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  • Dr. Susan Doering

Returning to the workplace? Build trust in your team!

This week, I've been working on team building with employees of a global organisation who talked about how they're dealing with the changes in their working lives caused by Covid- 19 and how these have affected them. Some are experiencing loss and fear, disbelief and self-doubt. Others have begun to overcome their initial fears and have moved on to a feeling of cautious exploration of potential opportunities.

For your team to follow you through this crisis and adjust to rapid changes, they need to trust you. To build trust we identified 3 key components:


A sense of being well-informed is a must. Leaders must practice effective communication. With the best intentions, some leaders believe that as soon as they have delivered a statement or issued a directive, the job is done. But unless the message has been received and understood, communication has not happened.


In the team I was working with, many people were confused about the arrangements for a return to the workplace after months of working from home. The message had been sent, but in the trickle-down it had become misinterpreted, misunderstood, and even changed.

As a leader, follow up and verify that your message has been received and understood in the manner that you meant it; check in with all groups and levels of your staff, not just once, but several times.

Empowerment is the second key component. At this time of crisis and uncertainty, leaders may be tempted to feel they need to micro-manage people. In fact, the more you allow people to take responsibility, the more they will rise to the challenge and deliver. You can set a clear direction, but let people work out the details for themselves, because they know their own abilities and also their stress points and how best to address them. Certainly, be there to guide and support as and when necessary. Let your team know you are there for them whenever they need you.


The third key component is reciprocal trust. If you want people to trust you, you must trust them. This is a good time to think of ways in which you can show your trust for your team, such as asking for their ideas and acting upon them, allowing them to run with something, encouraging group projects about work – and social projects, too; and in recognising their abilities. Trust that work is getting done Sometimes it helps just to give someone the benefit of the doubt.


A phased return to the workplace is going to be challenging, whenever it happens, with many moving parts, and the uncertainty of possibly having to back-track as the pandemic evolves over the next few months and beyond. You have to acknowledge reality. But this crisis is an opportunity to strengthen trust among your team.

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Dr. Susan Doering

London, UK

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