Workplace TrustWorkplace trust.  Is it hard to believe that only a small percentage of people actually trust their employers? Research as shown that one in three people don’t trust their employer, according to the new Edelman “Trust Barometer”, a survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries about trust in the workplace. The research reveals that trust decreases down an organization’s hierarchy: 64% of executives, 51% of managers, and 48% of rank and file staff say they trust their organizations, and employees say they trust peers more than CEOs when it comes to company information.

Why Not Trust?
So why don’t people trust their employer? We believe that how an employer acts in serious situations such as a termination or layoff, can have a lasting effect on how employees view their leaders and organization and ultimately impacts their trust. The “survivor syndrome” refers to the thoughts and feelings of guilt felt by workers who remain employed after a traumatic event, such as a co-worker losing their job. When employees see their co-workers laid off or let go, it significantly reduces trust in their employers. The damage can be so deep that it’s irreversible in many cases. The survey indicates that employees scored the importance of behaving in ways that are transparent and open (50%) whereas employers actual performance was only (24%). The widest gap is between the importance of treating employees well and the actual performance, with a difference of (27%).

What Employees Really Think
Particularly concerning is our belief that in many cases, leaders don’t see themselves as their employees do and this leads to a continuous workplace trust erosion. If you can’t see your own behaviour as a potential threat to employee trust, then the likelihood of improving in that area is almost nil. Understanding what employees are really thinking and feeling, particularly during difficult times of change, is foundational to moving towards any type of improvement. When a leader can understand various perspectives of employees, regardless of whether they are accurate, they can take the steps necessary to make change. Self knowledge and therefore self management are needed to change one’s own behaviour and make a difference.

Moving the Trust Barometer
The issue of workplace trust is very tightly tied to one of engagement. By continuously tapping into employees’ current state, how they are doing both in soft and hard measures, organizations can create movement in the trust barometer. On the surface, employees may be doing the minimum requirements of their job, but this is not the deep connection needed to create high performance organizations. To create trust, employees want to see behaviours that show you care about the people that work there as well as the community that it serves and impacts.

Communicate Frequently
Study scores also showed a significant gap in communicating frequently and honestly on the state of the organization (46% valued versus 23% employer performance). This tells us that communication continues to be king. Engagement is not a sporadic action that is taken when needed, but again, one that requires consistent and regular discipline. When an organization experiences challenges, they actually need more engagement from their employees not less. Clear, honest communication and engagement need to be an integral part of every organizations’ culture in order to survive the constantly changing and demanding global economy we now live in. In order to build workplace trust, continuously engage people and you’ll tap into a trust level that can withstand almost anything.