Human beings are social animals. We thrive on relationships and one-on-one equations as much in the workplace as our personal lives. Trust is the bedrock of these relationships. As we build teams, over a period of time we also build personal confidence in each other.

Your colleagues will trust you as long as you don’t trigger their subconscious fears. The trust gets impacted when you are collaborating with different team members and the work requires you to give feedback in order to improve the outcome. In such instances, something that you might say can be taken personally by a colleague. This can be the trigger for erosion of trust.

This erosion can happen subconsciously and unintentionally. Given below are 3 pointers that actually develop trust. At Harappa Education, we actively invest in these three actions to help our team members build strong and trustworthy relationships that withstand the tough demands of a start-up environment:

  1. Maintain total transparency
  2. Meet often to set clear expectations
  3. Understand the other’s view of reality

A 2010 study by Angelika Dimoka, director, Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University, Philadelphia, shows that trust and distrust are processed by different parts of the brain. The study also sheds light on what builds trust.

Distrust is sensed by the amygdala–the part of the brain responsible for our fight-or-flight response–while trust is handled by our prefrontal cortex, which performs executive functions like planning and strategy. 

Let’s see how taking the above three actions will help in calming these two engines of the brain.
There can be times at work when you’re clueless about certain tasks or goals. Incomplete information between you and your team members can often lead to miscommunication and confusion. Maintaining an open communication system where all relevant information is shared with everyone in a timely manner can counter this. Clear communication also removes any imagined threats and helps people assess a situation better with the right information. This will calm your amygdala, and the removal of fears will pave the way for trust being established.

Working with new people is tough; different people come with different understanding and expectations of what needs to be done and how. When working together on a project, the collaborators’ ideas need to be aligned to ensure smooth functioning. To build mutual trust, it’s important to sit together and understand each other’s working styles and thought processes.

Set clear expectations and discuss what you both like and dislike. Give your prefrontal cortex sufficient information to figure out the best way to work with your differences. Again, communicate clearly and constantly so that you don’t cross each other’s lines as you start working.

Lastly, everyone creates their own version of reality based on their needs and aspirations. A task that stresses out one could be an exciting opportunity for someone else who wants to prove their worth. In such a scenario, it could benefit the team in letting the one person keen on the opportunity and confident of performing better, lead the particular task.

Just building trust isn’t enough in today’s dynamic workplace. Trust needs to be sustained, nurtured and constantly strengthened because it is fragile and easy to lose. These three actions will help you constantly reinforce your trustworthiness.


Nishant Singh is a graduate of the National Institute of Technology, Uttarakhand and a Young India Fellow. A curriculum specialist at Harappa Education, in his free time, he trains for marathons, studies photographs and dreams of biryani.


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