top of page
  • Writer's pictureIvan Palomino

Building Trust: The Secret Ingredient for Collaborative Work Cultures

Building a culture of trust at work

Building trust in the workplace is crucial for fostering a positive and productive environment. Trust exists on two levels - the individual and the team. As a leader, it is essential to understand the key traits and behaviors that contribute to trust-building. In this article, we will explore the qualities individuals should possess to earn trust and the actions leaders can take to ignite trust within their teams.

Essential Individual Traits for Trust-building

To earn trust from others, get onboard into being:

  1. Genuine: Be authentic and sincere in your interactions. Show others that your intentions are honest and transparent.

  2. Vulnerable: Embrace vulnerability by being open about your limitations and challenges. This demonstrates trustworthiness and encourages others to reciprocate.

  3. Consistent: Behave consistently in all circumstances. Inconsistencies can erode trust, so ensure that your actions align with your words.

Ask yourself whether you possess these traits and whether you consistently exhibit them to others. These qualities are essential for building trust in the workplace.

Igniting Trust in Teams: Key Behaviors for Leaders

As a leader, you have an additional responsibility to ignite trust within your teams. Consider the following checklist of behaviors that matter most:

  1. Humility: Demonstrate humility by acknowledging that you don't have all the answers. Encourage open dialogue and value the input of others.

  2. Empowerment: Avoid micromanaging and empower your team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work.

  3. Mentoring and Feedback: Show genuine care for your team members' development by providing mentoring opportunities and constructive feedback.

  4. Stay Grounded: Be present and actively listen to what everyone has to say. This fosters a sense of inclusion and creates a culture of trust.

"Building trust is like brushing teeth. It's a small daily thing, but that is how you build trust over time." - Simon Sinek

Trust is not built through grand gestures but through consistent care and leading by example.

The Role of Oxytocin in Trust-Building

Our brain plays a significant role in trust development. Oxytocin, a chemical produced by the brain, facilitates social bonding and collaboration. To stimulate oxytocin production and promote trust, consider the following:

  1. Recognize good work publicly: Acknowledge and appreciate the achievements of individuals in front of others, promoting a positive work environment.

  2. Optimal stress levels: Provide challenging tasks that strike the right balance between being overwhelming and monotonous, as moderate stress levels can enhance productivity.

  3. Autonomy in work: Allow individuals to decide how they approach their tasks, as long as they are efficient and effective in achieving the desired outcomes.

  4. Personalized job descriptions: Let individuals define their job roles to create a sense of ownership and satisfaction.

  5. Individual and professional growth: Encourage team members to pursue personal and professional learning opportunities aligned with their interests and job requirements.

  6. Vulnerability and communication: Be open and transparent about your own vulnerabilities, fostering an environment of trust. Communicate frequently and effectively at all levels.

  7. Intentional relationship-building: Foster relationships within the team by organizing team-building activities and encouraging collaboration.

The Impact of Trust: Benefits of a High-Trust Environment

Creating a high-trust environment has numerous benefits for individuals and organizations. According to Paul Zak's book, "Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies," people in high-trust companies report:

  1. Reduced stress: Employees in high-trust companies experience 74% less stress, leading to improved well-being and mental health.

  2. Increased energy: With trust, individuals have 106% more energy at work, enabling them to be more productive and engaged.

  3. Higher productivity: Trust fosters a collaborative and supportive environment, resulting in 50% higher productivity among team members.

  4. Fewer sick days: Trust-building contributes to a healthier workplace, leading to 13% fewer sick days and reduced absenteeism.

  5. Enhanced engagement: Individuals in high-trust environments exhibit 76% more engagement, as they feel valued, respected, and empowered.

  6. Greater life satisfaction: Trust spills over into personal lives, with employees in high-trust companies reporting 29% more satisfaction with their lives overall.

  7. Decreased burnout: Trust creates a positive work atmosphere that reduces burnout by 40%, ensuring long-term employee well-being and retention.

Cultivating Trust: Practical Steps for People's Managers

While the list of behaviors may seem daunting, you can make progress by incorporating these steps into your daily routine. Consider the following actions:

  1. Set goals: Place the trust-building checklist in front of your computer and aim to accomplish one item each day. Breaking it down into smaller tasks makes it more manageable.

  2. Lead by example: Model the traits and behaviors you expect from others. Your actions speak louder than words.

  3. Foster open communication: Encourage open dialogue and active listening. Create channels for feedback and provide opportunities for everyone's voice to be heard.

  4. Provide resources: Offer resources for personal and professional development, such as training programs, workshops, or mentorship opportunities.

  5. Recognize and reward: Regularly acknowledge and celebrate team members' achievements, both privately and publicly.

  6. Create a supportive environment: Prioritize psychological safety, where individuals feel comfortable taking risks and expressing their opinions without fear of judgment or reprisal.

  7. Invest in team-building: Organize team-building activities and initiatives that promote collaboration, trust, and a sense of belonging.

  8. Embrace diversity and inclusion: Ensure that everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their background, identity, or ideas.

  9. Continuously evaluate and improve: Regularly assess the trust level within your team or organization. Seek feedback and make necessary adjustments to cultivate an environment of trust.

By consistently implementing these strategies, you can build a foundation of trust that not only benefits individual team members but also contributes to the long-term success and growth of your company.


Trust is an essential ingredient for fostering a thriving and productive work environment. As a manager, understanding the crucial traits and behaviors that contribute to trust-building is paramount. By embodying genuine, vulnerable, and consistent qualities as individuals, and employing humility, empowerment, mentoring, and communication as leaders, trust can flourish within teams. Cultivating trust stimulates oxytocin production, enhances collaboration, and leads to numerous benefits, including reduced stress, increased productivity, and higher job satisfaction. By implementing practical steps and continuously investing in trust-building efforts, managers and HR professionals can create a culture of trust that supports individual growth and contributes to the overall success of the organization.


Subscribe to our monthly Simply Human Newsletter - Unreasonable ideas for great people at work - We talk: growth hacking human-centered performance, innovation and work culture.


bottom of page