top of page
  • Liz Cruz

How to Build and Rebuild Trust in the Workplace

Leaders at all levels need these skills

What is your company’s culture like? Is it focused on:

Fostering trust?

Establishing a safe space for feedback?

Promoting ways to have healthy conflict?

Or is it full of cisheteropatriarchal white supremacist leadership norms that hold queer leaders like us back?

If your answer sounded more like the second one, I get you. There are a lot of hard things about that type of work environment, and one of the most painful is that it can be tough to form meaningful, humanized relationships. I know how exhausting it is to show up day after day to work in a space like that.

That’s why this post is all about building trust at work. In this post, we’ll talk about

  • Why trust is so essential to your leadership

  • How you can work on building trust in your workplace

  • Examples of broken trust and ways you can repair it

And at the end, I’ll show you another way you can get more confident in this area of leadership.

Trust me 😉 – this is the post for you if you’re trying to create real change in your work environment but aren’t sure where to start.

Why is trust important for you as a leader?

Have you ever had a boss or senior leader who you really admired? What was it that you liked about them?

Did they make you feel valued? Listen to your ideas and give you credit when it was due? Give feedback in a way that you felt respected and understood?

If you’ve had that kind of boss, I’m so happy for you. Because it sounds like you had some great leadership modeled to you.

And if you haven’t seen leadership establish that kind of trusting foundation– you’re not alone. I’ve worked with queer leaders who come from workplaces where there’s a lack of trust before. It’s tough. It can feel very isolating.

That’s why I want to highlight just how important trust is.

Trust can help you and your team:

Come see how you can grow trust in your work environment now that you’re the leader, next.

Four disabled people of color face each other in a open circle during a meeting. Two Black people sit on a couch with a cane leaning off the side while a Black non-binary person stands with a tablet and cane. A South Asian person in a wheelchair takes notes.
Trust plays a significant role in laying the foundation for a strong, open, and collaborative team.

How can you build trust with a team?

Did you recently start a new leadership role and feel eager to earn your team’s trust?

Have you been in your role awhile and have noticed trust breaking down?

Or are you thinking about taking a promotion, but feel scared because of the lack of trust that’s already in your office?

Whatever your situation is, here are three ways you can build trust with the people you work with:

1. Get in touch with your emotional intelligence (EQ)

When you want to build trust with others, it’s essential to notice what’s going on within yourself first. When you operate with self-awareness, it’s easier for the folks around you to trust that you mean what you say.

Are you able to:

Name what you think, feel, and want?

Focus on the relational aspect of building trust?

Check in with an objective perspective to consider all sides of what’s going on?

If you are, great! You already have a solid foundation of the EQ skills that are necessary for building trust.

And if you feel like those are skills that you want to develop more, good news– you can practice each EQ skill to get better at them.

2. Practice open and honest communication

When you’re communicating with colleagues, it’s critical that you show you’re listening to them. It’s also essential to speak with them in a way that’s supportive and constructive. [2]

Next time you’re talking with a colleague, think about the ways you can try to:

  • Share your authentic thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs - even if that’s scary.

  • Hold space for them to voice their opinions.

  • Offer suggestions you have for solving problems.

And if your leadership role is more indirect, see how it feels to lead by example. Support your team in finding their voices to facilitate change. Guide them to make your organization a more inclusive, welcoming place.

3. Step into your role as a coach and help your team learn from mistakes

I know how it can feel to see a colleague make a mistake. You want to do everything in your power to prevent things from going wrong. Or maybe you want to run in the opposite direction when conflict occurs.

The truth is that some of my best learning came from times I made mistakes. And I bet you might say the same thing. (It’s true for all leaders, actually - we learn a TON from the moments when it all goes sideways)

So the next time a colleague misses a deadline or messes up during a new hire’s onboarding, try not to write them off. Instead, lean into your curiosity and ask them questions about what’s going on. [3]

Some examples you could try are:

  • Why do you think things went wrong?

  • What would you do differently next time?

  • Is there anything you wish you knew before you took on this project?

How can you rebuild broken trust at work?

Is trust shaky within your organization right now? Are things feeling off because of the pressure you’re putting on yourself? Do you feel like you need to fix things ASAP but you’re not sure what the first step would be?

“YES– so what can I do?” you’re probably thinking.

Let’s start by identifying what might be going on for you.

Examples of things that can lead to broken trust in the workplace are:

  • Ignoring conflict

  • Empty promises

  • Thinking you always need to have all the answers and be the “knower” [4]

Ugh– those things can be challenging, for sure. But you don’t have to stay stuck.

Here are three ways to reestablish trust that’s broken:

1. Choose to radically trust your colleagues

If you’re saying “What?! But my colleague is the one to blame here, not me. It’s them who’s in the wrong–” stay with me.

Try to see what it feels like to focus on the problem you’re trying to solve, not the person you’re in conflict with.

You can do that by:

  • Checking in with yourself and your feelings about the situation

  • Being willing to acknowledge where you may have been wrong

  • Giving others the benefit of the doubt

As a queer leader, you’re already good at being open and nonjudgmental. So bring those qualities with you when you’re thinking about restoring trust, too. [5]

2. Acknowledge that trust has been broken and that you want to fix it

Now I’m not saying that this next part is easy. It isn’t– at all. But it’s also critical that you reopen the communication with your colleague or team so you can take the next steps forward.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable with them. Have the uncomfortable conversation and be willing to hear them out. [5]

Some conversation starters you could use to open the dialogue are:

  • “Hey, I’m noticing that you’ve been more isolated recently. Can we take some time to chat today?”

  • “I know there’s been a lot of conflict within our office lately, and I want to make a plan to fix things. Would you be open to talking more with me about your experience?”

  • “I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to consider your side of what’s been going on until now. Can you tell me more about __?”

3. Recognize that it’ll take time to rebuild trust

You’re a great leader. You have amazing goals. You’ve achieved so much, and you’re not done yet, either.

But you didn’t get to where you did overnight. And trust isn’t built that way, either.

So take each day one step at a time. Keep showing up as the authentic, bold, passionate leader you are. And continue to model what trust looks like through the way you lead and the actions you take. [5]

Three people of diverse ethnicities in a meeting. Two persons are actively and happily talking to each other through sign language.
A leader in a meeting with a new colleague of theirs. They are paying full attention to their colleague as a way of building trust.

Photo from Disability:IN


You have to earn trust. It develops over time. It can help you create real change.

But it can also be easily broken.

So remember that building or rebuilding trust in your work environment is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the people you lead.

Looking for more examples of ways to build trust, or some more support?

Come meet other queer leaders like you during a free group coaching session! We cover topics like this and more during our meetings (we meet twice a week, and would love to welcome you).

If you’re tired of feeling like you’re the only queer leader you know, or are stuck with no way out– this could be the perfect group for you.

Links to References

16 views0 comments


bottom of page