Work Smarter//

How to Build a Culture of Trust at Work

When leaders empower employees to take autonomy and help partake in big-picture decisions, the entire company benefits.


The viral story on the toxic workplace culture at the luggage startup Away had the internet buzzing about the rampant distrust (and workplace bullying) that went under the radar at the company for so long. At Thrive, we talk a lot about the importance of establishing a culture that honors and celebrates its employees. And when trust is missing from the equation, the results can be disastrous.

We asked our Thrive community to tell us about a company they worked for that established a culture of trust, and we’re inspired by the anecdotes that illustrate how they did it. Which of these would make you feel trusted and celebrated at work?

Start and end meetings with a check-in

“I work for a virtual company with very few employees in the same location, so there needs to be a lot of trust in order for us to be successful. The company establishes trust by starting and ending each meeting with a check-in. We’re asked, ‘How are you arriving to the meeting? Are there any circumstances we need to be aware of? What are your expectations and outcomes you would like to achieve?’ At the end of the call, we state our next steps, and our specific deadlines. This way, we honor our commitments and cultivate trusting relationships with co-workers.”

Barbara Geels-Dingle, executive coach and consultant, Miami, FL

Celebrate employee accomplishments

“One way we demonstrate trust and gratitude is with a ‘frugal WOW,’ where we recognize an employee who has gone above and beyond, and give them a personalized gift as a small gesture of our thanks. From BBQ spices for someone who loves to cook, to monogrammed guitar picks for someone who loves to play guitar, our frugal WOWs are how we evoke trust and celebrate employees. There is nothing more powerful than someone saying, ‘I believe in you. I see you. I trust you.’”

Tricia Sciortino, CEO of BELAY, Charlotte, NC

Invest in your direct reports

“When I started at my current job, I sat down with my manager and started giving her details about my workflow. When I asked if she wanted to hear all of the details, she replied, ‘I hired you because I trust you to do the right thing.’ After coming from former toxic workplaces, her words were the smoking gun I needed. Since that day, she has continually supported my decisions, given me constant feedback, and invested in my growth. The relationship we have fostered was one of complete trust.”

Joyce P., Director of marketing services, pharmaceuticals, Bedminster, NJ

Encourage listening 

“The company I work for encourages employees to connect to our true selves and express ourselves skillfully. We do this by listening to each other, and maintaining a culture of hearing other people out. When someone is speaking, we’re encouraged to make sure we understand, and ask for clarification if needed. When we listen to each other, we can better understand and trust each other.”

Barbara Geels-Dingle, executive coach and consultant, Miami, FL

Have you worked for a company where you felt trusted and celebrated? Tell us in the comments!

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