3 reasons why trust matters in 2021

- February 15, 2021 3 MIN READ

In 2020 we learnt to place our trust in government, medical professionals, scientists, tech companies, colleagues, and fellow citizens as we dealt with the COVID pandemic. Employers too, took a leap of faith as many staff were required to work from home as the initial lockdowns took effect., writes Kirk Peterson, Managing Director, Performance Shift.

 What is trust and how do you define it? And why does it matter?

Trust is a feeling of certainty. Certainty that people are being truthful, will be reliable and that they have your back.  Some people need more trust, and are more trusting than others, so its importance can be valued differently, depending on each person. But when trust is lacking, team members do not feel safe or supported and a team will struggle to work through problems and challenges. Other signs that trust is lacking are when people break promises, gossip, or are disrespectful.

The three layers of trust

In the business world trust is broken into three levels that form a pyramid. First, at the base of the pyramid is outcome trust.

1.Outcome trust

Outcome trust should form 70 per cent of the trust in a workplace and is the foundation. Outcome trust is doing what we say we are going to do. It’s about keeping promises and commitments with our colleagues – from the simplest actions like promising to return a borrowed stapler through to delivering a major project to deadline. It’s easily measured, because it is always linked to the end result. When a team operates in a high outcome trust environment, it is efficient and productive, things get done on time and to specification.

The second layer of the pyramid is relationship trust which makes up 20 per cent of trust in the workplace.

2. Relationship trust

Relationship trust is about building rapport, finding commonalities, finding friends, and finding a sense of belonging. Workplaces with a strong relationship trust are typically great places to work and have very low staff turnover.

The final layer of the trust pyramid is emotional trust which makes up 10 per cent.

3. Emotional trust

Emotional trust is about having each other’s back. Teams with strong emotional trust don’t back-stab, gossip and always ensure all relevant information is communicated to each other. You know when emotional trust is present in a workplace because staff are loyal and there is a real sense of teamwork.

So, as the pandemic continues, and a certain amount of COVID fatigue sets in, the issue of trust remains a pressing one in 2021 as it flows into business and into teams. How can you improve the level of trust individually and in a team?

Set out your expectations

First, consider implementing a playbook of standards which are aligned to the team’s goals and purpose. These are standards that each member of the team has agreed to and would require adherence and a level of accountability. The playbook might include standards like; Punctuality, meeting deadlines, abiding by commitments made to other staff or even promising to have a positive or possibility mindset. Every workplace is unique, so the ideal way to create a playbook is to have your staff involved in its creation so that they are fully invested in its standards and purpose. Importantly, team members should be called out when standards were broken, as not doing so would be to tacitly condone the actions.


It’s also crucial to create an environment of open communication for trust to exist and to flourish. Is your team free to express opinions, thoughts and ideas without judgement? Is truthfulness and honesty one of the cornerstones of your business or organisation? When people are listened to, and are encouraged to speak freely and truthfully, they feel valued and are more likely to be invested in the business.

The importance of trust in the workplace can’t be understated. It’s the cornerstone pillar of any successful relationship and so too, for creating a high performing team.  Reviewing your own personal levels of trust and measuring the “trust temperature” in your workplace is a starting point for creating an environment of high trust and for generating better results and a more productive, engaged and happy workforce.

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