When a manager tells an employee they need to build trust between them it can be hugely demoralising for that employee unless fully explained. Manager-employee trust is a foundational aspect of a good relationship, and of course trust is a two-way street.

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
Leadership requires us to make tough choices from time to time, but compromising the truth with spin or excuses loses the essential and valuable trust that takes years to rebuild.

For a FREE copy of our '100 Inspirations' document with excellent leadership quotes and suggestions on how to use them effectively in development, click
Published in Thought Leadership
Monday, 29 June 2015 09:01

Why Staff Disengage At Work

If you have been wondering how important (and absent) leadership is at work, then this will shed light on some of the key issues.

A survey from Gallup has shown that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. It also revealed that of the remaining employees worldwide, the majority, 63% are not engaged or lack motivation, while 24% describe themselves as “actively disengaged”.

Why do Employees become Disengaged?
There are of course many reasons behind the high levels of employee disengagement; sometimes it comes from the way the organisation is managed, and sometimes from the employees themselves. The main reasons listed for disengagement among employees include problems with their employers or other workers, stress factors outside of work and depression or anxiety, created either at work or outside.

In terms of management and the top three causes, employees report most often that they disengage because they don’t consider that their efforts are rewarded adequately or they might begin to think that their job is a waste of their talents, and their efforts could be better rewarded somewhere else; secondly they just feel overwhelmed by the workload and thirdly, the role within the company does not offer them enough of challenge.

Some of the potential remedies employees seek are that employers take the effort to listen to them, leaving them more motivated to perform, and for managers to trust them more.

The Cost of Disengagement
Disengaged employees are costly to organisations for many reasons. First of all, high levels of disengagement will affect productivity, and the survey conducted by Gallup shows disengaged employees are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.

Moreover, disengagement among employees is thought to cost the workplace billions every year. Low morale among workers means they are likely to take more time off work, and they may be less effective at dealing with customers or clients, which can also prove costly.

Motivating Employees
There are measures that we can all take to motivate employees and re-engage them, though this requires leadership.
  • create an environment where employees feel they are getting adequate support at work and that if not, they can come to you about it
  • if employees are overwhelmed by the sheer workload, they should be able to talk to you about it, after all it may just be a case of refocusing the individual on what's important and what isn't
  • create an environment where staff feel they are listened to; being able to share their ideas, even if you have to explain that an idea may not be possible, is still motivating because you have shown that sharing their idea had value in itself
  • recognise extra effort so the employees feel their hard work has been worthwhile; many companies have incentive programmes for this, but often it is just being recognised that is really needed
  • eliminate incentives where team members have to compete against each other to give their best performance, as this is an extremely effective way of demotivating employees
  • identify possible ways to alleviate the effects of their concerns outside of work and where possible, make temporary adjustments
Leadership requires us to maintain the engagement of our employees, through setting a clear vision, maintaining focus on what's important and listening to them when they have ideas to improve. It is also having empathy with them when they have issues outside of work.

For a FREE copy of our '100 Inspirations' document with excellent leadership quotes and suggestions on how to use them effectively in development, click
Published in Thought Leadership