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Trust: an integral part in the employment relationship

To ensure that your company functions well and meets its objectives, you need to trust all the members of the various divisions in your organisation. However, when that trust is broken, the running of the company is fundamentally damaged. Trust is a mutual relationship so for you to trust your employees they've got to trust you enough to give their best for the organisation. So how can you make sure that your employees trust you?

"Trust" is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of English as the "firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something." So, in other words, if you trust your employees and they trust you, you have a firm belief that they will be reliable and truthful, and that they will be able to do their jobs. If this doesn't exist, a team can't function as there's no 'firm belief' that they will have one another's backs and will deliver as promised.

What happens when trust is lost in organisations?

The home services division, which is a division of DIRECTV in the United States, struggled with a number of issues, which resulted from a lack of trust among the employees and employers:

  • Very low levels of employee engagement,
  • Extremely high turnover of technicians,
  • Flat productivity levels, and
  • Highly stressful work environments.

Carlos Botero, VP of HR at the company, painted an ideal picture of what he wanted their employees to look like: "We want our people feeling levels of pride that blow away the competition. There is a simple construct that says that a customer will like a product or company more than an employee does."

How do you get trust back into your organisation?

There are a number of ways that you can get your employees to trust you. Here are the ones that I've found to be the most effective.

1. Be open and transparent

I think one of the most effective ways to get your employees to trust you is to be open and transparent with them. When you tell your staff members what you think they should hear, they will be able to pick up that you're not telling them the whole story. "If there is a void of information, employees will fill it and they will always fill it with negative information," Jim Dougherty - senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and veteran software CEO – was quoted as saying in an article on the HBR Blog Network.

2. Connect with your employees on a human level

In a company that I worked in a number of years ago, I was a member of a small team of four people. When I started, my manager instituted a tradition of going for team drinks once a month. We didn't become the best of friends, however we became closer as a team and it actually improved how we communicated with each other. In addition to this, a spin-off of these monthly outings was that I got to know my manager on a personal basis and as a result, I trusted him. Thus, when he asked me to do something, I trusted him enough to give him my best.

3. Earn your employees' respect

David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and the author of The Truth About Trust, says that employees don't trust their managers because as a person climbs the corporate ladder, they are perceived as less trustworthy. "As a person's power increases, their perceived trustworthiness goes down," DeSteno is quoted as saying in an article on the HRB Blog Network. I've found that the best way to overcome this is to keep your hand in the work that your employees perform on a daily basis. They will respect you for "getting your hands dirty" and not merely ordering them around from a lofty perch.