3 Personality Traits of People Whose Coworkers See Them As Trustworthy

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Julia Moore23
Supporting people who want to change the world
April 19, 2024 at 9:37PM UTC

Relationships are vital to the way that we work and live. Trust is one of the central elements of strong relationships. When your coworkers trust you, it’s easier to work together collaboratively. You’re better able to deal with misunderstandings or contentious situations. It’s also more fun to work with people you trust. 

Plus, it’s easier to engage people to support causes you believe in when you have strong, trusting relationships. For example, if you’re looking to inform your company or department’s work from home policy, you’ll have more influence if people trust you. Many women who achieve amazing things highlight how trust was central to the process

Despite the importance of trust, few people are trained on how to build it. Essentially, we’re never told how to build trust. When trust comes up, it’s often a side note, stating something like, “Make sure people trust you” — without information on how to make that actually happen. 

That’s where the three core components of trust come in.* They help you break down what makes you trust others and, in turn, what makes others trust you. 

Trust occurs when you have these three personality traits.

1. Competence.

When we believe that other people are accountable, reliable and able to do their job well, we trust them more. To feel a sense of trust, we need to believe the other person also views us as competent.

2. Empathy.

We are more likely to trust people with whom we feel a sense of connection. Connection occurs when we have shared values and is amplified when people are empathetic and can see things from our perspective—even if they don’t agree with us.

3. Authenticity.

We are more likely to trust people who we believe are being authentic. This means that we think they are sharing their true motives. It also means we believe they have integrity and will keep our confidences (i.e., they will not leak information we share with them that should be kept in “the vault”).

How you can be more trustworthy.

Think about these three components of trust* and consider your relationships with your coworkers. How would you rate each relationship in terms of competence, connection and authenticity? Do you have strong relationships where you feel trust is present along these dimensions? What about relationships where there is a sense of mistrust? 

When we consider our relationships with these components in mind, we can make more informed changes to improve our interactions with others. 

For example, sometimes we feel like other people don’t trust us, and we assume they’re questioning our competence. Sometimes that’s really the issue, but you might be surprised how often it’s an issue of authenticity or connection. Colleagues might be questioning whether you are really being authentic—sharing your true motives and showing up with integrity—rather than your level of competence.  As a result, trying to highlight how competent you are by going above and beyond, doing more work than necessary, might actually make them trust you less since it could further perpetuate their view that you have ulterior motives. 

If you find that one component is more present than another, leverage it. For example,  as the Executive Director of The Center for Implementation, I train and support thousands of professionals responsible for leading change initiatives. In my work, I see the huge benefits of identifying and fostering connections with others. When work gets challenging, it’s easy to question other people’s competence (and to feel like our own competence is being questioned). Having a strong connection can be like an antidote in these moments. When you have shared values and interests with your colleagues, you can return to those in moments of tension. In these moments, being able to express empathy (a component of connection) is also key to success. Being able to show that you can see the situation from your colleagues’ perspectives fosters trust.  

Building and maintaining trusting relationships with your coworkers can help you move forward in your career, make work more enjoyable, and advance causes that you care about. Understanding these three components of trust and the role they play in your personality and relationships can be an effective tool to get you closer to your goals.

*These 3 core components of trust were adapted from the Trust Triangle described by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss in the Harvard Business Review and Brené Brown’s definition of trust.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for being seen as trustworthy at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

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This article was written by a Fairygodboss Contributor.

Dr. Julia E. Moore is the Executive Director at The Center for Implementation, a social enterprise that uses the science of implementation to enhance how change initiatives are implemented. Dr. Moore has a Ph.D. from Penn State University and has trained and empowered thousands of professionals who are responsible for leading and supporting change initiatives, predominantly in the health, public health, and social services sectors as well as, more recently, in the areas of employment and climate change. 

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