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3 Ways to (Re)gain Your Team's Trust

April 18, 2022 Leadership
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Trust is one of the most important aspects of an organization's culture. And this may be even more so in hybrid and remote companies, where face-to-face interactions are more limited and mediated by technology.

To perform optimally, team members must trust each other. Managers need to trust that employees understand the mission and will get things done, and employees need to have faith that managers will give them the tools and support they need to accomplish their work.

So, how can managers ensure trust permeates throughout the organization? And as organizations continue their recovery from the disruption created by the pandemic, how can leaders regain trust that may have been lost along the way?

Why Trust Matters in Hybrid and Remote Teams

The traditional office was a prime environment for micromanagement to thrive. The option to walk the floor made it easy for managers to look over employees' shoulders to make sure work was being done. Hybrid or remote environments don't allow for that — short of using monitoring tools — which can lead to distrust from managers and employees alike. 

“Seeing was believing for micromanagers. When someone was in front of their manager working, they could 'trust' in how hard they were working or that the outputs would be stronger,” said Tara Ataya, chief people and diversity officer at Vancouver, B.C.-based Hootsuite.

What's more, hybrid and remote teams are particularly reliant on technology not only to get work done, but also to communicate, collaborate and grow. Employees expect to be kept abreast of developments and announcements and distrust may quickly take hold if they begin to believe there is proximity bias.

Patrick Manzo, CEO at Austin, Texas-based Kazoo, said at the onset of the pandemic, many business leaders worried that working from home would mean less employee productivity. While data now shows this to be untrue in most cases, distrust may linger. 

Related Article: It's Time to Take Another Look at Employee Monitoring

How to Rebuild Employees’ Lost Trust

With increasing flexibility across many organizations, employees today enjoy greater options to find an employer that suits their needs. That's one of the motivating factors pushing employees to change jobs during what's become popularly known as the Great Resignation. That means managers will need to rebuild trust to avoid losing them. Here are three steps to doing that in the digital workplace: 

1. Establish Transparency

A loss of trust can happen for a number of reasons. Any manager who feels they’ve lost trust in an employee needs to share that reasoning with them. The first step is to be honest about what led to the loss of trust.

Transparency can also show employees that managers are willing to acknowledge the part they played in the loss of trust and that they are open to a resolution. Similarly, managers should be receptive to hearing from employees who have lost trust in them or the organization.

Related Article: How the Hybrid Workplace Is Changing the Culture of Work

2. Lead with Empathy 

To build trust, managers must know what employees are feeling. “Managers should lead with empathy and intention when it comes to building trust with their teams,” said Ataya.

This means taking the time to listen — and hear — what each employee feels to better understand the situation. Doing so, managers can help ensure they act with the most accurate firsthand information possible in order to find a resolution and way forward. 

3. Encourage Feedback

The most trusting environments tend to be organizations that have a culture where listening is encouraged and employee feedback is welcomed. “This starts by fostering strong connections between employees and their managers where an employee is able to share feedback openly and without fear of retribution,” said Manzo.

Having regular check-ins can provide the perfect avenue for regular communication and feedback. Managers can also create a space that values honesty and appropriate action in their employees, Manzo said.

Command-and-control leadership and micromanagement are past their sell-by date. Managers in the digital workplace need to enable employees. To do that, there needs to be trust on both sides so that everyone can perform at their best. By being transparent, leading with empathy and encouraging feedback, managers have the opportunity to create the dialogue necessary to build, or rebuild, productive relationships with employees.

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