Cross-Functional Learning


Our well-rounded business content is designed for Leaders & Managers to implement change with ease & improve accountability amongst their teams. Here you'll find Articles from thought leaders in their fields, have access to practical Business Templates, learn new skills & expand on skills you already have. Stay informed & proactive...Join Us Today!

Join Now

Building Trust with Co-Workers

By Deb Calvert (1058 words)
Posted in Communication Skills on September 10, 2012

There are (37) comments permalink

Add to My Toolkit

By Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions


In the past decade, trust has become a hot topic in business. Maybe it’s a reaction to the big corporate scandals that rocked the U.S. and led to stringent accounting practices or to housing market declines and big business bailouts. Or maybe it’s the lack of trust in companies that rapidly inflate and can’t sustain their growth so they lay off thousands of people with barely the blink of an eye. 


Whatever’s behind it, trust is something that suddenly seems to matter again. In August 2012, there are 4,261 business books available on amazon.com on the subject of trust. But what, exactly, is trust?


The dictionary defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing.” It’s the “etc.” part of that definition that is subject to interpretation. It’s that vague, undefined and intangible element of trust that makes it somewhat elusive in the workplace.


Try this. Ask five different people what causes them to trust someone. You’ll get at least three different answers, usually relating to honesty and reliability. In fact, there are 12 dimensions of trust. That’s 12 different ways in the workplace that you can inadvertently violate someone’s trust without fully understanding that it’s an issue of trust at all.


Case in point. A few years ago, I was asked to coach a mid-level manager who had been told in her performance review that she was untrustworthy. She was so upset by this comment, the only blemish in an otherwise good review, that she had escalated the conversation to HR and was prepared to hire an attorney to defend her against this “character assassination.”


In her mind, trustworthy meant honest. She thought those two words were synonymous. She believed she had been called “dishonest.”


In the mind of her director, the one who wrote the review, trustworthy meant reliability. His intention was to convey that she had missed so many deadlines that he no longer trusted her with time-sensitive project work. When this was more fully explained, in a way she could hear it objectively, she relented. She agreed that she had missed those deadlines, but she could not accept the word untrustworthy.


It was, indeed, an issue of trust. It’s just that these two people understood and used the word differently. To avoid a similar misunderstanding, it’s helpful to know the 12 dimensions of trust. It’s also important to understand that different people place different value on each dimension. Being solid in all 12 areas is the best way to ensure you are viewed at all time as being trustworthy. The 12 dimensions of trust are:


#1 Competence

You have the skills and knowledge that are commensurate with expected results. You strive to learn and increase your competence.


#2 Integrity

You consistently make ethical choices regardless of convenience, profit, fun or other personal benefit.


#3 Consistency

You are reliable, steady, and predictable. Everyone knows what to expect from you. You are someone that others can count on.


#4 Loyalty

You make and keep long-term commitments to individuals, teams and organizations. You support others at all times.


#5 Availability

You make time for needed conversations and listen without distractions. You are fully present in interactions with others.


#6 Fairness

You use objective criteria to evaluate situations or personnel. You do not exhibit favoritism. You hold everyone to equal standards.


#7 Decision-Making

You know and share your decision-making criteria. You involve others in the decision-making process. You explain the rationale of your decisions.


#8 Follow Through

You deliver what has been promised. You honor agreements. You accept responsibility if your commitments are not kept.


#9 Openness

You communicate with complete disclosure, and you don’t hold back information. You share your opinion even when it’s not popular.


#10 Discreteness

You respect confidentiality. You gets permission and use care before sharing information with others.


#11 Constructive Intent

You can share sensitive messages without causing defensiveness. Your communication motives are not self-serving.


#12 Accurate Self-Assessment

You understand and acknowledge your own limitations. You seek and accept help when needed.


Some of these may surprise you. As busy as you are, it never occurred to you that being unavailable to other members of your team could cause them to mistrust you. Or the lack of follow through that everyone knows is your weakness… Maybe this is more than a little idiosyncrasy… Maybe your poor follow through is causing some vague mistrust that carries over in ways that can harm your career or reputation.


Now that you have this list of the 12 dimensions of trust, consider using it as a self-assessment. What can you do to be sure you are universally and consistently viewed as someone others can trust?  Please join the conversation in 'This Week's Discussion'


Written by Deb Calvert,

Workplace Communication Skills Expert for ManagingAmericans.com & President, People First Productivity Solutions.

Ask our Expert Panel a question in Workplace Communication Skills Ask an Expert Forum.


Here are some related articles you may be interested in:

Eight Communication Tips to Gain Respect at Work

Six ways to improve your communication skills.

Are Speaking Skills More Valued than Listening?

Is Your Defensive Position Keeping You from Moving Forward?

Make It Easy to Have that Difficult Conversation

At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of the business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career. 

Comments (37)

Marti Benjamin posted on: September 11, 2012

This article is very helpful, including the concrete metrics of trust. I'm working with a client whose co-workers don't trust her and she doesn't understand why. This article will be a useful tool for me to challenge her to expand her thinking about trust-building behaviors (and those that destroy trust).

Thanks for sharing this

Brian Isaacsen posted on: September 11, 2012

There is a simple saying I use: "Do what you say your going to do when you said you would do it". If you are consistent in your commitments the trust will be built. I agree it takes time to build trust. Just be yourself and honest...

Rebecca Mott posted on: September 11, 2012

So true. Trust is one of those tricky words that can mean many things. What I find most disturbing about the above scenario used though is that the manager did not bother to document the WHY behind his/her statement. It is so important that we tend towards over communication when we are giving someone feedback on their performance. This could have saved the manager and employee a lot of time on the back end. Great article.

Lena Benjamin posted on: September 12, 2012

Great emphasis on trust - people do business with people that they like and trust!

Bob Gately posted on: September 12, 2012

to build trust we must...

Give our word.
Keep our word.
Live our words.
No excuses.

DANIEL QUIAMBAO posted on: September 12, 2012

Trust is something that doesn't happen over night. It takes time to build up. The best thing to build trust with co-workers is don't gossip, be a good listener, be prompt, keep focused on the job your paid to do (what you can't get out of (work) get into), and punch-out. (work to live, not live to work.) I'm pretty sure you have a life outside of work, enjoy it. Life is good!

Josh Johnson posted on: September 12, 2012

Effectively coach and mentor each employee either one on one or together as a team. Motivate the employee(s) on making decision making and build upon the negative, not frown, as well as reward the positive.

Successfully giving the employee a sense they are more than a employee and more a team member capable to assist with the actual days operations.

Tricia Chitwood posted on: September 12, 2012

Excellent article. I appreciated the discussion of the 12 dimensions of trust. It's a good way to do a self-assessment, or even consider for performance reviews. Thanks for sharing.

Dianna Booher posted on: September 12, 2012

good article. The last two points there actually build the "trust" case in most relationships: constructive intent and self-assessment.

Ovie Obonna posted on: September 15, 2012

This is important because the stated goals of a company can only be achieved by team work.

Joseph Hare posted on: September 20, 2012

The theories you presented were very thought provoking. I like the picture with the letters T R U S T being caried by different humanoid forms. This indicates how building trust does not depend upon one's self alone, but upon all those involved with the trust-building process. One can never be SURE they are viewed by others as someone to be trusted, because behaviors intended to seed trust are vulnerable to perception. We know how volatile and dynamic perception can be.

I believe people who desire to be trusted themselves will seek to build trust in others. If such a behavior is sustained by those who desire trust-based relationships, then the ability to be viewed as someone who can be trusted will be sure, but likely only among those who seek trusting relationships.

Andrea Merriman posted on: September 25, 2012

I think that the key word for building trust is located in your question, "consistently". People tend to develop trust in people that are consistently reliable. Once you show others that your positive attitude is a part of who you are and not just for show then they will develop trust in you.

Marina Schlotzhauer posted on: September 25, 2012


Pauline Adams posted on: September 26, 2012

Transparency and communication I believe are key attributes.

Interesting article and yes I believe that most friction between colleagues is maybe mis-interpretation of other colleagues comments and something to remember for the future

Leke Adenuga posted on: September 26, 2012

Building trust @ work place is not easily earned but built on the followings: (1) Punctuality (2) great work rate (3)undiluted flow of information (4) ability to be patience listeners 'n' not pass the bucks (5) above all, mutual co-existence for a period of time tends to bring mutual understanding (6) unbroken promises

Workplace attitudes earns you the trust.

Jeffrey E. Bayers, P.E., P.M.P. posted on: September 26, 2012

deliver what you promise

Alexander Fuhrmann posted on: September 27, 2012

You really touched a hot button with your topic. I believe that trust should be a topic we learn to talk about openly and in particular learn to ask the person we deal with what are for them the behaviors that build trust and those that destroy trust. Then give them our own list of same. And of curse as previously noted we need to be consistent otherwise we only destroy trust.As a fairly general point I would encourage people to learn assertive communication in order to learn to express what they stand for in areas related to the joint effort.If you get this far a lot of other things will start happening spontaneously.l

Lynda Franchino posted on: October 4, 2012

First and most important, never, ever repeat what you have heard or someone else has told you. I've worked situations where I had two or more execs bad-mouthing each other to me. I never went and told the other person. I never let on later that I had heard it either. This keeps me out of hot water; keeps me from being pulled into the middle; and also earns everyone's trust. Yes, sometimes you find yourself in a difficult position, but in the end this will be your savior.

Second, always be honest as well as reliable. Treat others as you wish to be treated.

Third, never forget that what you put out is what you get back, threefold.

Barbara "Bobbie" Martorano posted on: October 4, 2012

Lynda I couldn't agree more...& be dependable and there when no one else wants to be...Not everyone is worth impressing upon so don't be caught yik yaking in the coffee room...networking is one thing...but keep it professional and within the course of business not as a sideline...cordial and respectful communication should be had with all that are encountered but being seen in the same place, same time with the same people only puts you in a "click" and doesn't necessarily make you trustworthy to those not there..Put yourself in anther's position and see how you would feel about what you see and hear...

Trisha Goggin posted on: October 4, 2012

I think the only way to build trust is to demonstrate time after time that you are reliable, honest and non discriminatory. I try to build trust is to be the same way with everyone I work with. If you treat everyone fairly then people tend recognize that. Each time I start I new job I remember what someone once said to me - the only thing you can really take with you from role to role is your personal integrity - once that's gone, it's gone for good. I repeat that to myself if I find myself in a difficult situation at work and if I'm aren't prepared to say something in public then I don't say it all all. I think it's vital that you don't get caught up in gossipy situations. If I'm asked for my opinion by my boss then I'll give it but otherwise I'm silent as the grave. Keep your own counsel - it's the only way to go.

Laura Capone posted on: October 4, 2012

You need to keep a positive attitude even when you really don't feel that way. Stay away from the gossip. You may hear things, but just don't repeat them. Be pleasant, upbeat and don't bring weary complaints to HR. You may need them when it counts. That's it. I have been working for the CEO and Founder of the Company, also supporting other EVP's for 9 years. I am not only the Senior EA but I am also now the Office Manager. I am very busy! Good Luck!!!!

Leke Adenuga posted on: October 4, 2012

Hi Alex. Fuhrmann.
In as much i will agree with u to some extent, that people @ work place should be assertive in expessing their views, i think all the do's and don't would have been spelt out @ induction training, hence every employees must fit in to the firm works ethics. communication is vital but being assertive may destoy existing works ethics and run counter productive and headlong with coy code of conducts

Emanuela Manca posted on: October 4, 2012

I have this big problem, because I think my collegues are envious of my position (CEO Personal Assistant). I always try to stay away from the gossip, I know everything about them, but I do not report gossip or personal information to others. I think discipline and communication are the key when your collegues recognize you as one of them, If it is not, I do not think there is an easy solution.

Ranee Les Callett posted on: October 8, 2012

I find building trust is as simple as do what you say and say what you mean. If you don't follow through with action, or if you try to manipulate people and situations with your words it will destroy any trust you may build and it is near impossible to rebuild trust in a work place once it has been damaged.

Catherine Fedorchek posted on: October 8, 2012

Confidentiality and Performance +Integrity= TRUST

I am very keen when employing discretion concerning my DCEs activity and the actions of our teams. Further, my attention to detail and accuracy maintains a healthy and reliable environment for all members. I believe this promotes integrity, which is the foundational exchange of trust.

Bonnie Low-Kramen posted on: October 8, 2012

Excellent comments and discussion. In 25 years, I found that owning mistakes and openly saying "That was my fault and this is how we are going to make sure it doesn't happen again" is a very powerful way of building trust. Among co-workers, it builds trust to speak your agenda, as in "I want you to succeed here. Let's find ways to help one another do that." In my experience, fear and silence are the enemy.

Michelle Ward posted on: October 8, 2012

Excellent article!

Rebecca Kessler posted on: October 10, 2012

I believe to be trusted in the workplace is to do what you are told and when you are told to do it. Now, if you feel the task your being told to do could be done a bit differently and can get the best results in a faster amount of time.....speak up! Have your opinion heard! Good CEO's, bosses and managers want employees who want what is best for their company and a company can not succeed without the input of their employees. With trust also comes hard work. Also, If an employee is willing to put in those extra long hours for the best interest of the company, (without complaining or worrying about extra pay or perks) this is a clear indication the employee can be trusted!

Theresa Paloschi posted on: October 10, 2012

Trust is earned not built. Focus on your co-workers that are important to you in that you wish to earn their trust and grow with. You will experience many roadblocks from co-workers who are spiteful or jealous and may attempt to discredit you. When you are confident and take pride in your work it will shine and leave less aspiring co-workers in the dust!

Tran Le posted on: October 10, 2012

Your behavior is the most important to get the trust from someone, you will receive what you give...

Monica Tedde posted on: October 10, 2012

Trust is a relationship of reliance. A trusted party is presumed to seek to fulfill policies, ethical codes, law and their previous promises.
A relationship of trust develops in both directions, not only by the employee to the boss, but also in the opposite direction: if I do not trust my boss, his intentions and values ??I will certainly not work for him.

Swadesh Chakrabarty posted on: December 4, 2012

There is always a chance of overlapping the meanings of trust, dependability or confidence. To my understanding, trust points out to the specific trait of a person whereby he always keeps his commitment in spite of all odds and temptations.keeping commitment is a great quality which people look for in their leaders. probably it does not relate directly to the ability of a person but it relates to the ethics of a person whereby he or she remains true to his commitment. Once the commitment is not kept mistrust is created in spite of all other good qualities present in a leader. In common understanding we may extend the domain of trust by many qualities included into it but, what bothers me is that keeping commitment is such a great quality of a leader which should not get lost within other qualities.

Brian Silverthorn posted on: December 6, 2012

Be on time. Do what you say, Finish what you start. Say please and thank you.

Scott Balderrama posted on: December 10, 2012

In a day when loyalty is at an all time low between companies and employees trust is the one factor they need to operate without a minimum of worry. If your team believes you have their back they will have yours.

John Mark Williams posted on: December 10, 2012

Great article - thank you.

I like the way this article is aimed at the whole workforce, and not just leaders.

We often forget that trust is something that needs to exist between all of the team or group members.

Jambar Team Building posted on: April 21, 2014

Hi there, thank you for your article. I really enjoyed reading your article and I hope your other readers will do too! Cheers!

Emile Leus posted on: May 27, 2017

Hi Deb,

Thanks for your great article and i have read it with great interest. Trust in doing business is an important subject and the conception can be misunderstood.

For me trust has the same meaning as Jeffrey E. Bayers, P.E., P.M.P.

Deliver what you promise with discipline!!

Can i share your article on my linked in page Deb or my website http://www.tvworkshop.com/

Hope to hear from you soon.

Emile Lues

Leave a comment

Not a robot?