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Management: Gaining Employees’ Trust
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Management: Gaining Employees’ Trust - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Gaining Employees’ Trust

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Gaining Employees’ Trust

It goes without saying that in the employer-employee relationship, a certain amount of trust is absolutely critical. At the very least, employees trust that they’ll be paid within two weeks for work they’re doing now, while employers trust that employees aren’t out to wreck the company. But for all parties to thrive, trust needs to go well beyond that, as in any healthy relationship. We trust each other to communicate honestly. Each trusts the other that we have each other’s best interests at heart. We trust one another to make good decisions.

Yet 2016’s Edelman Trust Barometer included in its global report that there is a divide in employee trust. According to the marketing firm’s study, nearly a third of employees say they don’t trust their employer, and those employees are less likely to say positive things about the companies they work for. This is important because when people outside our companies want to know how things are going in the company, they trust employees more than they trust employers.

In 2014, the American Psychological Association reported that nearly one in four employees didn’t trust their employers, and of course it’s a different study with a different methodology, but perhaps a casual, unscientific conclusion could be posited that the trust gap is widening. Either way, nobody needs convincing that this is an unhealthy state of the workplace. So what can employers do to close the gap?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that gaining employees’ trust begins with trusting employees. Employees who are less trusted perform better, and of course employees who perform poorly are less trusted. Thus it’s the burden of management to trust their people, who then exert more effort and go beyond their role expectations.

According to HBR, trust in managers is eroded by their not communicating trust even when they have it, by minimizing risk and taking away from employees the opportunity to mess up (usually in some form of micromanagement or hyper-supervision), and by focusing on the bottom line, rather than the long game and the people who will be involved.

Among other strategies, the writers suggest a careful giving up of control, sharing information (this one can’t be stressed enough), and investing in employee development. An old wisdom says that people have to earn trust, but the practical truth is that nobody becomes trustworthy until he or she is first trusted. Perhaps a smaller-risk trusting is employed first, but that trust has to be there, so the giving up of control can go a long way toward making employees better at delivering on that trust. They may ask for less control, because it means less personal risk, but then they’re putting a cap on how good they can be at their work.

This implies that employers must create workplaces where it’s okay to make mistakes, which of course leads to more employee trust.

Reference links:
American Psychiatric Association: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/04/employee-distrust.aspx
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2017/07/want-your-employees-to-trust-you-show-you-trust-them
Edelman: http://www.edelman.com/news/edelman-trust-data-reveals-employee-trust-divide/


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Management: Gaining Employees’ Trust - Executive Leadership Articles

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