Building Trust In The Workplace

Trust in the workplace is more important than ever as it drains productivity and eventually leads to costly turnover

Many experts agree that trust is perhaps the most important element of a successful workplace. Companies whose employees trust them tend to have a more engaged workforce and a high efficiency work environment. On the flip side, organizations that have lost employee trust are not as successful. It is not uncommon in times of economic distress for trust to be lost with employers, government and our fellow man. This was seen during the depression of the 1930’s and it is being seen again with the current global economic situation. The meltdown on Wall Street has exposed many stories about executive greed, non-ethical behaviors and decisions. Government has made attempts to encourage corporate integrity by passing legislation such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Dennis Reina and Michelle Reina, authors of numerous books on this topic, contend major betrayals in the workplace from corporations grossly mismanaging worker layoffs to CEOs committing crimes and misdemeanors. While these events make headlines, other betrayals such as finger-pointing or taking credit for others’ work erodes trust over time. In addition, their research indicates “90% of employees report they feel the effects of eroded trust daily.” In 2010, Deloitte LLP conducted an Ethics & Workplace survey which showed the following:

    • 30% of American employees plan to look for a job when the economy turns around
    • 48% of the group mentioned above cite a loss of trust in their employer as the reason
    • 65% of Fortune 1000 executives believe trust will be a factor in voluntary employee turnover in the near future

There are many factors that can erode employees trust in their company’s leaders, and the experts agree one of the biggest factors is communication. This includes not being open or honest with employees, especially when there is “bad news,” not sharing information such as why a decision was made, and speaking and/or acting inconsistently. In addition to communication, lack of accountability and abuse of management status are also given by employees as a reason for loss of trust. Organizations that have a low level of trust for management tend to have low productivity rates. D. Keith Denton, Department of Management at Missouri State University, states “that it is essential for companies that wish to survive economic strife to create an atmosphere of trust in these untrusting times.” You may ask at this point what can we do to not only avoid losing trust, but how can we build trust with our employees?

The ability to build and maintain trust in an organization starts at the very top and then must be fostered through the rest of the company. Management must set the example and the standard for all employees to follow. Integrity is crucial to building an environment of trust in any relationship, including those between an organization and its employees on every level. Excellent and open communication also very crucial in the development of trust; employees must know the company’s vision and its plan to achieve the vision. This type of communication includes sharing information (including negative information), which should not be minimized. Employees should be considered and treated as equals in the company to foster a sense of community, and all ideas should also be considered equally. Employers should also be able to empathize with their employees, as it is hard to trust someone who cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Employees also very much appreciate when a company leader can own up to a mistake they have made. Employers that take the time and care to develop trust in their organization will reap the rewards.

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(About the Author: Michele O’Donnell joined the team in January 2007 and currently leads MMC’s elite team of HR Consultants. Ms. O’Donnell has been involved in the Human Resources industry for more than 14 years, bringing vast training and management experience to the MMC leadership ranks. Her experience spans the broad scope of labor law, regulatory compliance and HR Best Practices, drawn from her rich experience as Director of HR for several firms throughout her career. She currently works to ensure that MMC’s consultants forge long lasting relationships with our clients, fostered in exceptional service and unsurpassed HR expertise. Ms. O’Donnell earned her baccalaureate degree in Business Administration from Auburn University before receiving her Masters degree in Human Resource Management from Troy State University.)

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