Yesterday I referred to the survey from Gallup that shows only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, 63% are not engaged or lack motivation and 24% describe themselves as “actively disengaged”. So is trust, or the scarcity of it, part of this problem?
Why Would a Manager Not Trust an Employee?
A lot of time is spent hiring an employee, looking at their background and accomplishments. If a manager did not trust a candidate we would expect that person would not be hired. So unless an employee has done something to break that trust, or has not been truthful in hiring, there should be no reason not to trust that employee.
In cases where job requirements and expectations are well laid out and understood by both, then the manager may have a concern if the employee is not delivering up to that expectation. This is a matter of performance, yet managers may say they don't 'trust' the employee to meet expectations. If that is the case, the employee should be on a performance management plan to bring them up to the required level, or let go.
But what about when an employee asks for more responsibility and is told they have to spend time developing trust? This is an all too common occurrence. Either the employee is not considered capable of the new tasks yet - and so should be told clearly - or they are. Trust has nothing to do with it and this usually means the manager is using it as an excuse for not giving the real reason - or worse there is no real reason.
The Common Causes
The most common causes of lack of trust between a manager and employee are all avoidable, though not always easily avoidable.
The first is to do with whether actions of the manager meet what was said. Too often employees are seeing managers behave in a way that they would not be allowed to, or that pronouncements about culture, mission or vision are not met by appropriate actions on a day-to-day basis. "Do what I say, not what I do" erodes trust faster than a surge tide on a sandy beach.
The second is what is now called 'spin' on communications. Always showing the 'bright' side of a situation, no matter how bad it is wears thin quickly. No employee wants to hear about layoffs for example, but when told honestly why and when, people can deal with it. The biggest problem is not with the people that had to leave, but the ones who stayed after hearing the same messages.
What Leaders Do
There are measures that we can all take to ensure trust is at the highest level possible and they are all attributes of strong leadership.
- set clear directions and test that all employees have understood the goals
- set clear expectations on how to work towards achieving the goals, and state what behaviour is not acceptable
- model the behaviour you want employees to demonstrate
- give realistic, sound reasoning for your own decisions
- give realistic, and honest views on decisions you must implement but have little control over
- if it's not possible to give more responsibility, say so and why
- keep in contact with each employee to the extent each needs to ensure they feel a valued and trusted member of the team
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