how to gain your manager’s trust

How much does your boss trust you? Does she take you at your word, value your opinion, and have faith in your work quality? Or have you noticed that she’s more likely to be skeptical that you’re doing what you’ve agreed to or that your conclusions are the right ones? If the latter, you might need to work on building more trust with your manager. Here are five ways to do it.

1. Do what you say you’re going to do. Being known as someone who follow through on commitments 100% of the time will establish you as someone your boss can trust on. Which relationship would you rather have: one where your boss checks up to make sure that that conversation you had last week hasn’t fallen off your radar, or one where she trusts you implicitly to keep the commitments you talked about?

2. Own up to mistakes. People’s first instinct is often to downplay mistakes (or even worse, hide them), but that’s a fast path to losing your boss’s trust. In fact, the more blunt you are, the better it will usually come across – because it instills confidence in your boss that you’ll give her bad news directly and not try to massage the truth.

3. Don’t guess when you’re unsure. If you’ve ever felt put on the spot by your boss wanting to know some specific piece of information right now, you might have been tempted to guess and hope for the best. Guesses are fine when you’re explicit about the fact that it’s a guess. But guesses presented as fact can have disastrous consequences.

4. Don’t let your own agenda outweigh the company’s point of view. So often, people consider things at work only from their own perspective, without thinking about what makes the most sense for the organization. If you become known as someone who doesn’t let you own agenda bias you when considering things (whether it’s a new idea or a new hire), you’ll build a huge amount of trust with your boss – who won’t have to wonder whether the input you give her is self-serving or not.

5. Tell your boss when things are going well. You might do a great job of keeping your manager in the loop about problems, but do you do an equally good job of updating her on your successes as well? Seeing you pull off victories will build her confidence in you – so make sure she knows when you do. You don’t want to do this in an overly braggy way, of course, but a simple “Hey, I was able to shave 15% off the project budget by reexamining our vendor expenses” or “I got this great note from the client thanking us for our work on the new campaign” is exactly the kind of thing most managers want to know about.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. BRR*

    One thing that has really helped me is always being honest about my workload. There are times when it’s slow and other people on my team will say they’re very busy when they’re not. I ask to help with anything that is pressing and that has earned me brownie points. It also has established that if I say I can’t handle something she trusts that I’m at my limit and someone else needs to do it instead.

  2. Snarkus Ariellius*

    It’s equally important to know when you can never earn your boss’s trust back, regardless of whatever you’ve done or haven’t done.  To be sure, there are some employees that will never earn it back, but if that’s the case the boss has to SAY that, just like in a romantic relationship.

    To act like trusting again is possible, when that trust will never be regained no matter what, is sadistic and cruel.

    Sadly, I got into a pointless, destructive pattern of jumping through all these hoops only to find myself still left out of the boss’s trusted circle for a reason that remains unknown to this day.  I wish I’d figured out sooner that what I wanted wasn’t possible so I didn’t have to waste two years of my life.  

    Now I make a timeline (that I keep to myself) that if my boss doesn’t trust me by X date, I am gone.

  3. so and so*

    My boss is odd about this. He trusts me with vital tasks and confidential work but he’s also a micromanager who likes to have his hands in everything. It leads to an uncomfortable feeling that he trusts me to do my job but doesn’t believe that I’m smart enough to do it right.

    After nearly two years, I’ve learned to let it roll off my back and focus on doing exemplary work rather than worrying about *why* boss seems to think I’m stupid. In a weird way, this actually boosted the self confidence that had been shattered by a previous, abusive manager at a different job. I learned to stand behind my work and not let scrutiny scare me.

  4. Not So NewReader*

    My boss had a string of bad luck with people in my position. Luckily for me, I could see where the actual problem was. When she would ask me about basic stuff, I realized this was not a personal slam. She had just been through too much crap.
    So I made it a point to know what areas she would inquire about and put notes on my work stating the answers to anticipated questions. “Yes, I did x, y and z. The paper work is in this file.”

    I looked around for things to pull off of her. When problems came up, I dropped my own work to fix something that was going poorly for her. And I made it a point to ask her about the whys, the rationale behind her choices/preferences. This made it super easy to anticipate what she would say when I faced a new situation. “I knew you would want that in triplicate, so here’s the additional copies.”

    This worked in my situation because of a number of factors. It’s just the two of us. My boss KNOWS how to teach- she could have been a teacher. We are pretty open with each other- we discuss issues in the moment. And I had the insight to just wait for her to see what kind of work I do.
    This was a case of a truly nice person who had been burned a couple times but sincerely wanted an employee who she could trust.

  5. Steve G*

    I find it interesting that there are only 4 comments on this post, a topic that people should be thinking about, but 500 comments on the post about a fridge during 2 days of Passover…………

  6. Eudora Wealthy*

    Sadly, some people are unable to trust. If you have one of these people supervising you, then you’re SOL.

  7. MisterPickle*

    #1 – “Do what you say you’re going to do” – is critical with me. Oddly enough, it came to me as something of an epiphany while reading Anthony Bourdain’s book _Kitchen Confidential_, where he described the transformation of an employee from “flake” into “a guy who, when he tells you he’s going to do something, goes and does it”. I’m still not perfect at it, but it is the ideal that I strive for. I consider it simply a good principle to live by.
    However, sadly – in my experience it doesn’t guarantee trust from a boss. Some bosses just aren’t open to the idea.

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