Understanding the importance of trust in the workplace

Studies show that organizations with a high level of trust have increased employee morale, more productive workers and lower staff turnover.

“Business is conducted through relationships and trust is the foundation of those relationships.”
-Dennis S. Reina and Michelle L. Reina

For over 20 years, Dennis Reina, PhD, and Michelle Reina, PhD, co-founders of the Reina Trust Building Institute have specialized in measuring, creating and restoring workplace trust. They are also co-authors of Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace and Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace. According to Reina and Reina, “At the core of trust building is raising people’s consciousness of what trust means and the behaviors that build it.”

Reina and Reina describe trust as ‘transactional’ because it is an integrative approach that provides a foundation for effective relationships and work results. The Transactional Trust Model®, published in Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace, inventories a set of trust building behaviors around three key descriptors. When an organization fosters relationship and trust-building behaviors, employees focus on the work they were hired to do and productivity increases. When trust is damaged, morale and productivity begin to decline and turnover increases.

Listed below are the three descriptors of the Transactional Trust Model®, including examples of behaviors that may over time, build or destroy it:

Contractual

  1. Trust builder – Managed expectations. Mutual respect and credibility, people do what they say they will do.     
  2. Trust destroyer – No follow-through, disrespect and a lack of personal credibility.

Communication

  1. Trust builder – Open and honest communication. Active listening, transparency and free-flowing dialogue.
  2. Trust destroyer – Communication is secretive, gossip, suspicion and distrust festers.

Competence

  1. Trust builder - Input is encouraged and utilized.
  2. Trust destroyer - Micromanagement and selective decision-making.

Reina and Reina disclose that a loss of trust does not usually happen from a major event, but instead erodes over time. With scarce resources and organizations being asked to do more with less, it may be more important than ever to understand the value of trust in the workplace and take action to rebuild or sustain it. Part two of this article, published by Michigan State University Extension, will offer suggestions for regaining trust when it has been damaged.