Building Trust With Your Manager

You may be honest and diligent. Yet, you may still not have earned your manager’s trust. I can recall several of my colleagues being frustrated with their managers for not trusting them with more responsibility or a bigger project even after they’ve proven themselves to be highly motivated and hardworking.

The reality is there are other important attributes that you need to demonstrate in order to successfully earn and build trust in the workplace. In one conversation, a senior manager talked about someone he trusts as “someone who gets it.” So what makes you a person who “gets it”? Here is a breakdown of what you need to “get” or understand:

The “Big Picture”

Think beyond your scope of responsibility. It’s important to show you understand organizational priorities. Consider how your efforts affect the broader agenda. Demonstrate urgency, where necessary, and pay close attention to shifting needs or goals of the team.

Ask questions to learn about what is most important to the organization. It might be improving controls, managing costs, or strategic growth and business development. That awareness should tell you how to define success in the task or project you are working on. It also helps you communicate your results more effectively. You can frame your wins with the context and relevance that help senior leaders appreciate what you have accomplished.

The Importance of Creating Transparency

Keep managers in the loop on what is going on, whether it is the status of your projects or any issues they need to know about. Make sure that they’re never caught blindsided if a situation does escalate. Be prompt and clear when you raise concerns. Do you need additional information or resources? Are certain people or problems holding up a project? Part of this goes back to the first point about awareness and having a good sense of what your manager really cares about.

Agree on a way to keep your manager informed without bombarding her with too much information. Does she prefer email updates or an in-person catch up? Make sure they don’t hear about brewing problems or complaints from an outside source; you should always avoid situations where your manager’s boss, or – worse yet – their clients are getting to them before you’ve had the chance to give them a heads up. You want them to know you to have their back.

The Value of Consistency

Consistency is one of the keys to building credibility and trust in the workplace. Your consistent quality will establish you as a professional that can be counted on to deliver. Your manager will know what she can expect from you and you’ll become a reliable ally that she won’t hesitate to call on. Establishing consistency is all about producing quality work, not just on the things that you enjoy doing or when you have time, but under all circumstances. Learn how to manage distractions and stay focused. Your standard for quality will differentiate you from others; it demonstrates your discipline, sense of priorities, and time management skills.

The Organizational Culture

In any organization, there are values, rules and expectations about the way things are done. Some of these things are clearly stated by your manager or in procedures and handbooks. Others are simply “understood” and can be more subtle. Observe the ways in which others behave to learn about appropriate ways to communicate, where the boundaries are and how to collaborate and negotiate with others. At meetings, you are seen as an extension of your manager. Your manager needs to feel comfortable with the way you represent her and in the way you carry yourself. The decisions you make also need to reflect the organization’s values and mission. You can lean on mentors or colleagues to help you navigate the culture, especially when you are new to an organization.

You may think that you’ve earned the trust of your managers, but we can always take it one step further. Demonstrating that you’re not only likable and hard working, but that you 1) know what’s important to them, 2)keep them informed, 3)are consistent in your delivery and 4)understand the team’s culture will build your credibility and earn deeper trust from your manager, their superiors, and also from your peers.