The Crisis in Workplace Trust and How You Can Fix It

“As a leader, the question I would ask is ‘how long can I rely on an employee population that doesn’t trust me?’”

Human resources expert China Gorman, CEO of Great Places to Work, asks that important question in her blog, “Where’s the Trust?Workplace Trust Indeed, as another renowned human resources expert, Dave Bowman, writes in a TTG Consultants article, “The Five Best Ways to Build—and Lose—Trust in the Workplace,”

“Many experts agree that trust is perhaps the most important element of a harmonious, synergistic and efficient work environment. Organizations that have trust among employees are usually successful, those that don’t frequently are not.”

And yet, there’s a serious lack of trust in U.S. workplaces overall. Gorman cites the recent American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey:

“Only half of U.S employees believe their employer is open and upfront with them”

In a Psychology Today article, “Trust: The New Workplace Currency,” Nan S. Russell, a workplace expert author of The Titleless Leader and Hitting Your Stride, writes:

“One online survey by [HR firm] StaffBay.com found 87% of participants plan to look for a new job in 2014, with over half claiming the reason was because they ‘didn’t trust their boss.’”

She also notes that, according to the Forum Leadership Pulse Survey, 91% of employees said it’s important to have a boss you can trust. In the APA survey, as Gorman observes,

“Employees reported having greater trust in companies when the organization endeavored to recognize them for their contributions, provide opportunities for involvement, and communicate effectively.”

Trust leads to workplace engagement, and engagement leads to increased productivity and lower absenteeism and turnover. But the APA survey also finds:

  • While 70% of U.S workers report satisfaction with their jobs, just 47% continue to be satisfied with employee recognition practices.
  • Roughly 50% of American employees report average levels of engagement.

So How Can You Build Workplace Trust? Bowman notes that it has to start at the very top.

“ … Trustfulness—and trustworthiness—can exist only if top management sets the example, and then builds that example into every department and unit.”

He lists five effective ways to create a trusting culture at work:

  1. Establish and maintain integrity. From the top down, keep promises and tell the truth to establish and maintain trust.
  2. Communicate vision and values. It ensures everyone understands the organization’s objectives and how to help reach them.
  3. Consider all employees as equal partners. Leaders should get to know employees, interact frequently with them, and ask for their opinions and ideas, so they feel valued and trusted.
  4. Focus on shared, rather than personal goals. It’s called teamwork, and members of effective teams trust each another.
  5. Do what’s right, regardless of personal risk. It fosters respect, which builds trust.

Bowman observes that great leaders of successful organizations, from George Washington, to Gandhi, to Henry Ford, “Built trust among their superiors, peers and subordinates, and it was this that spurred success and greatness for themselves, their units, alliances and companies.” After all, as Gorman asks:

“What levels of discretionary effort and personal development will employees expend who feel physically safe but don’t trust their leaders?”

For more on employee engagement and building a culture of trust at your company, download our FREE Guide to Workplace Gift Giving. Click the image below and start sharing your gratitude today!

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