RSS icon

Top Stories


Dear Workforce How Can Organizations Engender Employee Trust

Trust is developed between people, not organizations.
April 28, 2002
Related Topics: Dear Workforce

A Dear Want to be Trustworthy:

Organizations cannot earn, develop, or retain employee trust; only peoplecan.

Trust is an inherently interpersonal experience; while organizations candefine policies and practices that promote trust, ultimately it’s thecumulative behavior of individuals -- especially leaders -- that determines thelevel of trust in an organization. In many ways, trust means confidence:confidence that others’ actions are consistent with their words, that peopleare concerned about your welfare, and that you are valued and respected.

I’ve seen trust described as "the emotional glue that binds associates tothe organization." What is it that strengthens or weakens this bond? In 1999,Development Dimensions International (DDI) conducted a survey of trust in theworkplace. The results showed that senior management had the biggest influenceon "organizational trust" and they were the least-trusted group (comparedwith front-line leaders, peers, and other teams). The survey also showed whichbehaviors were associated with trusted leadership:

  • Consistent behavior
  • Dependability/reliability
  • Support during risk taking
  • Keeping direct reports’ best interest in mind

Few leaders deliberately act in an untrustworthy manner. Usually leaders dothings that reduce trust unintentionally and even unconsciously. Bob Rogers,president of DDI, notes that it’s importantfor senior leaders to place a high value on trust and address five crucial areasthat have a direct impact on the level of trust in an organization:

  • People find it easier to place their trust in an organization that has aclear vision that represents an attainable "stretch" goal and emphasizes theimportance of individual contributions. This gives people a high degree of trustthat their organization is headed in the right direction, which will benefitthem.

  • Trust occurs when organizational values are exhibited and followed bysenior leaders. This provides a benchmark for all employees and leads to a senseof consistency, dependability, and reliability regardless of economic,environmental, or organizational changes.

  • Few subjects create as much controversy or distrust as compensation.Senior leaders need to manage their organizations’ compensation systems,especially executive compensation, to ensure fairness and consistency.

  • The work environment plays a significant role in peoples’ perceptions ofhow much top-level management really cares about them. Work environment meansmore than physical surroundings. For example, all employees should be able totrust senior management to create an environment free of discrimination andharassment.

  • Some of the most scrutinized decisions senior leaders make involve personnel decisions, such as hiring, firing, appraising, and promoting. If anorganization is to build trust, such decisions must be based on factual,objective data.

Building and maintaining a high trust environment takes dedication andcommitment. Assuming trust will just happen is one of the biggest traps in whichleaders can get caught.

SOURCE: Jim Concelman, Leadership Development Product Manager, DevelopmentDimensions International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jan. 10, 2002.

LEARN MORE: See, "AClear Vision Will Help Attract, Motivate and Retain Employees"

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Aska Question

DearWorkforce Newsletter


 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

If you have any questions or concerns about, please email or call 312-676-9900.

The Workforce fax number is 312-676-9901.

Sign up for Dear Workforce e-newsletters!

Comments powered by Disqus