Trust And Psychological Safety

Arguably, the most foundational aspect of society is trust. Without it, society begins to stop functioning because confidence in authority, government institutions, and your fellow citizen are lost or degraded. In the business world, trust is equally important. Whether your business model is B2B or B2C, trustworthiness has a large influence on your business’s survival and success. However, in order to gain and maintain the trust of your consumers, there must first be trust within your business among your employees. 


Psychological Safety

The term psychological safety is a term that is getting much attention during the pandemic, with so many people working from home and feeing socially isolated from their manager and their team. What does this term mean? Harry Kaloudis defines psychological safety in this context, “ … a team feels psychologically safe to its members when they share the belief that within the team they will not be exposed to interpersonal or social threats to their self or identity, their status or standing and to their career or employment, when engaging in learning behaviours such as asking for help, seeking feedback, admitting errors or lack of knowledge, trying something new or voicing work-related dissenting views.”

Obviously, in this unsafe environment where interpersonal or social threats abound, trust is lacking. Senior leadership is condoning those leaders and employees that are behaving in ways that leave employees feeling like social outcasts as if they are failures with feelings of being rejected, disrespected, ridiculed, or punished. Last year I wrote about the importance of emotional intelligence during the pandemic as stress and tensions were high, which can bring out the worst in our behavior. I continue to echo the importance of being self-aware and being able to self-regulate your emotions at work and at home to avoid creating an environment where psychological safety does not exist. 

What does it mean “to trust”?

“To trust” refers to the ability to believe in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something. A great example of how trust manifests in the workplace is through the act of delegation. Successful delegation entails much more than simply transferring tasks to direct reports or other employees. Rather, it refers to the transfer of the responsibility and authority that is needed to produce the desired outcomes. It is for this reason that so many managers and leaders fail to delegate effectively.

Often, it is nothing more than strongly held beliefs that block managers and leaders from delegating effectively. The often think that:

  • That employees can not do the job as well

  • That it takes less time to do the work themselves than to delegate

  • Employees’ don’t have adequate motivation and commitment to quality

  • Delegating too much could have adverse effects on their job security


Why is it important to trust?

In the context of delegation, trust is very important. As shown in the examples above, several barriers to effective delegation from managers and leaders stem from a lack of trust. Managers and leaders exist to lead and manage others, not do the work for them. Therefore, trust is key to being successful in either role.

With trust and effective delegation, managers, leaders, and their teams can experience several benefits:

  • Freeing of manager/leader’s time for planning, organization, and decision-making

  • Manager/leader gets to practice developing and managing employees

  • Further encourages trust and open communication flow within the organization

  • Opens processes to different opinions/insights

  • Builds team morale and creativity

  • Gives team a sense of community and belonging through a common project or goal


How do you achieve trust?

There are many ways to achieve trust in the workplace but all take work and dedication. Trust, especially in the context of people’s livelihood, is not something that is readily given, it has to be built and developed. When beginning to work on increasing trust, it is important to have a foundation of emotional intelligence among the leadership team. Once this is adopted, other principles and practices such as mentorship, inclusion by receiving feedback from employees, leading by example, etc. will help solidify trusting professional relationships at work. Lastly, senior leadership has to hold their leaders/managers of others accountable for maintaining an environment of psychological safety. Trust can flourish in this culture and the employees will flourish and perform well to serve your customers! 


Of the many approaches to building trust in the workplace, the most effective ones allow for clear demonstration of one or more of the key elements of trust :

  • Reliability

  • Congruence

  • Openness

  • Acceptance

  • Relatability

  • Responsibility

  • Honesty


How do you rate yourself in these domains of trust? If you’re looking for ways to increase trust and psychological safety within your business culture but aren’t sure where to start, I can help. Contact me