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How Leaders Can Establish a Trusting and Compassionate Workplace


As a young professional, I used to deliver to senior leaders annual presentations about my focus and goals for each upcoming year. During one particular presentation season, I worked in a location where the majority of my customers spoke Spanish, so it was important to me to represent their needs. As a way to accomplish this goal, I switched from speaking English to presenting in Spanish midway through the presentation. I hoped by doing this I’d spark some level of interest in supporting our community in a new way. To my surprise, one of the leaders present at the meeting found value in what I had to offer and sought me out to join their contact center team.

While learning the ropes and finding my footing in the contact center industry, I would often openly share with my new manager my excitement and fears. She was affirming and supportive, and I appreciated this.

When I became a contact center leader, I committed to establishing the same trusting and compassionate workplace for my employees that I’d experienced. Building trust involves more than simply saying I’m trustworthy. I must also live up to my word to lay the foundation that I am a trustworthy leader.

To do this, I follow a few simple, but not always easy, steps:

Be willing to be open and share my experiences with my team.

Acknowledge when I am not at my best and be forthcoming when I share about the department or organization. Sometimes that means I visit with my teammates about my family or pets and sometimes it means I share some of my personal or professional aspirations with my teammates.

Be interested in learning about what is important to my people.

I express eagerness to learn about what my teammates are willing to share with me. Since we spend more waking time at work than we spend anywhere else, it makes sense to me that helping people feel a little more like themselves as complete human beings and not simply “worker bees” is essential to creating the working environment I strive to provide.

Be okay with failing forward.

I may fail when first attempting to establish rapport and build a trusting relationship. The important part is to identify when I fall short and own up to my mistakes. Self-reflection and accountability are essential in identifying behaviors and improving relationships.

Be as transparent as I can be.

It’s important to be open with my teammates whenever possible, especially when they are affected by a change. There are times as leaders we must maintain confidentiality of company information until the proper time to communicate it. However, I’ve found my teammates have more peace of mind and feel part of the process when I keep them informed. If we don’t share what we can about the direction our organization is headed, our teammates will create their own narratives and rumors may begin to percolate throughout the department.

Respect boundaries.

Each person on my team comes to our organization with expectations based on their previous work experience. It’s essential to respect boundaries they’ve established along the way for their personal work space. Everyone should feel safe and have a reasonable expectation of respect and privacy for their workstations and belongings they leave here.

Genuinely caring about our teams and their wellbeing both inside and outside of work is the best way to lead with compassion and build lasting, trusting relationships. I experienced a recent trust win at a work function when one of my employees went out of their way after the event to take me to meet their partner, who worked nearby. I knew that by doing this my teammate trusted me enough to share a piece of themselves with me. Each trust win is a positive interaction that builds upon the previous one, reinforcing the foundation and strengthening the relationship.