Does your team trust each other?

In a recent article, I discussed the role of trust in the workplace. Trust can be defined as confidence amongst members that each other’s intentions are good. Trust is one of the characteristics of high performing teams, and low levels of trust in organisations can lead to team dysfunction and higher levels of employee stress and anxiety.

I would like to expand on this theme following a recent report on workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care[i], which states that NHS staff are 50% more likely to experience high levels of work-related stress compared with the general working population. The report also refers to findings that the proportion of staff suffering from stress is on an upward trend and acknowledged that the high levels of burnout in the workforce is having a negative impact on not only individual staff, but also their colleagues and patients. Poor working cultures and organisational factors contribute to poor mental health and in turn to staff turnover and intention to quit.

Studies have found employee turnover in high-trust companies to be half that of low-trust companies. Trust is a complex issue and levels of trust between teams and within teams will vary. In addition, we are all unique individuals who view the world differently depending on multiple factors, including our personality and life experiences. This will impact on the amount of time it takes for each person to build trust and mutual respect with their colleagues.

In teams with high levels of trust, team interests are prioritised above the interests of individuals. People feel safe and able to speak up and voice concerns. They respect each other and appreciate the diversity that each person brings to the group. They are also more likely to take accountability for their actions and adopt a solution-focused approach, instead of deflecting attention away from themselves and finding someone to blame when things go wrong.

As a reflection exercise, consider to what extent (always/sometimes/never/not sure) you agree with the following statements which relate to indicators of trust within and/or between the teams in which you work[ii]. I’ve included the characteristics that may resonate with you when you consider these indicators in brackets next to each statement.

I trust my team members to:

  1. Do what they say, when they say they will (reliability and competence)
  2. Do their work to the best of their ability (positive attitude)
  3. Tell me when they make mistakes that affect me (integrity)
  4. Keep me informed of what I need to know (attentiveness to my needs)
  5. Give me honest feedback when I need it (courage)
  6. Support me when I’m having difficulties (goodwill)
  7. Look after my reputation/watch my back (loyalty)
  8. Maintain confidences that I share with them (confidentiality)
  9. Take decisions on my behalf, when needed (collegiality)
  10. Be honest about any other agendas they may have (transparency)

If you would like to develop the quality of your relationships at work, consider how you can incorporate more care, compassion, appreciation, and authentic communication into your daily interactions with colleagues. Consider what you can do or say to each person to show that you care and appreciate them; express empathy with their current concerns and difficulties; be open and honest about what you feel and believe, whilst at the same time slowing down and making a sincere effort to listen.[iii]

For more information on this topic, including more ideas for building levels of trust in your team, refer to my article: Why trust is crucial for high performing teams.

Mandy Murdoch

Accredited Coach, Coaching Psychologist and Consultant

[email protected]

[i] House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee. Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care. Published 8th June 2021. Downloaded at: Accessed 17th June 2021.

[ii] Clutterbuck, D. (2020) Coaching the team at work: The definitive guide to team coaching (2nd edition). Nicholas Brealy Publishing. London. [1] Lancer, N., Clutterbuck, D. & Megginson, D (2016). Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring (2nd Edition). Routledge. Oxon. (p.129)

[iii] Lancer, N., Clutterbuck, D. & Megginson, D (2016). Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring (2nd Edition). Routledge. Oxon. (p.129)

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