Speeding Up Trust by Giving Grace, Connecting with Co-workers

Trust is the foundation of every cohesive team and needs to be strong for your team to succeed.

Building trust takes time and grace

Remember that building trust takes time and a willingness to give yourself and others grace. You may stumble. Others may stumble, too. If you can assume that they have positive intent, then you can forgive them and can keep building trust even when things don’t go perfectly.

An easy way to keep building trust on your team is to make an effort to get to know someone you don’t know very well in the office. You don’t have to have an intense conversation or take a lot of time. Just pick someone out and ask about hobbies, family, pets, favorite vacation spots, or anything that will make it easier to connect. Team members who have some sort of rapport built before issues arise find it easier to be genuine and work through conflicts without damaging their relationship. So make allowances for people being more or less comfortable sharing. No matter how deep the conversation goes when you try to connect with your co-workers, chances are that they will appreciate you taking an interest in them.

Of course, the best way to build trust is to be trustworthy. That means always speaking about others as if they were present. It also means representing the interest of those who are absent and giving credit where credit is due. As Stephen Covey said, “One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present.”

That guy is a jerk! (Introducing the fundamental attribution error)

Have you heard of the fundamental attribution error? Even if you haven’t, chances are you’ve made this ubiquitous mistake. Becoming more aware of this very human tendency may help you prevent irritation that leads to unnecessary conflict within your team.

So what is the fundamental attribution error? Psychologists also call it the correspondence bias or attribution effect. In general, it’s our tendency to overestimate the impact of others’ personalities or characters in how they are behaving and underestimate the impact of the situation. For example, if someone cuts us off in traffic we think, “That guy is a jerk.” We don’t stop to think that maybe he’s speeding to catch a plane because he just found out his father is dying in another state. But we don’t translate this error into how we see ourselves. When we cut someone off in traffic, we know we aren’t jerks; we’re just running late!

The key to avoiding unnecessary irritation is to consider whether there might be another reason why a person is behaving the way they are. Maybe they aren’t an inconsiderate jerk when they don’t return your call or email right away. Maybe they are dealing with a family emergency or just honestly forgot.

Closely related to this error is the tendency to take things too personally. It may be hard to not get your feelings hurt or get angry when someone lets the door close in your face or forgets to acknowledge you when you enter a room, but entertain the notion that it may not be about you for a moment. Maybe they are just having a bad day.

Keeping these principles in mind allows us to assume positive intent. Conflicts are avoided and trust is built within the team as you begin to show more grace to teammates who may be experiencing hardships. So give it a try: The next time someone does something that threatens to annoy, hurt or anger you, ask yourself: “Could this be about something else going on? Could this be about the situation and not their character? Could this maybe not be about me?”

Watch a short video about the Fundamental Attribution Error below:


To read more on the fundamental attribution error from the Journal of Integrated Social Science, click the link below.



Gwen Voelpel

Gwen Voelpel has 20 years of experience in coaching and mentoring leaders at all levels of organizations. She has an undergraduate degree in communications, a graduate degree in public administration, and has served as an executive leader in several organizations. Gwen is an accredited Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Everything DiSC Workplace Facilitator and a Certified Master in Training for The Leadership Challenge.