HR & Management

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Building trusting relationships through the art of conversation

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The combination of the weather, the post-Christmas/New Year’s blues and the long road to the summer holiday season combined to keep an estimated 375,000 employees in bed in 2015, at a cost of around £34m in lost productivity. The question of what we can do about this may seem more complicated than it really is. The decision to call in sick is hugely influenced by the quality of an employee’s working relationships, and the extent of mutual trust.

As a leader, having trusting working relationships is the core of getting things done. Where a trusting relationship exists, we’re more likely to be engaged; both open to new possibilities and proud to belong to our organisation, as well as willing to go the extra mile. When we’re truly involved, we’re an awful lot less likely to call in sick just because it’s warm in bed and dark outside.

There is a broad base of factors upon which we base our decision to trust someone. In the “Journal of Business Studies Quarterly”, Shpëtim Çerri identified that social interactions have the strongest correlation with trust. At the heart of a leader’s ability to have meaningful social interactions is the ability and emotional commitment to hold authentic, two-way human conversations. 

Read more about trust at work:

Establishing a trusting relationship involves creating a space to better understand and know each other in terms of who you are, what you do, how you do it and more importantly why you do it. This conversation goes beyond high-level “getting to know you” questions, but they’re a great place to start. Opening with an invitational question like “What would you most like to know about me that would help you understand me better?” sets the scene to build trust and discuss progressively deeper and more meaningful subjects. 

You might ask “What is really important to you at work?” or even “What causes you the most anxiety at work?” As trust increases, you can feel more secure in discussing personal opinions and emotional responses.

What matters in this conversation is the mindset behind it; a genuine curiosity and desire to get to know an employee far beyond their duties and job description. This conversation works because it encourages a deeper sense of connectivity. This conversation can also give valuable insights to fine-tune the way you delegate, coach, challenge and support your employees; knowing how your team work allows you to create the conditions your employees need to be engaged and deliver peak performance. This conversation equally enables your team to see how you work best, and to adapt their style to one in which you can both be successful and productive.

Some leaders may dismiss the concept as merely ‘warm and fluffy;’ a waste of valuable time on small talk, but the importance of the relationships we have in our working life can transform our output and career progression. In all areas of life we draw on our relationships for inspiration, clarity and support of all kinds. 

Genuine, trusting, two-way communication in a work context allows for real connection, and connection – as neuroscience overwhelmingly shows us, and as we know instinctually – is why we’re here.

Trust plays a large role in workplace motivation. Find out how the psychological force of employee motivation will not only determine the direction of a person’s behaviour in an organisation, their effort and their persistence, but its impact on the business as a whole.

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