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How Do We Rebuild Trust Between Employers and Managers?

We have a department that has gone through many changes and managers during the past five years. The level of trust in the department from employees to managers is at an all-time low. This has led to miscommunication, lower productivity and workers' compensation issues. How do we open up the lines of communication and clear the air? —Choking on Mistrust, human resources manager, hospitality, Honolulu
June 5, 2012
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Related Topics: Employee Communication, Motivating Employees, Management Skills and Development, Dear Workforce
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Dear Choking:

The process won't be easy, but there are five basic steps to address these issues:

  1. Establish a vision of where you would like to be.
  2. Identify the key factors that have contributed to the environment.
  3. Commit to taking the steps to achieving your vision.
  4. Develop a plan to eliminate the identified problems.
  5. Continuously revisit the issues and seek additional improvements.

Establish a vision of where you would like to be.

You know where you are, so your vision should be close to a reverse of your current environment—a workplace that is open, honest, free of conflict and mistrust, and injury-free.

Identify the key factors that have contributed to the environment.

This can be accomplished either through employee focus groups or employee opinion surveys. The important thing is to understand how your organization is perceived by its workforce. Since trust is an issue, you will be unable to gather this information using your staff. Seek an outside third party to properly conduct and facilitate the process. Plan carefully before conducting the focus groups/surveys. This establishes realistic expectations among your employees on any action to be taken after the surveys. Be prepared to learn, or confirm, that many of your problems can be traced to actions by management (and/or employee perceptions of management).

Commit to taking the steps to achieving your vision.

Once you obtain data from your employees, move to address the issues and conduct follow-up surveys to measure your progress. Otherwise, your environment will deteriorate further.

Develop a plan to eliminate the identified problems.

Prioritize issues by degree of urgency and their effect on employees and the workplace. Also, make a list of any issues that will not be addressed and communicate the reasons to employees. Relying on the involvement of employees, develop specific plans to address safety and workers' compensation issues. Develop a process to review and investigate accidents, injuries and near misses. Tell employees about the resulting causes and actions you will take to address these issues.

Continuously revisit the issues and seek additional improvements.

Employers commonly make the mistake of failing to communicate their progress. It is easy to mistakenly believe that all your actions are noticed, remembered by employees and attributed to the survey and focus groups. Develop and publish a scorecard that keeps employees informed—this is a key element and demonstrates your commitment to open communications. Remember that your current situation did not occur overnight, nor will it be repaired overnight. It will take time and a concerted effort to change the culture of your workplace environment.

SOURCE: Lonnie Harvey Jr., SPHR, president of The JESCLON Group Inc., Rock Hill, South Carolina

LEARN MORE: Leaders need to be schooled on trust to be able to spot and address employee discontent.

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.

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 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.

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