It’s a question my clients struggle with often. Can they trust their boss? I mean, really trust their boss.

Successful relationships evolve and revolve around trust. But trusting your boss – fully and completely trusting your boss – can often seem risky. In fact, trusting anyone at work – colleagues, direct reports, your boss’s boss – can seem risky to some people. So what do you do if you’re not sure you can fully trust your boss?

The only way I know to build trust is to first trust – within reason – and then look for reasons and ways to trust some more. You do need trust as the basis of any relationship in order for the relationship to work. You do have to take the chance and believe that your boss has your best interests at heart.

To begin to trust, you have to be smart about what you share and how you share it.

  • There are bosses you can trust enough to share your challenges, weaknesses and development areas. And some you can not. My clients have successfully tested the waters with their bosses by sharing a bit at first and watching their boss’s reaction. For example, you may find that you’re having difficulty managing an employee who is under-performing and you’d like to get advice from your boss on what steps to take, but you don’t want to risk appearing like you are unable to manage. You can make your boss aware of some of the challenges your employee is facing while also offering your ideas and suggestions on how to address the challenges, and then open it up for your boss’s input. And again, take note of what your boss does with your information and disclosure, so that you can work your way to full (or at least fuller) disclosure.
  • It’s important to trust your boss with your career plans and goals, and also take responsibility for making them happen yourself.
  • You also need to learn how your boss dishes out credit and blame. Have you walked into a meeting to hear your boss presenting your idea, while claiming it as her own? Or have you heard from your boss’s boss that your idea was shared…as your idea? Has your boss looked for “someone to blame” when deals have gone sour or projects have fallen behind schedule, or does she share responsibility for what happened…and how to fix it? You want to trust your boss to have your back, and need to quickly realize if that doesn’t seem true.
  • Are you doing all you can to build your boss’s trust in you? Are you doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it? And equally, if not more important, are you telling your boss when things are going sour, before they get too bad? It’s important to make sure your boss doesn’t get any nasty surprises – to give her fair warning if something is potentially going to blow, so that she can prepare. To look back at the earlier example – the employee who is under-performing – you want to make certain your boss hears from you about any deadlines that may be missed, customers who may be affected, fallout that may occur within your company, etc. – rather than from someone else.
  • It’s also important to remember that we get what we focus on and look for, so it’s critical to look for reasons to trust your boss. Go out of our way to catch your boss doing things right, acting in trustworthy ways, and taking actions that make you want to rely on him or her.

Bottom-line – trust is essential for effective relationships and an effective workplace, and it’s your opportunity and responsibility to build and strengthen that trust. Trust is a two-way street. You have to trust your boss (and find ways to trust your boss) and you have to be trustworthy yourself.

Click here to share how you have built trust with your boss.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in building the trust, contact Lisa at

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