If you’re a manager, you probably check in periodically with those who report to you — going over assignments, providing feedback, giving approvals, and teeing up new projects. Job-related check-ins with team members are essential in establishing a seamless workflow, but many people forget that there’s another important ingredient for effective management: trust-building.

The fact is, a culture of trust yields many positive outcomes in the workplace. Research shows that people who feel they work for high-trust companies report 74 percent less stress, 106 percent more energy, 50 percent higher productivity, 76 percent more engagement, 29 percent more general satisfaction, and 40 percent less burnout. Unfortunately, in a survey of more than 400,000 U.S. employees, 21 percent of workers felt that their supervisors failed to create a climate that was open and trusting. 

When managers don’t make an effort to increase trust, it’s often because they don’t know where to begin to cultivate better bonds. Here, a few ways to get started:

Show interest in their long-term goals

One of the best ways to send the message that you truly care about your team — a surefire way to build trust — is to get interested in their aspirations, says Alan Benson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. When employees don’t feel supported in their personal and professional goals, they may become disengaged and distrusting. On the flipside, when you take a genuine interest in what’s important to them, you build better relationships and a more loyal tribe.

Provide direct feedback (and do it often!)

When it comes to routine check-ins with team members, Benson recommends frequent one-on-one meetings — and providing direct feedback each and every time. He notes that doing so will build a deeper level of trust and comfort in work relationships — and will leave no room for surprises down the line. “One common mistake is for managers to think about giving performance reviews once per year, when annual evaluations are due,” he says. This can lead to confused, “I had no warning about this” conversations. To build a culture of trust, feedback must be compassionately direct, and issues should be surfaced as they arise. 

Prioritize face-to-face conversations

Fostering a trusting relationship with direct reports isn’t just about giving honest feedback; it’s also about empowering them to speak up and share their opinions with you. In a 2018 workplace empathy report, researchers found that “nine out of 10 employees, HR professionals and CEOs view face-to-face conversations… as the most empathetic forms of communication.” So, instead of sending an email or a message on Slack, turn your typical exchanges into face-to-face ones, whether virtual or in-person. This small tweak to your communication style creates opportunities for more candor, understanding, and — yes — trust.

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  • Rebecca Muller Feintuch

    Senior Editor and Community Manager


    Rebecca Muller Feintuch is the Senior Editor and Community Manager at Thrive. Her previous work experience includes roles in editorial and digital journalism. Rebecca is passionate about storytelling, creating meaningful connections, and prioritizing mental health and self-care. She is a graduate of New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. For her undergraduate thesis, she researched the relationship between women and fitness media consumerism.