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Many Employees Believe Their Senior Leaders Are Uninterested and Secretive

November 10, 2004
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Employees don’t feel that their company’s leaders are communicating well with them, according to a new study of about 25,000 workers.

Only 42 percent of employees feel that their senior leadership demonstrates a "sincere interest" in their well-being, and just 51 percent say their companies are open and honest. Towers Perrin worked with a consortium of 17 large North American organizations to conduct the study.

Katherine Woodall, a Washington, D.C.-based principal at Towers Perrin, says that most companies intend to be open and honest, but that "economic pressures" may have distracted companies and caused them to cut back in recent years on the amount of information they share. It’s unfortunate, she says, because "WorldCom, Enron and other events have increased the level of apprehension or distrust on employees’ part. There’s more need for openness and honesty."

Some companies do realize this need, she says. American Express, for example, scored well on survey questions that measured executives’ ability to link what’s going on in the marketplace to how it affects employees. When a competitor comes out with a new credit card offer, for example, Amex makes sure its employees know the kinds of questions customers may ask about the offer, as well as how to answer them.

Woodall says other companies that scored well on various parts of the survey were Progress Energy, which received high marks for having supervisors who effectively communicate with employees, and Liberty Mutual, which has effectively educated its employees about its products.

"The organizations perceived as open and honest are very good about telling bad news as well as good news," she says. "To the extent that organizations are forthcoming about sharing information with employees even when it’s not great news, that really increases the level of trust."

For more information: An employee-satisfaction survey is available online, as is information on ethics.

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