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Trust & Building Relationships Remotely

Posted by Shauna Moran on
Trust & Building Relationships Remotely

A topic that's discussed frequently when it comes to remote working is trust. Its important organisations understand they need to hire remote employees with a full trust battery. Then, it's up to the remote employee to build upon that trust throughout their career. But, how does an organisation build trust amongst remote team members that have possibly never met in person before? How does a remote manager build a relationship with a new employee when working remotely?

The challenges

Recent studies propose that trust within virtual teams is closely linked to communication.  It's common for virtual teams to experience trust issues or challenges with trust building typically when new employees are hired, or employees first work on a project together.  Trust issues can also be magnified in virtual teams, as lack of personal face-to-face dialogue makes it difficult for personal relationships to be fostered. Lerner, (2008).

It may be no surprise that people build trust easier with those they meet in person, as opposed to trying to create a trusting relationship electronically. When language difficulties and diverse backgrounds are added, it becomes even more challenging to develop and build trust amongst individuals and teams. 

Why is trust so important?

At the core of nearly every model of knowledge dissemination within virtual teams is trust. Trust is what will fundamentally shape the success of your remote team. Without trust, it becomes a micromanagement paradigm, with little employee satisfaction and low productivity.

So, how can you build trust in your remote workforce?

Communication strategies such as empathetic task communication, positive tone, and frequent interaction with acknowledged and detailed responses to enhance trust, builds interpersonal relationships.

At all stages of team relationships trust can be facilitated through communication behaviours such as social communication and scheduling social time. Face-to-face meetings through video calls, where all team members can be seen to build trust and enthusiasm on the team is also valuable and contributes significantly to the early trust building in the team. In person meetings, facilitated in various frequencies amongst teams, was found to be a critical factor in establishing, nurturing and growing relationships amongst remote teams and individuals.

Kelly, Crossman and Cannings (2004) explain that the building of interpersonal and intrapersonal organisational trust and commitment was found to be an essential component in the storming and norming stages of the teams' development.

References:

Lerner, S. (2008). Leadership best practices that enhance the perceived effectiveness of global distributed hybrid teams.

Liz Lee-Kelley, Alf Crossman, Anne Cannings, (2004) "A social interaction approach to managing the “Invisibles” of virtual teams", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 104 Issue: 8, pp.650-657, 

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