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Is Management Trust Dead?

Updated on June 18, 2013

Ten Tips to Win Back Employee Trust

Numerous studies have found that employees don't necessarily leave their job, they leave their manager. Trust is an essential part of the manager/subordinate relationship, and once broken, it's difficult to reestablish.

If a lack of trust between management and staff runs rampant within your organization, here are some ideas for you to implement. If your company is already a fantastic place to work because of the trust that exists, use this list as a reminder to continue doing what you're already doing well.

Here are 10 Ways to create a culture of trust within an organization:

1. Be clear regarding what you expect from your staff. Work with your employee to craft an accurate job description for their position. Not only does this benefit the employee by having a clear picture of his or her position within the organization, it makes it easier for a new employee to get up and running in that same position. When staff members clearly understand what they are supposed to do, they trust their managers who empower them to get their job done.

According to Human Resources Guide, Susan Heathfield, an organization accomplishes performance expectations in three key ways: showing constancy of purpose in supporting employees to reach their goals; emphasizing leadership priorities; and establishing a clear-cut reward and recognition system.

2. Establish and maintain your integrity. When you say you're going to do something, do it. If it turns out that for whatever reason you're not able to do it, what your staff members know, and let them know the reasons why. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Always say what you mean and mean what you say. By creating a safe environment for honest feedback, you will always know what’s going on in the organization.

When a staff member sees management acting out of integrity, no matter what the situation, that employee starts to lose respect for that person and the company as a whole. He or she then begins to question how management actions may be adversely affecting them, and they no longer put their full trust in their leaders.

3. Treat employees as if they are number one. (Because they are.) Although it's been said that the customer is number one, this is not the case. The employee that serves that customer is the first and most salient connection that your customer has with your organization. When your employees feel that they play a pivotal role in your organization, and they are treated as such, they will take better care of your customers leading to more profits for your shareholders.

Scott Valentine, President of TQM Quest summed it up nicely by saying, “For companies that can develop a positive interpersonal environment, the benefits to customer service, productivity and quality improvements are clear. However, none of this is possible until managers realize that employees are number one.”

4. Share your mission and values. Better yet, if you have not already crafted your mission statement or it needs some updating, get input from your staff as to how they see your organization. This accomplishes two things: number one: employees feel part of the process, and number two: because they feel included there's a better chance for buy-in. This promotes transparency and builds trust.

Make sure you include all levels of the organization in developing your mission and values statements. By getting viewpoints from different departments, you will have a well-rounded mission statement that will be specific to your company.

5. Don’t be afraid to let go. If a member of the management team is consistently having issues with his or her team members, and the situation cannot be rectified, make the decision to either find another position for that manager within the organization or let them go. Do not tolerate rude behavior from your management team.

Although the lyrics to the Jackson Five song say, “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch,” this is NOT true when it comes to a destructive employee or an unethical manager. One rotten apple CAN bring down the organization. Let trouble go before permanent damage has been done.

6. Know “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Treat employees as individuals. Some of your staff members may need a little more hand–holding. Other employees work better when left to their own devices. The employees that need you will trust that you're there for them, and the employees that work better on their own, will feel trusted as you empower them to do what they need to do.

Timothy Sharp, PhD, of the Happiness Institute (1) has found that employees are happier when their employers “focus more on identifying and maximizing strengths, as opposed to just fixing weaknesses. This helps create a more positive organizational culture, in part because employees like to see their skills recognized and used.” Get to know your staff’s individual strengths and they will trust that you are utilizing their skills to their fullest potential.

7. Establish an environment of respect. Everyone within the organization brings different talents, skills, and abilities with them. You may not understand or even necessarily like everyone that you work with, but it's essential to treat everyone with respect. Be polite.

Here’s an interesting quote from Dalcher Keltner, of The Greater Good Science Center on respect (2), “Time and time again, empirical studies find that leaders who treat their subordinates with respect, share power, and generate a sense of camaraderie and trust are considered more just and fair.”

8. Treat employees as equal partners. Give them the tasks that they are supposed to accomplish, and let them figure out the best way to get their job done. Chances are, because they are the ones doing their job every day, they will find more effective ways to get it done.

This includes being transparent in your communications with team members. If distressing news is on the horizon, (layoffs, cutbacks, etc.) share as much as you can, as soon as you can with your staff. It's better to inform your employees as to what is actually happening instead of leaving it up to the company grapevine to fill in the blanks.

9. Do the right thing, always. If you have to spend a little bit more time or a little bit more money in keeping a promise or doing the right thing, it's a small investment compared to what you would be spending in decreased engagement, lower retention, and reduced performance.

Steven Covey talked about “principle-based leaders” who have the courage and integrity to do the right thing, even if it is unpopular at the time. This positive "trickle-down effect" proceeds to permeate the rest of the organization.

10. Say "Thank You." When your staff members are working hard, make sure that they know that you appreciate their efforts. It takes very little time and absolutely no money to express gratitude. You will have happier, more productive employees who trust that you have their best interests at heart because you take the time to acknowledge them.

There are countless studies on the power of gratitude in the workplace. One reason that employees leave is because they do not feel appreciated. Verbal appreciation always works when it is sincere and expressed immediately after the event. If you genuinely want to kick it up a notch, put your appreciation in writing and create a document that your employee will treasure.

Trust takes a long time to establish, and only a couple seconds to decimate. Lost trust may never be found again, and you may lose valuable employees when they no longer trust you.

By following these ten recommendations, you will see the difference in performance, attitude, and over time, profits.

(1) "Five Steps to Happiness at Work | Greater Good." Web. 16 Jan. 2013

(2) The Power Paradox | Greater Good. Retrieved from


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