Last updated: 03.06.24

How to Build Trust as a Manager


Trust is widely recognised as one of the most important elements of a good working environment, and is regularly touted as being critical to both employers and employees alike. However, it doesn’t always come naturally, and contrary to what one might expect, knowing how to build trust as a manager is something that can be worked on as part of internal business development. 

There are lots of different people involved in creating a culture of trust, but in this article we’re going to take a look at how managers can build trust in their teams, and between themselves and their direct reports. And in the spirit of modern workplaces, we’re also going to consider how this works in a fully digital environment.

What Is Trust in the Workplace?

Trust can mean different things to different people. If we don’t understand this, then we struggle to build trust with those who have slightly different ideas. 

For some people, trust might mean being trusted with confidential information. For others, trust is knowing someone will make the best business decision. It might even mean that you trust someone to make a decision that they believe is the best one, even though it might not work out in the end.

As a manager, understanding that trust is complex will go a long way in helping you connect with the employees who report to you. If you have a better feel for how these people see trust, then you’ll be able to respond appropriately. 

Of course, for this to be effective, you need to be a good communicator. You’ll need to pick up on cues that tell you what your employees value. For example, employees who jump at the chance to try new things are likely to feel that you trust them if you allow them to take on new responsibilities. Employees you consult regularly might feel that you trust their opinions.

Why Is Trust Important in the Workplace?

Learning how to build trust as a manager isn’t always easy, and in business there has to be value in expending any kind of effort. So before you start working on building trust with your team, it’s first important to understand why this is worth doing and the benefits that it can bring.

Fortunately, it’s well known that there are considerable benefits to having a culture of trust at work. Generally, this stems from the fact that people who feel trusted also feel valued and those who feel valued are far more likely to put more effort into their work. 

Being valued makes you want to give back. Feeling trusted, and feeling valued because of this, boosts productivity and ultimately will affect a business’ fortunes, especially when replicated across the whole company. It also increases loyalty, which is a major benefit in ensuring staff retention, and can be critical should a business go through tough times.

Trust is of major benefit to all businesses, and if you as a manager can learn how to build trust at work and spot how to demonstrate trust in the workplace to increase it, then it’s worth doing.

How to Build Trust in the Workplace

We’re now going to go through some of the main tips for how to develop trust and confidence in the workplace between you and the employees you’re responsible for. Not all will apply in all situations, and several are more ongoing approaches than individual tactics that you can employ. But by considering all of them, you’ll be able to improve the trust between you and your employees and hopefully encourage a trusting environment.

Honesty and Directness

Honesty is really important in an age where it’s possible for workers to go through a whole day with only digital communication between their colleagues and employer. Make sure that you’re honest and clear with your employees, especially if you’re communicating through instant messaging or email. 

Doubt is never conducive to trust, and it easily comes about as the result of ambiguity, especially when coming from someone senior. If you want to learn how to build trust as a manager, endeavour to be clear with your employees at all times so that they understand where you’re coming from.

Personal Relationships

Earlier we discussed the issue of trust meaning different things to different people - this is a key part of building trust as a manager. Always look to build individual relationships with your employees so that you can understand what they value in terms of trust, and tailor your approach to them. 

Some managers can be responsible for dozens of employees, which can make it difficult to fully build relationships with everyone. But if you simply remember to treat everyone as a real person rather than a number or workplace capacity, you’ll go a long way in winning and building trust at work.

Build People Up

Following on from the previous point, one effective tactic that you should use in how to build trust in the workplace is to build people up wherever possible. If your employees feel like you’re on their side and you have their interests at heart, they’ll be more likely to trust you. 

There are lots of ways of doing this, ranging from helping them through mistakes to coaching their career progression. E-learning is one of the digital benefits we have these days which can help employees feel more supported, and offering these kinds of resources to your team can be very helpful in this regard.

Always Give Credit

As a manager, it’s your job to praise and reward employees for doing their job well. Few things upset employees as much as not being given credit, or worse - giving someone else credit for something they’ve done. What breaks trust in the workplace is making your team feel like you aren’t there for them, and failing to acknowledge their work will certainly invoke this feeling.

Giving people credit shows that you’re pleased with their work and that you’ll trust them to do a good job in future. If this is public, then the employee will also trust you to give credit where it’s due, so it’s always a good idea to copy anyone relevant into such emails or congratulate your team in public channels.

Be Open to Criticism

Aloof managers are generally unlikeable and are often seen as being untrustworthy too. If you make a mistake, then the best policy is to always be open about it with your team and invite people to explain why you’ve done something wrong. If you try to hide it or shut down criticism, employees will simply not trust that you’re doing your own job properly.

Avoid Bias

If you have obvious favourites in your team then you won’t be widely trusted. It’s as simple as that. Everyone will naturally like some of their employees more than others, but you need to make sure that nobody feels that this is the case in your workplace. 

It’s okay to show that you trust some employees more than others if the reasons are genuine and publicly known, but otherwise, you need to keep things as equal as you can and avoid bias at work. An important part of being a manager is not letting your personal views on your team get in the way of doing work fairly and effectively, so make sure you’re giving employees equal opportunities and offering them all the same level of support.

Be Trusting

It sounds simple to say that one of the techniques for building trust as a manager is to be trusting yourself, but it’s very true. If you’re willing to give your trust first, then trust from the recipient will follow, and this sets off a chain that eventually results in a trusting working environment. 

It can be difficult for some managers, especially if they’re coming into a new team and they like to do everything themselves. But sometimes it’s important to learn how to let go and trust others, and when you show your employees that you trust them with your actions, they’ll reflect that trust back to you in turn.

Undergo Management Training

Our final suggestion for how to build trust at work is to consider more formal training that looks at how you can build trust. Sometimes it really helps to follow a structured approach, particularly if you’re looking to be the best manager that you can possibly be. 

Online leadership courses are available that go into more detail about how you can be a more effective leader and manager. Take a look at all of the Virtual College Leadership and Management training courses to browse the range of different skills you could develop.

Building Trust in a Digital Workplace

Many advertisers, and especially communication companies, regularly boast about how the digital age has made us all more connected. And this is certainly true. But it’s also made communication different, and communication is central to trust. 

One of the biggest changes is a reduction in face-to-face or even telephone conversations. Email has been around for a very long time now, but instant messaging services such as Slack have further moved communication into the digital space. Where just a few years ago you might have walked over to someone else’s desk for a chat, now you might just message them.

This has the effect of making nuances somewhat harder to convey, which means that it can be harder to show that you trust someone. Discussions are more compartmentalised and organised, and without being clear, ambiguity is common. 

It doesn’t mean that the methods of building trust are completely different to how they used to be, but it does mean that you need to think more carefully about what you say digitally, because it’s often permanent - you’ll struggle to take it back, and you don’t have the body language or tone to further augment the conversation. So when it comes to building trust in a digital workplace, remember that you might have to put in extra effort or be more explicit about your trust and support so that it’s clear to the people you work with.

You can find out more about successful management in a digital workplace in our ‘Managing Remote Teams’ online training course.


What breaks trust in the workplace?

A range of different things can break trust in the workplace depending on the relationship you already have with colleagues or employees and what is expected of you in your role. Some examples of what breaks trust in the workplace include failing to offer support or empathy, not giving people the credit they deserve, and not reciprocating the level of respect or help that you are given by your colleagues.

How do you show trust in the workplace?

One of the best ways to show trust in the workplace is to give employees or colleagues increased responsibility. This demonstrates that you trust them enough to handle tasks on their own or take charge of certain tasks, and by showing this trust you’ll help to build more trusting relationships within your team.

How do you rebuild trust at work?

If trust has been broken at work then rebuilding it is a really important part of helping a team to return to productive and efficient work. If you have broken the trust between you and the people you work with, you should first own up to your mistake, then acknowledge the impact that it had and the trust that has been broken, and then state how you will avoid the same thing happening in the future. You must then continue to demonstrate this with your actions, which can take time but is the best way to rebuild trust.


Trust is something that people might not think has much of an impact at work, but it’s an incredibly important part of building an effective team and being a successful manager. It can be hard to do, especially if you work in a remote team and don’t get much face-to-face time with your colleagues. But by following the advice we’ve shared in this article, building trust as a manager should be a straightforward process.

If you’re looking for more support to develop your management and leadership skills, we offer a range of resources that can help you feel more confident in building trust in your team and developing productive workplace relationships. Browse all of our online leadership and management courses and find out more.