Trust Builds Great Employees

The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and those they lead is trust, and trust is based on integrity.

When employees do not trust managers and leaders, various forms of organizational fallout are likely, including low engagement (people seem like they don’t care), high turnover and reduced innovation (no creative solutions or ideas).  Rebuilding trust isn’t easy, just as with customers who lose trust.  If employees don’t trust their boss or their boss’ boss, they begin to question how they fit in with the company and will have less pride in the organization overall.

Individuals can enjoy their work and have a strong sense of accomplishment, but Trust has to be present for employees to do go beyond the call of duty, to be innovative.  The more groundbreaking the innovation needed, the more trust must be present. Trust is built over time as people get to know each other.  Employees must trust that their co-workers and direct supervisors are competent (head trust) and will do the employee no harm (heart trust).

A single triggering event, such as a restructuring or other organizational change, can reduce the level of trust employees have in leaders.  As can other single events, such as a manager who takes credit for an employee’s work or lies to them.

Most of the time, trust erodes as a result of small subtle patterns of behavior that employees experience on a daily basis that go unaddressed. For example, working with peers who fail to prepare for a meeting, are slow to respond to e-mail or who gossip regularly. While they don’t get addressed, they don’t go unnoticed.  The result of such unaddressed behavior is that employees leave the company or, worse yet, they stay. They become the working wounded – they stay, they complain, they do as little as possible, eventually bringing others down with them.

The Reina Trust and Betrayal Model describes three main types of transactional trust:

  • Contractual trust—trust of character. Do people do what they say they are going to do? Do managers and employees make clear what they expect of one another?
  • Communication trust—trust of disclosure. How well people share information and tell the truth.
  • Competence trust—trust of capability. How well people carry out responsibilities and acknowledge other people’s skills and abilities.

The key thing about transactional trust is that it is reciprocal in nature; you have to give it to get it.  There are specific, concrete behaviors that build trust.

  • Ability: the manager’s ability to do their job.
  • Understanding: displaying knowledge and understanding of employees’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Fairness: behaving fairly and showing concern for the welfare of employees.
  • Openness: being accessible and receptive to ideas and opinions.
  • Integrity: striving to be honest and fair in decision-making.
  • Consistency: behaving in a reliable and predictable manner.

So take a look at your employees, what does their behavior say about their trust in you.  If it doesn’t look good, take the steps now to begin the process of rebuilding trust.