How to encourage honesty among employees and staff

How would you describe your ideal coworker or employee?

Professional, productive, efficient, problem-solver, team worker, trustworthy… the list goes on.

Some of those characteristics, such as trustworthiness, honesty, and dependability, are especially important now, when we mostly work remotely. While everyone would want a team with those qualities, not everyone is ready to build a safe and open environment that will encourage honesty, instead of meeting it with defensiveness.

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes a person trustworthy, how to show trustworthiness in a workplace, how to build a work environment that encourages honesty, as well as how to go about communication in a virtual workplace.

What are the qualities of a trustworthy person?

There are two types of trust: competence trust (professional ability, trusting that they know how to do their job) and interpersonal trust (trusting them as a person). They are not the same, but they are often connected: if someone shows integrity in their personal life, it’s not wrong to assume that they’ll show integrity in a professional setting, too.

In a workplace, you have to have a little bit of both.

What are the qualities of a trustworthy person?

  • They are reliable and dependable: you know they’ll keep their word, do their job well, and you can rely on them.
  • They possess integrity and authenticity: they know what they stand for and they don’t think they’re above anyone else. They are humble and easy to talk to.
  • Consistency is one of the most important qualities: they won’t turn their back on you out of the blue.
  • They don’t sweep issues under the rug, they face them. They also try to see both sides of the issue to make a fair judgment.

How do you show trustworthiness at work and how to make your boss trust you?

  • Be punctual. Always show up on time and don’t miss deadlines. Don’t make your team guess where Waldo is instead of discussing important issues at a meeting. They’ll perceive you as unreliable. It’s also disrespectful to others.
  • Be consistent. Don’t give 110% one day and 23,54% the next day. No one will know what to expect from you and if they can trust you with the next project.
    Consistency also applies to your words and your actions being aligned: if you give someone your word, keep it.
  • Give praise and credit where it’s due. It will make your coworkers feel valued, especially if they can tell it’s genuine, and it will show that you’re a team player.
  • Give good constructive criticism. When someone asks you to give your opinion, try to give a thoughtful and honest answer. Of course, don’t be too harsh (social intelligence is absolutely needed in instances like this): be kind, but also point out things that should be improved.
    The difference between wanting to help someone and being rude is the intention you are speaking with, but lines can get blurred in delivery, so be aware of that.
  • Don’t hide information. I don’t think this one needs further explanation – would you trust someone knowing they hid something from you?
  • Avoid gossip. If someone talks badly about others to you, they’ll talk badly about you to others.

Building a trustworthy work environment

An open and respectful work environment is the key if you strive for honesty among employees and staff. As much as “honesty is the best policy”, life taught us all that it’s not always the case. Not everyone appreciates honesty: oftentimes, it’s punished instead of praised.

That’s why it’s your role as a manager or an employer to build an environment where everyone feels accepted, heard, and free to communicate openly.

Here’s how to do that.

Define your company’s values and stay true to them

What does your company stand for? Make it clear and stay true to it.

Strive to lead by example, as you set the tone for the company’s culture.

Writing a statement that “bullying won’t be tolerated” doesn’t mean much if some of your employees are experiencing mobbing. Punishing those who bully is a much more powerful statement and it shows that you practice what you preach. It makes both employees and (potential) clients trust you more.

You can’t expect employees to be trustworthy if you’re not trustworthy yourself.

Also, it’s important to introduce company culture and values to new hires from the start.

Embrace the differences

There are many personality tests; according to MBTI, for example, there are 16 personality types. Chances are your workplace contains every single one. Your coworkers may even come from different backgrounds and cultures.

People operate in different ways (and doing something differently doesn’t necessarily mean doing it wrong!). It’s important to be open and accepting, as well as aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If everyone attempts to understand each other more, you’ll not only build trust, but also function much better as a team.

Organize team buildings

How to understand each other better? The obvious answer would be to get to know each other better.

Team building is a great option to achieve that. You’ll end up communicating with each other better and feeling safer – thus being more proactive and feeling more comfortable sharing new ideas. Plus, you’ll have one new experience and learn something new.

As Scott Schieman, chair of the department of sociology at the University of Toronto’s St George campus, said: “Trust is built by spending time together, not necessarily around work-related tasks.

We form and sustain social bonds this way, expressing verbal and nonverbal communication in ways that convey understanding, empathy, and shared concern. There’s no way endless Zoom calls can replace the depth and quality of in-person human interaction.”

Celebrate team wins

Celebrate your wins, both the individual ones and the ones you achieved as a team.

Don’t be afraid to praise your coworkers when they do a good job; it won’t take away from your successes and it will strengthen your relationship.

“A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of others.”

– Norman Shidle

Communicate openly and equally

Discussions and brainstorming sessions where everyone can voice their opinion without judgment are crucial to be able to progress and succeed. Employees should be allowed to share ideas and voice concerns without the fear of defensive reaction, or even punishment. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure everyone has their turn to talk.
  2. Listen actively.
  3. Have a goal – don’t forget what is the point of the discussion and what problem you’re trying to resolve.
  4. Communicate in a clear, concise, and polite manner.
  5. Respect other opinions and viewpoints, even if you disagree with them.

Use anonymity when appropriate

Don’t avoid using anonymity when needed: for example, when you’re discussing sensitive topics or you need (brutally) honest feedback.

It’s not very likely that anyone will be overly honest if they think they might lose their job over it. By offering them anonymity, you’re creating a safe space to express thoughts and opinions.

There are different ways to do this – anonymous forms are the most frequently used one.

Trust your team

Trust your team that they know what they are doing. Give them the freedom to do their job – no micromanaging or taking over their tasks. It causes negative feelings and distrust, especially if they have already proven that they do their job well.

On the other hand, it’s equally important for the team to justify that trust – after all, it’s a two-way street. When the goal is mutual trust, everyone has to do their part.

Discuss boundaries and expectations

To create an environment where everyone feels good and safe, it’s important to discuss boundaries and expectations that everyone agrees on.

If everyone’s opinion and perspective is taken into consideration,

  1. Everyone will feel valued and heard; when you feel appreciated, you are motivated to do your best.
  2. You’ll come up with the solution that works best for you as a team.
  3. No one will feel as if something is imposed on them against their will, as they participated in the process.

Address and work on resolving mistakes as soon as possible

Since humans are naturally imperfect beings, mistakes are (unfortunately) inevitable.
That’s why it’s important to create a constructive environment where employees can bring those mistakes to awareness without being afraid of negative consequences, so everything can be resolved as quickly as possible.

Along these lines, if you have an issue with someone, resolve it in private and as soon as the issue arises. It may be an honest mistake. If it’s not and they don’t want to cooperate, bring the issue to the manager/HR/boss, but the first option should be open communication and a constructive discussion.

Bad mouthing them to the whole office is not only in poor taste and shows bad manners, but promotes distrust and creates a negative work environment. If you need to vent (we all do sometimes), it’s better to vent to a friend.

Being honest when working remotely

The pandemic and working remotely caused a (perhaps unforeseeable) obstacle: lack of trust. It’s not easy to trust someone you don’t see often, or maybe never even met in person.

You don’t smile at each other when you arrive at the office, you don’t talk about random things when you get coffee, you don’t share an awkward silence in the elevator – how would you know if they’re an okay person? Who knows if they do their job well?

“If you’re late for a meeting while working from home, it’s because your broadband wasn’t working, but if anyone else misses a meeting, you attribute it to their character,”

says Heidi K Gardner, faculty chair of Harvard Law School’s Accelerated Leadership Program and author of Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos.

When you don’t know someone personally, it’s harder to accurately judge their character, and consequently, build trust. However, it’s not impossible. Other than building an overall trustworthy work environment (that we discussed previously in the article), there are some additional things you can do to ensure there is trust even when you’re working remotely.

Determine and discuss expectations and goals

Make sure to communicate expectations and share what’s the plan and what goal(s) are you, as a team, trying to achieve.

If everything is clear from the start, there’s little to no room for misunderstanding and confusion. Set the tone of open communication from the start. Not to mention that the quickest way to bond with someone is to share a common goal.

There are a few types of goals to be set:

  • immediate – for a meeting you’re currently attending;
  • short-term – weekly, monthly, or quarterly goals;
  • long-term – annual or the goals for the next 2/3/5 years.

Communicate transparently and regularly

Chatting online takes away some of the very important aspects of communication: facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Sure, you can use emojis, but their little yellow face is not capable of showing emotions as well as the human face does.

That’s why you should put emphasis on transparent and regular communication. Say what you mean and mean what you say, but pay attention to how you deliver the message.
Since you don’t see each other regularly, make sure to regularly update each other on what you’re up to.

Don’t micromanage or try to spy on your team

Both can cause distress and lower their performance. It doesn’t exactly foster mutual respect, either. By micromanaging or spying on them, you’re actively showing them that you don’t trust them nor their ability to do their job correctly – not the best move in general, but especially when you’re working remotely.

However, I understand that as a manager or an employer, you want to make sure that everyone is getting their tasks done.

It’s a good idea for your team to track their time. As they’re in charge of the input and add time slots themselves, you’re showing them that you trust them. You’ll also be in the loop and know what they’re working on, but they won’t have the feeling that someone is constantly looking over their shoulder.


As much as honesty and open communication are important in a workplace, they’re often not easy to achieve. They require trust – which is not given, it’s earned.

The key thing is building a trustworthy work environment, where everyone feels respected and valued and where honesty is appreciated, not met with defensiveness or even punished.

Not an easy task to do, but getting a healthy and productive work environment is worth it.

✉️ In what ways do you encourage honesty among employees and staff? Let us know at

Dunja  Jovanovic

Dunja is a content manager passionate about time management and self-improvement. After years of trying out all the productivity techniques she managed to come across, her goal became to share her knowledge and help others to become the best, most successful versions of themselves.


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