Too many workplaces complain about lack of trust. It could be that management doesn’t trust employees (or at least does not have confidence in their capabilities and judgement), or it could be that employees don’t trust management. Usually this second issue comes about when management doesn’t tell employees about decisions that affect their lives until after the decision has already been made. So, what can be done in organizations to begin fostering more trust? The answer is to encourage and reward courage at work.

While there are many ways to encourage and develop workplace trust, one way is to reward employees who admit it when they make mistakes.  This can be very difficult for managers to do. Imagine that an employee comes to you (his supervisor) to tell you he has made a mistake on a customer account and it resulted in a negative impact to that customer. Most supervisors would have the reaction to punish, discipline, yell, or even terminate the employee. None of those reactions would reward the employee for having the courage to admit his mistakes. None of those reactions would solve the problem for the customer. None of those reactions would improve the process or make it less likely that this same mistake would not happen in the future.

Instead what if the managers thanked the employee for having the courage to come to her and admit the mistake. Then, discussed with the employee how they could solve the problem, make things right for the customer, and review the process used by the employee to ensure (as much as possible) that this same mistake would not be repeated. Do you think this reaction would encourage this employee and other employees to admit their mistakes in the future, to think of ways to improve processes, to practice solving problems for customers? Do you think this reaction would build more trust between the supervisor and the employee? What examples have you come across that would foster trust and courage in the work place? We’d love to hear real life stories (positive or negative) about this.