Building trust in the workplace takes work, but the rewards can be great. Human resource managers who are trusted by their employees and coworkers often see greater productivity and improved morale; plus, they have a team that works together more effectively. And, trusted business leaders tend to attract the best talent.
Employees who do not trust leadership feel insecure in their jobs and often spend more energy on self-preservation than working. Even when they are doing their jobs, they seldom go beyond the minimum. Despite the importance of building trust, many leaders struggle to achieve it. This is reflected in the results of an Ernst & Young survey that showed fewer than half of respondents — adults employed full time at a variety of companies — as having a “great deal of trust” in their employer.
What Works, What Doesn’t
Among those surveyed, according to Ernst & Young, “The top five factors leading to respondents’ lack of trust in their employers were: unfair employee compensation, unequal opportunity for pay and promotion, lack of leadership, high employee turnover, and a work environment not conducive to collaboration.”
Factors deemed very important by a majority of respondents were leadership that delivers on promises (67%), provides job security (64%), provides fair compensation and good benefits (63%), and communicates openly and transparently (59%).
An HR Trend Institute article points to results of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, which reflects higher levels of trust of employers. Of the employees surveyed, 72% said they trust employers to do what is right.
Traits of Trusted Leaders
An article in Psychology Today notes that effective leaders who understand the importance of building genuine trust possess certain personality traits. First, they are good at what they do. Competency in their jobs is one of the tests for believability. And trusted leaders tend to be passionate about their work. That doesn’t mean fake enthusiasm; it means they pay attention to their words and actions, operate with integrity, and don’t make promises they can’t keep.
Additional traits of trusted leaders include:
- They care about people.They’re considerate and tend to see people as individuals rather than lumping them into groups.
- They want the best for their employees and bring out the best in others. These leaders provide challenges and opportunities to help their employees advance.
- They listen so they can learn. They withhold judgment and engage in real dialogue.
- Trusted leaders have perspective. They don’t get frantic when a workplace crisis occurs. They step back and evaluate. Trusted leaders put setbacks in context and understand that things don’t always turn out the way they want.
- They manage direction and work, not people. They do not dictate details but instead set a direction for the team. Effective, trusted leaders make it easier for their staff to do their jobs.
- Trusted leaders acknowledge the efforts and contributions of the people they oversee.
- Their vision extends beyond themselves to their team and employees. Those leaders don’t focus on things like their promotions, bonuses or achievements. They let others know that their work matters.
The ability to inspire and motivate is founded on trust. It is difficult to achieve any level of success in the workplace without it.