How Trust is Essential to a Productive Workplace

Trust is both a cause and an effect of organization culture. Most experts would agree that trust is perhaps the most vital element of a productive, harmonious, and synergistic work environment. One Harvard University study showed that the level of trust in the work environment greatly influenced the productivity as well as the happiness of employees. According to Dr. Nancy Etcoff, the lead researcher on the study, work environments that foster positivity, interpersonal trust, respect, open communication and quality personal relationships build the most committed and productive workforce.

What does building trust mean to your workplace?

Problems get Solved Faster

Problem-solving becomes more effective in an environment where employees have trust in one another,  as well as the management and leadership. Trust not only enhances collaboration, but also makes it easier to handle problems as they arise.

In an environment of trust, these solution-generators are possible:

  • More motivation to try to understand the position of another
  • More open communication (as Dr. Etcoff found) so that all issues and ideas get brought to the table
  • Increased participation because people don’t have to be afraid to speak up
  • More disruptor ideas, creative challenging - in other words, constructive conflict. This is where innovation happens.

Trust Promotes Teamwork

A company culture that values trust and transparency is a powerful unifier because it empowers employees to work smarter, harder, and - most importantly - as a team. When an individual feels trusted and respected, they are more apt to feel like an integral part of the team (not to mention the organization as a whole).  Trust is also linked to feeling safe and comfortable enough to offer thoughtful feedback, contribute ideas - and accept feedback about ways to improve performance.  A team that has developed a culture of trust allows everyone to candidly contribute their opinions and perspectives, and creates a platform for leadership to strategically match people based on their individual talents, skills, and abilities.

Better Engagement

A culture that values transparency (a key aspect of trust) builds bridges to a more engaged workforce. According to a 2013 survey by the Harvard Business Review, 70% of respondents said that they felt more engaged when the senior leadership regularly updated and communicated organization strategies. Again, it has been shown that when an individual feels they are ‘in-the-know’ about the goals and activities of the organization, they tend to feel part of those goals which engenders engagement.


Productivity is highly linked to employee engagement. This means that people will stay longer, take less time off, and work more productively in an organization when there is a high degree of trust and openness around company issues. Organizations that foster trust and transparency are highly productive. Doubt in leadership is a red flag that your organization may have a toxic culture. And no one wants to come to work every day in such an environment. While your employees will do their job as requested, none of them will be willing to go beyond your expectations. However, if the leadership is forged on the culture of transparency and trust, employees will emulate their leaders and consistently surpass the organization’s expectations.

Bottom line...

Without trust, engagement suffers. Without engagement, productivity is hampered and dissatisfaction and conflict increase. Without productivity, success will not be achieved. If there are issues in your company, try to get to the base of the issue. There is a good chance that trust has been eliminated in at least one instance and this creates a chain reaction that must be mended before the company as a whole can get back on track.

In an upcoming article, I’ll talk about actionable steps you can take as a leader to build trust within your team.