Developing Trust Within the Team

Patricea Pop

8 minutes read

Confianza en el equipo

Remote working is the ‘new normal’ and it is here to stay. Thanks to technology, companies have continued to operate during this period, and because of this, the remote working culture has become a key issue for those who want efficient and motivated teams.

Two elements can have a significant impact on how we understand each other and ultimately how we do our jobs in this context: trust and effective communication.

For those not equipped with appropriate strategies to manage these two elements effectively, they can easily find themselves demotivating employees and frustrating suppliers or collaborators. Finally yet importantly, it becomes extremely difficult to achieve goals and to keep things running smoothly in the organization.

We all understand what trust is and many of us may have noticed that the kind of trust we feel for one colleague can be very different from the trust we manifest for another. We can explain the differences by taking into consideration that there are actually two types of trust: cognitive and affective.

Cognitive trust vs. affective trust

Cognitive trust is mental and based on the confidence you have in the ability of the person in front of you to perform their tasks, deliver on time and meet their goals. Often the level of confidence depends on the person’s CV, past achievements, recommendations, his / her degrees and certifications.

This kind of trust has a tremendous impact on the relationship between managers and their team. A superior’s lack of confidence in the team’s ability to overcome obstacles and find solutions has a knock-on effect on the motivation levels. On the other hand, a leader who does not have the team’s vote of confidence faces great challenges in achieving their goals. In conclusion, we need trust to work both ways in organizations.

On the other side we have emotional trust, the kind of trust that comes from the heart and which involves empathy, warmth, friendship and a sense of closeness and security. In this case, trust is determined by the quality of the relationship and is strongly influenced by emotions.

I know I can come to you with the challenges I have, I feel safe to ask for your help, I trust that together we can find answers and overcome any obstacle. That is what emotional trust sounds like.

How can we cultivate trust in the organizational environment?

First, given the need to foster collaboration and the one of learning at this time, we cannot act out of fear. If until recently some managers, consciously or unconsciously, resorted to fear-based motivational tactics, this strategy has no chance of winning now.

We can no longer assume that people who fear management will work hard to avoid unpleasant consequences, as most employees need an environment where they feel safe, both physically and emotionally.

Second, trust is strongly influenced by cultural differences and the way we communicate. The future belongs to those who are agile in communication, i.e. those who can easily adapt to the context and know how cultural differences and mental patterns can lead to unpleasant situations.

One of the traps we fall into is assuming that what works at home works just as well when we interact with other cultures. When we act based on this assumption, we can make a number of mistakes, such as: 

  • we are too direct or explicit in our communication and we come across as too aggressive;
  • we focus exclusively on tasks and to-do lists in meetings and forget that some cultures are relationship-oriented;
  • we don’t invest enough energy in cultivating social moment;
  • we use the wrong communication channels.

For example, when we have a relationship-based culture, the best way to connect with someone is to pick up the phone and give him/her a call when face-to-face meetings are not possible. People often do not respond to emails from a person they do not have a relationship with or haven’t been introduced to.

Let’s not forget that, beyond cultural differences, everyone we work with is different and perhaps we should start any relationship with a desire to understand what is specific and important to each one of them.

While we know all these, under the pressure we face in our jobs and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often forget that we need to cultivate trust and maintain it in relationships. Most of us rely on our autopilot – we quickly write emails and go into meetings focused on what we have to tick off our busy agendas.

We lose sight of the fact that face-to-face meetings are much fewer these days and that we need to put more effort into the choices we make when communicating at work.

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Written by Patricea Pop


It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a simple step and mine started a few summers ago when I wanted to do something for myself, so I enrolled in a coaching programme. This gave me the chance to look at myself from a different perspective: little did I know that it would take me to a different career path, that of being a coach.

After more than 12 years in the corporate world which taught me many lessons and several years of preparation for my new role, I now support people in business to improve their self leadership skills. I think leadership is an inside job and it is part soul searching, part strategy and part relationship skills.

I love writing about work and organizations because it is the place where we invest heavily our time and energy and we often end up feeling stressed, trapped and dissatisfied. My strength relies on my resilience, critical thinking and intuition and I believe it is an honour to accompany someone on their inner journey.

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