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Trust is a Must, But How Do You Earn It

March 16, 2000
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Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Featured Article
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If you want your employees to trust you, you must trust them.

As simple and obvious as that premise may seem, it is violated in workplaces across America every day.

A lack of trust is often reflected in seemingly minor acts, such as locked supply cabinets or a policy requiring a note from a doctor when someone is out sick. Such actions set people up to deceive you.

Recognizing that employees sometimes take sick time when they are not sick, we eliminated sick time at my former company, Database Technologies. Instead, everyone received four weeks of vacation. We told employees: "You're adults. You determine when you will work."

We also gave employees a great deal of autonomy, rather than establishing layers of management to tell them what to do. As Robert Levering once said, "Bureaucracy is a manifestation of distrust." Bureaucracy is a way of checking up on people.

In addition to showing employees that you trust them, you must also gain their trust by telling the truth and keeping your promises. Don't schedule meetings for which you do not plan to show up on time, and avoid canceling or postponing meetings when at all possible. Be careful not to exaggerate, too. For example, don't tell employees revenues grew by 55% when they grew by 45%.

Trust is a two-way proposition. If you want trustworthy employees, you must be a trustworthy employer.

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