Building trust between leaders and remote teams

A quick summary:

  • What is trust in the workplace? 🔎
  • Ideas for building trust at work ✅
  • Our final thoughts on workplace trust building 💬

Trust is a powerful tool in every scenario of life. We rely on the trust of our friends, family and colleagues for a whole bunch of reasons. Unfortunately, recent headlines have revealed the lack of trust between organisations and their workforce.

According to a CNBC article published on the 2nd of September, 2022, ‘mouse jigglers’ are the latest WFH craze. Designed to fool employers into thinking that employees are working, when they aren’t.  

What’s also worrying is the increasingly high level of UK-based employers who are monitoring their workforce. PeopleManagement reports that a third of employees are being monitored by their employers while working remotely.

There’s clearly a lack of trust and respect from both parties involved. These qualities must coexist and be reciprocated by both employers and employees. When one loses trust or respect, the other generally follows suit.

We want to explore the idea of building trust and why it’s extremely important for businesses to survive and thrive. 

A female employee on a video call while working remotely
What is trust in the workplace?

What is trust in the workplace?

Trust in its original form is a simple concept. Merriam-Webster defines trust with the following statement: “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”.

Workplace trust is being able to rely on colleagues for a number of reasons. It's recognising that we sometimes need others for support, for collaboration, and to achieve desired results.

We rely on managers to support our wellbeing, and on team members to help us overcome challenges. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little together, we can do so much”. 

When trust is present and mutual, we’re able to express new ideas, face our concerns and work to the best of our ability. 

Over the past couple of years, it appears trust has become fragmented in the work environment. That's why we're going to dive into some of the strategies for building trust between leadership teams and other employees.

Similar read: Why openness and trust are important in the workplace

How to build mutual trust in the workplace

How to build mutual trust throughout your workforce

As we've explored, trust is a simple concept. But many workplaces fail to hit the nail on the head when building trust between an organisation and the workforce. 

Eliminating monitoring software and micromanagement tactics

Let's start with what we believe to be one of the most important ways to minimise secrecy and improve trust and respect – eliminating monitoring software and micromanagement tactics.

Starting with the inspiration for this article, monitoring software can hinder relationships between leadership and other employees. Generally speaking, nobody likes to be monitored on a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour basis. Not because we hope to fool the system, but because it leaves us questioning whether our employers truly recognise our worthiness and work ethic.

Ultimately, employee monitoring software can have negative consequences for personal health and wellbeing. Excessive monitoring can wreak havoc on employee anxiety and pressure – and when our health and happiness crumbles, so too does our productivity and performance.

As for micromanagement tactics, this leaves some employers feeling like their work isn't good enough. It produces the same negative emotions caused by monitoring software, And again can impact employee wellbeing

Unfortunately, micromanagement happens when senior team members feel unable to give the autonomy employers need to carry out their job and execute their own ideas. All-in-all, trust cannot exist in a work environment plagued by micromanagement tactics and any form of listening software.

Similar read: Managers guide: preventing pre-meeting anxiety in employees

Communication is key to building trust

Moving forward let's talk about communication. Communication is a key skill in the workplace, one that forms the backbone of quality peer relationships. And as we all know, relationships are formed on trust, whether that be friends family or colleagues.

When it comes to building trust both employees and employers need to use communication as a means to work in harmony with one another. This means that managers should communicate their concerns on projects and deadlines, Instead of relying on monitoring software or KPI documents.

Communication in the sense of trust building is speaking openly and honestly about any problems and concerns. Metrics can only tell leaders so much and don’t shine a light on any external issues employees are experiencing. 

That said, employees should also communicate effectively with their superiors about the problems they face. Remote employees can find it difficult to express how they feel, given the nature of working alone from home. Employees should also push for regular one-to-one meetings with managers.

Ultimately communication works both ways. This is a strategy that requires better efforts from both parties, i.e leadership teams and remote workers. 

As the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we can speak” 

Act on your promises to employees

Lastly, let's discuss action. In the workplace, promises are made, but not all are kept. We've all been in situations where we remember the promises made to us by others –  be it at work or in everyday life.

For one reason or another, we often never forget those promises, and when they go without action, they can leave us feeling disappointed. Trust and promise go hand-in-hand,  and this is something leaders must realise before it's too late.

If you lead a team or an entire workforce, reflect on some of the promises made in the past week, month or year. How many of these did you action? How many were discarded? It's true that actions speak louder than words, and when leaders lead with this in mind, they are able to build trust within their team.

Ultimately, a trustworthy colleague or boss will always strive to stay true to their word, honour any agreement they made, and simply act on their promises. 

A female employee working remotely outside
Our final thoughts on trust building in the workplace

Our final thoughts on building trust at work

So, there you have it. Hopefully, you as a leader have a better understanding of building trust in the workplace and the negative implications that arise from neglecting it. 

Building trust should be a long-term strategy, especially in organisations that have seen uses of monitoring software or ‘mouse jigglers’. Leaders must embrace hybrid and remote working as the ‘new normal’. 

The demand for hybrid working has disrupted the job market tenfold recently, and flexibility is becoming one of the most sought-after benefits for employees. 

Hybrid working is very much here to stay, but monitoring software isn't. Companies that offer flexibility, yet implement monitoring tools are only doing half the job. Similarly, employees who aren't communicating their anxieties and pressures around the use of monitoring tools are another reason for poor trust and respect in the workplace.

We’ve said it once and we'll say it again, trust is a mutual quality. When employers respect and trust their team, it is reciprocated by everyone involved.