to repair it. This may involve acknowledging the mistake, apologizing, and taking action to prevent it from happening again. It's also important to give it time. Trust is not easily repaired, and it may take time for the affected parties to heal and for trust to be rebuilt.

Building and Maintaining Trust: A Continuous Effort

Building trust is not a one-time event, but a continuous process that requires consistent effort and attention. It's about demonstrating through your actions that you are reliable, honest, and respectful.

Strategies for Building Trust

Here are some strategies to help you build trust with your team:

  1. Manage Expectations: Be clear about what you expect from your team and what they can expect from you. This can prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.
  2. Fulfill Needs: Understand your team's needs and strive to meet them. This could mean providing a safe working environment, opportunities for growth, or simply showing respect.
  3. Keep Promises: If you make a promise, do everything in your power to keep it. If circumstances change and you can't fulfill a promise, communicate this to your team as soon as possible.
  4. Communicate Openly: Open and honest communication is key to building trust. Keep your team informed about what's happening in the organization and be open to their ideas and feedback.
  5. Show Empathy: Show understanding and empathy for your team's experiences and challenges. This can help them feel valued and respected, which can strengthen trust.

Maintaining Trust

Once trust is built, it's important to maintain it. This involves continuing to meet expectations, fulfill needs, and keep promises. It also involves addressing issues and conflicts in a respectful and fair manner.

Remember, trust can be easily damaged, so it's important to handle it with care. If trust is broken, take steps to repair it by acknowledging the issue, apologizing, and taking action to prevent it from happening again.

The Impact of Trust

Building and maintaining trust can have an enormous impact on your team and your organization. Trust can lead to higher levels of engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction. It can also create a positive work environment where people feel valued and respected.

Winding up

Remember, trust is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Which essentially means that it's something that deserves to be worked on every day. But don't worry, with time and consistent effort, you'll become a pro at building and maintaining trust with your team. Plus the results are truly worth it. As a new manager, you're in a unique position to foster a culture of trust within your team. Embrace the challenge and watch as your team becomes more engaged, motivated, and productive.

And credit where credit is due: if you like what you've read today, you can get a ton more information from a woman called Vanessa Hall. Apart from being a fellow Aussie like myself, Vanessa's work on trust is world class. It really resonates with me, which is why I wanted to share a bit of it here with you today. She's got a book, aptly titled The Simple Truth About Trust. Google it and check it out - it's excellent.

And that's a wrap! Keep learning, keep growing, and we'll speak again soon.




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