Tag Archives: trust

Building Trust

Can an organisation explicitly enhance trust through targeted policies? What does trust involve; what are the actions which build trust?

Trust builds high quality connections

“Trusting means acting toward others in a way that conveys your belief in their integrity, dependability and good motives. Positive words and actions that create trust include sharing valuable information, appropriate self-disclosure, inclusive language, giving away control and responsibility, granting access to valuable resources, and soliciting and acting on input.  We also create trust by the things we do not do or say, including accusing others of bad intent, demeaning others, check-up behaviours and surveillance, and punishing people for errors.” (Dutton, 2003, p106).

Building trust in organisations

The July 2008 edition of the Journal of Management Studies includes research about how organisations can purposefully enhance interpersonal trust through explicit trust-building policies. The article’s authors researched two organisations: one “has implemented policies aimed at building interpersonal trust while the other has trust-neutral policies. In the latter organisation trust is left to unguided interactional dynamics.’’  (Six & Sorge, 2008, p. 858).

The authors found that the organisation which had explicit trust-building policies had a higher occurrence of trust building actions and higher levels of trust amongst employees.

Organisational policies which contributed to building trust

The authors identified four kinds of interdependent policies in action at the organisation which had trust-building policies:

1. Create a culture in which relationships are important and showing care and concern for the other person’s needs is valued. (Included: promoting and espousing a relationship-oriented culture; individual actions go beyond self interest and are concerned about the other person’s interests and a wish to maintain a mutually rewarding relationship.)

2. Facilitation of (unambiguous) relationship signalling among colleagues. (Included: training in interpersonal communication, relationship management skills, self confidence and managing confrontation; ‘saying ‘yes’ to the person and ‘no’ to their behaviour’; opportunities for staff to meet and relate informally; promotion of positive communications including appreciation and compliments; taking time to talk through issues.)

3. Explicit socialisation to make newcomers understand the values and principles of the organisation and how ‘we doing things around here’. (Included: explicit communication of the values and principles; teach the common language used to enhance interpersonal communications; regular reinforcement of the norms and values.)

4. Mechanisms to manage, match and develop employees’ professional competencies. (Included: clear descriptions and definitions of roles and responsibilities; developing talent, competence and experience with the intention to build performance and self-confidence.)

Trust-building actions

In their research, the authors used their questionnaire which includes twenty trust building actions. (Six & Sorge, 2008, p. 879). [NB – It’s interesting to notice the prevalence of those actions which promote positive conversations, positive emotions and psychological well-being.]

1.      Give positive feedback (=compliment) in a private meeting

2.      Give responsibility to the other person

3.      Show care and concern for the other person

4.      Give compliment in a public meeting

5.      Show a bias to see the other person’s actions as well intended

6.      Clarify general expectations early on in a new relationship

7.      Give negative feedback in a constructive manner

8.      Seek the counsel of others

9.      Be open and direct about task problems

10.   Give help and assistance

11.   Take responsibility (don’t pass the blame)

12.   Receive help and assistance

13.   Explore specific expectations in detail as the relationship develops

14.   Be honest and open about your motives

15.   Process and evaluate how effectively you are working together at regular intervals

16.   Surface and settle differences in expectations

17.   Disclose information in an accurate and timely fashion

18.   Recognise the legitimacy of each other’s interests

19.   Initiate and accept changes to your decisions

20.   Make yourself dependent on the other person’s actions

“We have in essence argued that for trust to be built in long term work relationships, both individuals need to have stable intentions to maintain the relationship and forego opportunities for opportunism.” (Six & Sorge, 2008, p. 881)


Management Commitment

The authors noted that the organisation’s specific policies can’t necessarily be ‘generalised’ and mechanically applied to all other organisations. The research does however point to the general areas which can be adapted in other organisations. They also concluded: “Management’s actual behaviour may be as important if not more so, than any policies it implements for stimulating interpersonal trust building …. policies require strong top level commitment by example rather than proclamation. ” (Six & Sorge, 2008, p. 881)


Dutton, J. (2003) Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections Work. Jossey-Bass  (Psychologist Jane Dutton, from the University of Michigan is one of the lead people behind the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship)

Six, F. & Sorge, A. (2008) Creating a High-Trust Organization: An Exploration into Organizational Policies that Stimulate Interpersonal Trust Building, Journal of Management Studies, 45:5, July 2008, pp 857-883