How to Build Trust at Work and Improve Team Cohesion

Updated January 11, 2023

Trust is an essential element of building team cohesion, which is important because cohesive teams produce better work by building on each other's strengths and negating each other's weaknesses. With some effort and restructuring, you can achieve this potential for your team. In this article, we review how to build trust at work, give tips on prioritizing your efforts, and examine some common mistakes that people often make when building trust.

Related: Achieving Team Cohesion in the Workplace (With Strategies)

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How to build trust at work

Here are steps you can follow to help you build trust at work:

1. Prove your integrity

Integrity is one of the most valuable traits of a strong leader. It is the ability to act ethically, especially under pressure. A person with integrity takes responsibility for their actions and allows their fellow employees to take credit for their work and efforts. While any team member can benefit from this trait, it is crucial for leaders.

Adopting a solid work ethic and staying honest with your fellow employees can help prove your integrity. You demonstrate your values and morals by keeping your promises, aligning your words and actions, and maintaining clear messaging. The goal is to show your team how to act through example.

Related: What is Integrity? Definition and Examples

2. Work hard

Along with integrity, hard work is another critical element of building trust. Hard work shows that you want to contribute to the group's goals. If you can work hard without complaint, you can gain the respect of your team. If you help others complete their work in addition to your own, you further prove your value. Hard work done well proves you know how to do your job. If you can do that, the team knows they can trust your judgment if you think something may not work or a particular change may improve workflow.

While the above is true, it is also necessary to understand your limits. A good work ethic allows you to work over prolonged periods. It is better to work moderately hard all the time than extremely hard for only a few weeks. By testing and expanding your limits at a slow, steady rate, you avoid overextending, allowing you to adjust your workflow without damaging your health. If you can become reliable, you can gain a team's respect.

Related: How To Deal With Burnout

3. Listen to others

For many adults, the workplace can be one of the few places we interact with relative strangers. You may be friends with some of your fellow employees, but most people know little about everyone on their team. If you want to build trust, it is necessary to learn more about those around you. The first step to doing this is through light conversation and listening to what they say. By practising engaging with your peers and growing more friendly with them, the workplace can become more vibrant.

Listening is different from hearing. Hearing is the actual process your body goes through to register a sound has occurred. Listening is the active effort of taking in those sounds and understanding them. Whenever someone speaks or writes to you, try to internalize the ideas they wish to convey. Even when people disagree, cooperation has enormous benefits. Listening helps you engage with and build upon the ideas of others. It also shows respect and helps identify if there has been a miscommunication.

Related: Nine Ways To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

4. Engage in discussion

By taking the time to prove your character, genuine trust can develop between you and your team. So far, the steps have been about proving your team can rely on you to accomplish their goals and respect them as people. Some may even follow your example and become more reliable themselves. The next logical step is to become more active and build bonds between you and the rest of the team. By having group discussions and engaging with everyone, you can develop team cohesion.

Most adults can learn to respect each other and get along at work. If you show team members you respect them and attempt to have others do the same, a team can grow more comfortable working together. By making sure everyone has a chance to speak and avoiding things like jokes at particular members' expense, team members can learn to come to each other to exchange ideas or express concerns. Through example, you can show that a disagreement can represent a conversation to get the best results.

Related: Guide to Verbal Communication Skills

5. Mediate problems and avoid escalation

Workplace politics often impede the building of trust. These situations put you and your fellow employees in a difficult position, but you can help overcome it. With your efforts, you can still help mediate arguments and advocate for fellow team members. It is almost always possible to create peace, even in chaotic workplaces.

The hard part of mediation is that most people dislike changing their minds, and they feel their conclusions are sensible. When dealing with an argument or disagreement, first try to see how everyone is doing emotionally. By separating angry or upset people, you can give them time to calm themselves and examine what happened logically. Then you can help everyone work towards a solution that is healthy and productive.

Related: How To Handle Microaggressions in the Workplace

6. Prioritize trust-building

When building trust in the workplace, it helps to prioritize and focus your efforts on the areas most in need of improvement. By first fixing problems that actively erode mutual trust, you make it easier for it to grow and overcome minor problems. Focusing on the most critical issues first also helps show your team the real potential of trust-building efforts. Focused efforts require less energy while producing faster results.

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Common mistakes when building trust

There are a few common mistakes people make when trying to build trust among their team, including:

Practising favouritism

Building trust and cohesion can be difficult if you play favourites in the office. By doing your best to treat everyone equally, you create an atmosphere that feels more inclusive, making it easier for people to talk to each other and promoting a cooperative work environment for the team. It is not unusual or unhealthy to have friends in the workplace. The goal is to make it clear that everyone on the team can expect fair treatment and respect.

Related: How to Develop Cross-Functional Teams for Your Company

Acting too forceful

The social dynamics of a workplace are sometimes confusing. While there is a set hierarchy, it may not always be clear who has what level of authorization. When building trust, try to guide people to the choices you want as much as possible, rather than overuse your authority. Instead of using strong language, you can often achieve better results with suggestions. Suggestions show that professional debate is an option if someone has an alternate way of achieving the same result. If a task is urgent and has specific requirements, explain why.


Trying to develop a good character and unite your team can make you feel powerful. You may notice productivity rise and workplace arguments become less frequent because of your efforts. You want to avoid taking all the credit for this change or acting in a manner that may appear too proud. Remember that building trust is a team effort. People want to feel respected and have their contributions seen. Even if you lead the effort to build team cohesion, it takes everyone to succeed.

Growing complacent

Once a team has grown more cohesive, remember that new problems can arise. Trust requires maintenance, or you may notice the team lose cohesion. Through a consistent effort, you can make sure the trust you've built continues. Regular engagement and conversation with team members can help you identify problems before they become significant. Whether you are an official leader or a peer, people appreciate genuine attempts to connect and offer help.

Working alone

While change often starts with individual action, meaningful change is a team effort. As you try to build trust in your workplace, remember that the goal is to encourage positive change that lasts outside your presence. The entire workplace grows by encouraging others to be positive and making them feel safe to ask for help and admit their mistakes. Foster in others the idea that being able to rely on one's peers is excellent for all involved. Discuss how team effort can help create a workplace with less stress and fewer microaggressions.

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