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Updated Nov 20, 2023

Happy, Loyal Employees Need to Feel Trusted at Work

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Jocelyn Pollock, Staff Writer

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What’s the secret to employee happiness and retention? It’s as fundamental as trusting your team. Employers who trust their employees are more likely to attract and retain top talent ― and get the most out of that talent. Workplaces with high trust levels enjoy improved productivity, communication and creativity with less workplace stress. 

We’ll explain more about the importance of workplace trust and share strategies for building trust in the workplace. 

Did You Know?Did you know
In a Workforce Institute study, 64 percent of employees said workplace trust impacted their sense of belonging, 58 percent said it affected their career choices and 55 percent cited trust as crucial to workplace mental health.

How does workplace trust create happy, loyal employees?

The workplace is built on social relationships and trust is key to any healthy relationship. A business that prioritizes trust creates a company culture where people lift each other up, can depend on one another and feel like part of a cohesive team. Happiness and loyalty are the byproducts of a trusting environment.

Consider the following five critical benefits of building workplace trust.

1. Improves employee productivity and performance

Trust empowers employees by giving them a sense of autonomy and capability that benefits the entire organization. When employees feel trusted, they tend to have a more positive view of their employer, encouraging them to work harder and strive for peak performance. 

It’s also easier for employees to improve productivity and perform their best when management isn’t constantly watching or checking on them. Micromanaging takes up valuable time managers could devote to business growth and operations. Additionally, it interrupts the work process and increases stress, resulting in lost productivity and reduced performance. 

Trust also affects employee motivation. Research from Deloitte found that 79 percent of employees who highly trust their employers felt motivated to work. In contrast, only 29 percent of workers who lacked trust in their employers felt similarly motivated.

Did You Know?Did you know
Money isn't enough to motivate employees. Along with workplace trust, other motivators include flexible work policies, team-building events and opportunities for professional development.

2. Improves communication

Trust can strengthen employee communication. When employees trust you, they’re more likely to speak openly and honestly. In a high-trust environment, employees feel comfortable and valued enough to communicate their thoughts without fear of retribution or dismissiveness. 

Giving your employees a voice and genuinely listening to what they have to say will help you see what’s happening in your organization. You can gauge operational functionality and step in before minor issues become massive problems. 

Listening to employee input yields immense rewards. They can provide improvement ideas based on their daily direct experience with the work process and environment.

3. Promotes creativity and innovation 

Trusting your employees encourages creativity and innovation by fostering an environment where they feel empowered to offer suggestions. When employees are encouraged to think creatively and express their perspectives at work, they will likely come to you with potentially innovative ideas and experiment with various solutions or work approaches. 

High-trust environments also encourage workplace collaboration and team cooperation that can lead to innovation. As people pool their intellectual resources, they can devise unique solutions, strategies or product ideas. In contrast, a low-trust environment can breed unhealthy workplace competition and a reluctance to cooperate and collaborate.

Trusting employees means giving them a degree of freedom. Employee freedom builds loyalty and commitment, creating a healthy cycle of autonomy, respect and productivity.

4. Reduces stress and improves morale

When employees feel trusted, they have an improved sense of autonomy. Trust empowers employees to make decisions in the workplace, take ownership of their work, experiment with new techniques and solutions and share their ideas with others. 

It’s no surprise that higher levels of job autonomy positivity impact psychological well-being. Given the tremendous cost of workplace stress for employers and employees, minimizing stress should be a top priority. When employees are less stressed, morale improves, along with employee engagement and happiness.

5. Increases employee loyalty

A positive work environment based on mutual trust ― where employee autonomy is respected ― results in employees who are happy and proud to work there. These employees are more likely to stick around longer and stay loyal even after moving on, sending potential customers and employees your way. 

Employees who feel positively about their employer will speak highly of the organization to their friends, family and the wider community, promoting your business as an excellent place to work and do business.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Keeping employees happy and retaining them saves your business significant money. The cost of hiring new employees can be exorbitant, particularly if you factor in lost productivity while finding and training replacements.

How can you build trust in the workplace?

Gaining your employees’ trust requires trusting them ― and it must come from the top. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, when employees feel their CEO trusts them, they are more likely to trust the CEO, other managers and the organization. 

Here are some best practices for building trust in the workplace. 

1. Don’t micromanage. 

Trusting your employees means having faith they’ll get their work done. You shouldn’t have to hover over them, check in constantly or interfere with their work process unnecessarily. 

Giving your employees greater autonomy means setting clear expectations and guidelines while staying flexible and understanding. They might have a better sense of what’s realistic than you or encounter obstacles you couldn’t have foreseen. With trust and autonomy, they’ll contribute their perspectives and experiences while the entire team maintains an open dialogue throughout the work process.

It's easier to trust your team if you hire the right employees. Build an effective HR department and recruitment strategy to ensure the best fit between new employees and their roles.

2. Foster a culture of transparency.

Be as transparent as possible with employees about how your organization works to build a culture of trust. Keep them in the loop about significant changes ― good or bad ― to reduce stress, anxiety and uncertainty. Allow them to ask questions, offer solutions or call attention to crucial issues. 

Transparency builds trust while showing your employees you value their input and trust their perspective. 

3. Be authentic and honest.

Authenticity and honesty go hand in hand with transparency. Ensure your words and actions align to establish workplace trust. 

Authenticity and honesty are crucial in every aspect of the organization. For example, if a business promotes specific workplace ethics or causes, it should back them up with action. If employees see a disconnect between the company’s mission statement and its actions, they’ll be less inspired to work toward company goals ― and have a hard time viewing you as a beacon of honesty.

Dishonesty can irreparably damage a business owner’s or manager’s relationship with employees. Employees who feel they’ve been lied to will be less likely to trust their leadership team and the organization. Being authentic and honest shows employees you trust them and encourages them to be honest with you.

4. Establish open lines of communication.

Clear, open and honest communication is essential to building relationships based on mutual trust. Open communication engages employees, strengthens workplace relationships and helps employees feel seen and heard. 

Genuinely listening to your employees and giving them a voice can lead to higher productivity, improved morale and increased initiative. 

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Use employee surveys to measure how valued your team feels; gauge satisfaction levels; and get their insights on job responsibilities, communication and the overall work environment.

5. Minimize employee monitoring.

When employees feel like their every move is being observed and scrutinized, it sends the message that you don’t trust them, fostering an environment of distrust. Excessive or overly intrusive monitoring makes employees feel disempowered and reduces their autonomy, negatively impacting their mental health. 

Autonomy and empowerment contribute to a positive work environment, which leads to happier employees who perform their best. Of course, some level of employee monitoring may be necessary; the key is to use it judiciously and make it minimally intrusive to avoid alienating your team.

When you trust your employees, everyone wins

Fostering a culture of mutual trust benefits leaders, employees and the overall business. Employees who feel trusted are empowered and motivated to do their best work; they’re more likely to stick around, resulting in higher productivity and lower turnover. Additionally, an atmosphere of trust builds positive relationships among employees, encouraging them to take pride in their work and creating opportunities for collaboration.

Trust is a two-way street. Employers want employees to trust them. However, you’ll have a hard time earning their trust without giving yours. Fortunately, you can build a work environment where trust is the foundation of all relationships. By keeping communication open, ensuring that your employees have a voice, being transparent and respecting your employees’ autonomy, you can improve trust in the workplace and reap the rewards.

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