Executive Report

Inspiring Trust From Your Employees

One of the most interesting things about trust is that it is reciprocal.  The more others in your organization perceive that you trust them, the more they will trust you.  Here are some ways we recommend you signal more trust to your employees:

  • If you’re not one already, work on becoming a “truster.” You can do this by assuming that employees can be trusted until the time when you have clear evidence that they no longer deserve your trust. This is quite a different perspective from the attitude of those managers who assume that  employees cannot be trusted until they do certain things to earn their trust.
  • Look for opportunities to delegate more responsibility, along with more decision making authority to your employees.
  • Lessen reviews and minimize checking of procedures because they merely allow you to feel comfortable that projects and assignments are being carried out properly.

Effective managers with whom we have worked have learned that they need to demonstrate their trust in employees through their actions; and, the more they do this, the more their employees will regard them as trustworthy.

Managers have the responsibility for building trust within their organizations by “going first” – by not waiting for employees to make the first move. Effective managers let others know what they stand for, what they value, what they want, and what they hope for.  This is not easy to do because it’s risky.  You cannot be certain that your employees will agree with what you stand for, appreciate your values, or buy-into your plans and aspirations.   By demonstrating your willingness to take such risks and being open, you will encourage others to reciprocate.  Until managers take such a risk and thereby take a big step in building interpersonal trust, they’ll find it impossible to get others to take a similar risk.

When is the last time you made a mistake, and surprised your employees with your candor by admitting it?  We hope you have done this recently.  Clearly, this is an essential ingredient for creating a trusting climate within your company. Particularly in today’s times of crises, employees do not trust managers who pretend to be infallible and who try to cover-up their mistakes.  Admitting mistakes and vulnerabilities is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it sends a message to employees that “I’m real, approachable, and trustworthy.”

Trust is an extremely fragile thing.  Think about this  –  it takes a lot of effort to build others’ trust, and so little to lose it.  By far, the quickest way to lose someone’s trust is to make promises, and then fail to stand by them.  The Successful Manager’s Handbook (published by Personnel Decisions Inc.) offers several excellent ways to prevent this from happening:

  • Resist the urge to make empty promises to keep employees off your back or to buy yourself extra time.
  • Avoid making statements that others may misconstrue as being a promise. For example, employees overhearing you say “I’ll try to make your Monday meeting” might believe that you will definitely attend their meeting.  Using clear and unambiguous statements will eliminate this type of confusion.
  • Maintain a list of your promises along with an action plan and due dates. Check off when you have fulfilled each of your promises.
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