July 27, 2016
How many people in the workplace genuinely trust their managers and employers? It’s a question that we should ask because the answer unfortunately is not as many as you might think. It’s almost certainly well below what an organisation supposes or expects. For example, a recent study by strategic communications firm Edelman found that one in three employees don’t trust their employer. Another related study by consultants EY found that the number might well be even lower, with only 46 percent having trust in their organisation, and 49 percent in their line manager and team mates. This situation has been allowed to develop in spite of the fact that trust is one of the most important things we all need in the workplace. Without it we won’t have the environment we need for an effective feedback culture to grow and for people to feel engaged with what they do and for whom they work. So how can you help close the trust gap between employees and managers?
Honesty is the best policy
It may be hard to share difficult news sometimes. We naturally have a tendency to believe that delivering bad news will impact other people’s opinion of ourselves. In fact, a recent article by Forbes addressed a reader’s question about how to deal with a boss who lies to avoid answering difficult questions from employees.
Being honest, even in tough times, is something the most trustworthy leaders learn how to do. Whether your company hasn’t met its goals and is unable to award bonuses this year, or you’ve decided to let go of a member of your team. Rather than putting off the difficult talk, employees will respect a manager who is able to openly explain the situation, take questions and give them the facts.
While being transparent about bad news is difficult, admitting when it’s you who’s made a mistake can be even more difficult. You may however be surprised to find that employees will like you more for it. Admitting mistakes actually makes you more human and thereby more likeable to others. Psychologists call this the Pratfall effect. Being able to admit to and take responsibility for your mistakes is a major part of being a great leader.
Treat employees like people, not numbers
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. If your job is based on meeting certain performance metrics, managers can often get in the habit of seeing their employees in terms of output achieved.
Managers don’t have to be their employee’s best friend, but they should be conscious of maintaining a healthy work environment. Managers who encourage extreme competition between peers and late hours are going to end up creating a toxic work culture in which employees don’t trust their manager or each other.
You don’t have to know all the details of your employees’ personal lives, but managers should have a good understanding of what their employees enjoy about their job most. If you’re able to pick up on what your employee’s need to do their best, they’ll go the extra mile for you.
Give credit to your employees
As the team leader, you will often receive recognition from your peers and upper management for your team’s efforts. Make sure you share appreciation and acknowledge your team members for their hard work. A recent study by Globoforce showed that employees who received recognition from their leaders recently were significantly more likely to trust them (82 percent vs 48 percent).
Put yourself on the line for your team
To gain trust, managers must be their team’s best advocate. While inwardly you may have constructive feedback for your team about the way they approached an assignment, outwardly you must be willing to praise, advocate and take responsibility for your team’s actions. When team members make a mistake it may seem common sense to distance one’s self. This may maintain your reputation, but it won’t win you your team’s trust. This is a difficult balance that each manager will have to maintain on their own, but having a team that is highly committed to you will help you achieve the results you want in the long run.
Teach your managers how to overcome bias
It’s not that managers are inherently biased, as people we have a natural tendency to make assumptions about others. This can result in managers unintentionally favouring some employees over others, known by psychologists as the ‘rater bias’. Unconscious bias contributes to a major loss in trust between managers and employees, especially when it affects performance reviews. Help managers learn how to identify and avoid bias in the workplace.
Make yourself vulnerable. Ask for feedback.
Trust isn’t the magic key to workplace bliss. Issues will always arise at work, but closing the trust gap means employees will be more likely to really take on and reflect on feedback from their managers and be more honest when they give upward feedback. As more and more employees are publicising their complaints about their employer on Glassdoor, you want a workforce that feels free and comfortable to express concerns before they boil over onto the internet.
But to gain this type of trust, managers must first demonstrate they’re willing to open themselves up to criticism. If they truly start to put themselves out there and ask for employee feedback, their reports will recognize this and start to follow their example.
Matias Rodsevich works for Impraise. Based in NYC and Amsterdam, Impraise has over 120 clients including Booking.com, Attlassian, Flipboard, and others.