How Do You Trust?

Trusting others can be challenging, in your personal life and in the workplace on occasion. You find yourself wondering: does this person have an agenda? Will he throw me under the bus if a problem arises? Can I assign this job to that person if I haven’t worked with her before? Today I’ll offer a few suggestions for identifying trustworthy people.

It’s a lot easier to go into work relationships with a certain assumption of trust. If you’re in an environment such as government or defense, for example, the people you’re working with have to jump through the same security-clearance hoops that you did to get the job. That required a background demonstrating trustworthiness.

If you’re in another industry that does not require background checks, most people in the work world need to mind their reputations as a practical matter. If you have a known tendency to undercut your coworkers, yell at people who disagree with you, shade the truth, or withhold key information, word will get around within your workplace and, eventually, elsewhere in the industry. Your reputation is what will get you hired (or not) the older you get. That goes for the people around you, too.

If you’re joining a new team and you’ve got to get working right away, you have to start with the belief that everyone is there to get the work done to the best of their abilities and that you will do likewise. Being paranoid doesn’t do you much good, though it will occur, especially with people who have betrayed your trust in the past.

And really, after enough time in a workplace, your best gauge for determining your level of trust should be the trust-building acts performed by others:

  • Do they keep their word when they say they will do something?
  • Do they keep confidential matters (personal and professional) to themselves?
  • Do they own up to their mistakes or blame others?
  • Do they make the effort to get work done well?

Your answers to those questions–learned over dozens or hundreds of interactions–will ultimately determine your level of trust, both how much you trust others and how much they will trust you. Make the right choices, and others are likely to make the right choices when working with you.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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