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How to Build Trust in the Workplace: Overcoming Barriers to Availability and Approachability

By LaPora Lindsey

Image Illustrated by LaPora Lindsey

Earlier this week, I posted on LinkedIn about a significant challenge: claiming to be available while not truly being approachable or accessible. How can we overcome this hurdle? What does it take to move beyond mere availability to effective communication?

Building Trust Through Accessibility and Approachability

Building trust goes beyond merely stating that you are available; it requires being genuinely accessible and approachable. If you claim availability but fail to respond to emails, decline calls, or avoid other forms of communication, you are not truly available. While occasional unavailability due to work demands is understandable, consistent inaccessibility reflects poorly on your availability.

Trust is built through relationships, which require meaningful conversations. Brief interactions during meetings are insufficient for establishing strong connections.

A 2021 SHRM article highlights that building trust is linked to being present and engaging (link to the article in the comments). The article underscores that trust-building requires empathy and intentionality, whether in one-on-one interactions or within small, trusted groups.

Fostering Trust by Overcoming Barriers

While I agree wholeheartedly in addition to other articles out there that emphasize the importance of building trust, I have also created my own set of ideas that could prove useful.

To foster trust, we must make a conscious effort to break down potential barriers. These barriers are numerous and nuanced, as I discuss in my Awkward or Authentic Workshop. Here’s a summary of the five key barriers to building trust:

1. Lack of Psychological Safety

 The challenge: When teammates don’t feel safe to express their ideas or concerns without fear of negative consequences, they withhold valuable insights or feedback, leading to missed opportunities for improvement. They may fear that sharing will be met with shaming, embarrassment, or the rejection of failure of any kind.

A Solution: As is in the name psychological safety is about the mind. We have to take steps to comfort teammates to see that coming to us does not correlate with being hurt. Create an environment where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, and feedback is encouraged and valued. This doesn’t mean that we have to lie and say that everything is perfect, but rather it’s about acknowledge their effort, but providing feedback in way where each person can grow.

2. Misunderstanding of Authenticity in the Workplace

The challenge: Pressure to share too much personal information or express unfiltered opinions in the name of authenticity can lead to discomfort or conflicts. Overemphasis on personal sharing can create unclear boundaries, making employees uncomfortable and less willing to contribute.

A Solution:  Stress that being authentic means being genuine and honest, but not at the expense of professionalism and respect for others’ boundaries. Authenticity is not about being all of you, in one place, at one time. Much like anything, being authentic comes in doses and levels.

3.Relying Solely on Formal Conversations to “Check In

The challenge: Relying solely on formal processes such as Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs), annual appraisals, meetings, and transactional conversations can make employees feel undervalued and disconnected. If the only time they interact with you is during these formal processes, it’s challenging to build a relationship that isn’t purely transactional. Without genuine relationship-building, it’s difficult to identify and address factors that may lead to employees leaving the company.

A Solution: Conduct regular informal check-ins and create opportunities for spontaneous conversations. Engage in both one-on-one and group settings to build trust and rapport.

4. Lack of Communication

The challenge: Communication often fails when it is one-sided or lacks active listening. Effective communication involves both speaking and genuinely listening to understand the other party’s perspective.

A Solution: Practice active listening and effective communication techniques to collaborate and create strategies for improvement.

5. Disconnection Among Teams

The challenge: Misunderstandings arising from cultural and generational differences, such as varying attitudes towards eye contact, assertiveness, or professional dress codes, can make employees feel alienated or misunderstood. There’s a common but incorrect assumption that company norms reflect individual norms.

A Solution: Although many employees may choose to work at a company because of its values, everyone interprets those values differently. Recognizing these differences opens up opportunities for genuine connection. Foster cultural competence and inclusivity through training and awareness programs. Encourage team members to learn about and respect different cultural norms and generational perspectives.

Engaging Beyond Physical Presence

Being available is not just about physical presence; it’s about being mentally and emotionally engaged with those around us. By addressing these barriers and we can foster a culture of trust and openness, we can move beyond merely being available to being truly approachable and accessible.

Email me your thoughts hello@laporalindsey.com

LaPora Lindsey

Hi, I'm LaPora!

I am passionate about helping you define your own version of success in your career. By recognizing your worth and using rejection as a strategic tool, you can enhance your career or job search.

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