Building employee trust is vital for the long-term success of your business. Employees who trust their managers can be confident that the company is moving in the right direction, and they’ll probably be more willing to do whatever’s needed to help managers reach their goals.

Employee trust must first be earned, and then constantly maintained. One misstep can cause you to lose the trust you’ve worked so hard to create, and if you lose employee trust, you’ve thrown away a valuable business asset.

Here are some ways to build and retain trust with your employees:

1. Gather information. Don’t hand down orders from on high. Instead, a prudent business owner asks employees questions – a lot of them – and then is open-minded enough to accept whatever answers they give. “How could we make your job better, more satisfying, safer, simpler? How can we increase day-to-day efficiencies?” These are the people who do the job, and therefore, they are the ones who can help grow the business. There’s no better source of information on in-house business activity than the people doing the work.

2. Always be transparent and always tell the truth. Even if it’s not the truth your employees want to hear, be honest and don’t try to hide the facts. Chances are, they’ll find out eventually, and when they do, you will have lost credibility.

3. Don’t play the blame game. A true leader accepts responsibility for the actions of their staff. If something goes wrong, take one for the team instead of looking for someone to throw under the bus. Criticize softly and in private. Praise good work and extra effort loudly, giving credit where it’s due.

4. Avoid criticizing team members. Problems between managers and employees should be kept between managers and employees. Complaining about people to their co-workers is bad for morale, because they’ll assume that you also criticize them when they’re not around.

5. Play by the same rules. Nothing undermines employee trust more than one set of rules for staff and another set of rules for management. If the staff has to come in on Saturday to finish a big project, you have to be there, too – the first one in and the last one to turn off the lights.

6. ‘Fess up. Don’t pass the buck. Admit when you’ve made a mistake, apologize to employees negatively impacted, and try to avoid making the same mistake in the future. You can’t avoid missteps, but you can apologize when you make them.

7. Treat all employees equally. Sure, you may have a go-to employee, but all employees should receive the same courtesy and respect. Avoid playing favorites to avoid undermining staff morale.

8. Don’t pretend to know something about which you know nothing. If you’re afraid to admit that you don’t know something, the staff will learn soon enough that you’re being dishonest. Then they’ll probably question your knowledge and competency in other areas. It’s better to admit your shortcomings and work to correct them.

9. Recognize the personal needs of employees. Sick days, snow days, the addition of a new family member – build employee trust by being there when your employees need you.

Trust between small business management and employees must be cultivated, but it’s worth the time it takes to increase your team’s loyalty and productivity.