Kaya Consulting

Understanding your team’s predisposition to trust and its impact on performance.

Understanding your team’s predisposition to trust and its impact on performance.

Improving workplace trust and, by extension, organisational effectiveness is an ongoing journey. Everyone you work with, every team member you’re responsible for, is on a trust journey, whether they’re aware of it or not. But like all journeys, you need to understand where someone has come from – their natural predisposition to trust – before you can help them and your team progress.

The journey to the Trust Block

In our previous article about nurturing trust in the workplace as a way of improving organisational effectiveness, we looked at the importance of trust in improving the performance, morale and effectiveness of teams and organisations. We discussed using the Trust Grid as a means of assessing team members’ technical capability and benevolence (or their commitment), and then providing the training and support they need to reach the Trust Block.

Trust Model

On the Trust Grid, the Trust Block is the area that denotes high capability and high levels of benevolence or emotional commitment. It’s where, as a leader, you trust a member of your team to not only do their job, but also the right thing by the team. The more people you have in the Trust Block, the better the team feels and performs, with everyone pulling in the same direction.

Where the trust journey starts

Before you can help members of your team travel along the capability and benevolence curves to the Trust Block, you first have to know where they currently sit in the Trust Grid. To some degree, this will be dictated by their predisposition to trust.

Some individuals are naturally inclined to trust people. Others are more sceptical by nature. Some people who are predisposed to trust will have been let down during their working lives, which will impact on subsequent relationships and teams. Other, more sceptical individuals will have gained experience and gathered proof that trust is beneficial, yet still have an inherent resistance to it.

Understanding all of these nuances within individuals is an important part of nurturing trust and improving the effectiveness of teams.

Understanding and affecting an individual’s disposition to trust

Below, you’ll find some of the factors that can influence how people think and feel about trust, along with some suggestions to address and improve an individual’s disposition:

    • Risk tolerance: Like trust, the perception and tolerance of risk differs from person to person. However, the risk-trust relationship is an inverse one – as risk increases, trust decreases – so people who are inclined to perceive greater risk are less likely to trust others.
      How you can help as a manager or leader: If somebody in your team displays a low tolerance for risk, you can help by providing information that clarifies risks or by providing a safety net to mitigate the perceived effects of the risk.


    • Negative emotions. If someone is inclined to view the world as threatening, then they are also more likely to be mistrustful.
      How you can help as a manager or leader: For team members who appear to lack self-esteem, you can implement measures to actively build self-confidence and create environments where individuals feel less threatened.


  • Power: This refers to our ability to produce an effect over something or someone. The more someone feels that outcomes are under their control (i.e. greater power), the less likely they are to be anxious, and so they are more likely to trust.
    How you can help as a manager or leader: For people in your team who seek power, you can reduce their anxiety and thereby improve their propensity to trust by increasing their scope to influence outcomes.


To find out more about the importance of nurturing trust in the workplace and the correlation between trust and organisational effectiveness, read our previous article on using the Trust Grid. Alternatively, read our recent article about strategies for developing trust with leaders.

Jan Sipsma is an organisational psychologist and founding partner of Kaya. With over 20 years of international experience as an organisational effectiveness consultant, he specialises in strategic planning, organisational architecture and design, change management, capability and performance enhancement and the identification and development of leadership. He has a Masters of Commerce (Industrial Psychology) cum laude and is a registered member of the Australian Psychological Society.