Developing trust in the workplace: the role of Human Resources

Developing trust in the workplace and the role of HR – a new study

Developing trust in the workplace

Developing trust in the workplace is a key organisational predictor of performance. Many organisations have stumbled and even failed outright where a lack of trust, doubt and suspicion have grown between the leadership, management and employees. Previous studies have found that mistrust in the workplace predicts high turnover rates, increased absence through sickness, lower levels of productivity, performance and employee satisfaction.

Understanding the process of developing trust in the workplace is therefore incredibly important. An interesting study recently published looks at developing trust in the workplace, how this is linked to performance and what role of HR has to play in this process.


Trust is vital for increased performance

Trust is vital for increased performance

The aim of the study

The objectives of the study were to:

  1. Examine the drivers of trust in organisations,
  2. To identify the human resources practices that create trust in the organisation and
  3. To examine the effects of trust on employees’ performance in the organisation.


Be impressively well-informed

Get your FREE organizational and people development research briefings, infographics, video research briefings, a free copy of The Oxford Review and more...

Powered by ConvertKit


The 3 factors which create a lack of trust


Three factors in particular were found to create low levels of trust and to restrict developing trust in the workplace:


  1. Low involvement in decision making
  2. A lack of opportunity to be able to evaluate and give feedback to the organisation on the effectiveness or otherwise of their performance appraisals and
  3. Excessive control by management and managers not listening.


How to increase trust in the workplace

How to increase trust in the workplace


What helps with developing trust in the workplace

The study, a meta-analysis, found that there a series of factors which aid developing trust in the workplace. These include:

  1. Co-dependency where the managers and employees depend on each other to get the job done
  2. Mutual respect
  3. High levels of engagement, particularly in decision-making
  4. Open communication
  5. Fairness, particularly in appraisals
  6. Being part of a high performing team
  7. Delegation of responsibility
  8. Equality of the distribution of resources
  9. A focus on relationship building


The 4 factors which decrease trust in the workplace

The key factors which had the opposite effect of developing trust in the workplace and created a lack of trust include:


  1. A lack of transparency, particularly of decisions
  2. Interpersonal and unresolved conflict or conflict that is resolved by resorts to power and status
  3. Disengagement
  4. Low levels of performance

The elements of trust

The elements of trust

The role of HR in developing trust in the workplace

The researchers further found that trust tended to increase in organisations where Human Resources functions have as an explicit aim of helping people to develop trust. In particular the study found that where HR functions explicitly focus on helping to develop:


  1. Open communication
  2. Fairness in appraisal
  3. Delegation of responsibility
  4. Equal distribution of resource
  5. Equitable treatment
  6. Relationship building

trust factors increase significantly.


HR strategy for developing trust in the workplace


The study identified that where HR functions have a three pronged strategy for developing trust, there is a significantly increased likelihood the organisation or company will also increase the levels of trust across the board. HR functions should explicitly and overly target developing trust:

  1. Within and throughout their own function first
  2. Then between themselves and the managers and employees and finally
  3. Help to facilitate the creation of these dimensions between the managers and employees themselves.



The researchers identified that: “a low level of trust affects their individual performance, team performance, the level of commitment and the engagement they have.”



Reference – available to members

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page

  • Steve Valentor says:

    Companies cannot eliminate unconscious bias overnight. Below are the strategies that companies may deploy to recognize and lessen the effects of internal biases, enhance hiring procedures, and reap the many benefits of a more diverse staff. For more info please visit

  • Paul says:

    I would like to suggest you jobma online video interview software for hiring. It provides multiple features and maintains workflow of your organization having different candidates. For more info please visit

  • Thank you for your diligent efforts, David. You are right on (central) regarding “trust”- the cement that binds and facilitates effective collaborative inter-relations between people and groups, in organizations, And, “fears to flow” as a result of insufficient emotional resilience is a primary “personal” remedy. There has been efforts by one person and family in the USA, in particular that I could quote. But, this effort of yours is broadly based and integrates well into action plans at all levels. “ALL in the room”, “HIDDEN RESOURCES hiding in the purses and pockets under-utilized, etc.

  • >