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Dean Mathews

Do Your Employees Trust You? Here’s How to Tell

Tips for spotting distrust in your organization, and how you can build a culture of trust and see productivity bloom.

Trust is the cornerstone of your organization, and where there is trust, there is better motivation and engagement from team members. According to research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity, organizations with a high degree of trust between employees and management enjoy higher productivity. 

This post will explore how to detect a lack of trust in your organization and ways to build a confident company culture, so you can reap the benefits of an engaged, effective team. 

What сharacterizes a сulture of trust? 

Organizations with a culture of trust have the following characteristics: 

  1. The senior management is trusted by employees, and in turn, trusts them.
  2. Managers trust their direct reports, who, in turn, trust them.
  3. Employees trust each other.  

These three elements are essential for a culture of trust to flourish in your organization. Simon Sinek, in his Ted Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe,” says: “Trust is a mutual understanding humans developed by establishing a circle of safety to ward off unpredictable dangers.” 

While the world has evolved, we still have a need for safety. Company leaders have the power to build trust and a secure environment so team members can face challenges together. 

Utilize these leadership behaviors to create trust with employees: 

  • Act with integrity 
  • Listen actively and assume positive intent
  • Hear and show appreciation for diverse perspectives 
  • Share information clearly 
  • Solve problems without assigning blame 

The impact of trust in your organization 

A culture of trust creates more than just a pleasant environment to work in. If there is trust in your organization, it impacts all aspects of your business, from productivity to performance and the relationships between employees.  

Trust fosters productivity 

Research by the Institute of Corporate Productivity also shows a clear relationship between high levels of trust and productivity. According to their research, high-performance organizations are 11 times more likely to have leaders who trust their employees. 

Image Source

Trust is a major factor in the difference between high- and low-performance organizations. As shown in the above figure, leading companies have much higher levels of trust than low-performing companies. 

An environment of trust is better for your employees 

In the book Trust Factor, Paul J. Zak presents evidence that people who work in high-trust environments have: 

Trust drives engagement 

MIT Sloan Management Review’s research shows that trust is a key element of employee engagement. Employees who feel trusted in an organization have 260% more motivation to work, 50% less turnover, and 41% less absenteeism. 

Signs of mistrust in your organization: How to detect it

On the other hand, a lack of trust can be disastrous for an organization, and it’s a problem that can be hard to fix once people are entrenched in that culture. If you’re noticing drama, arguments, low engagement, or poor performance, it’s time to intervene. 

How can you tell if your employees distrust the organization or each other? These are the early warning signs to watch for: 

They’ve stopped discussing ideas with you

If your team used to openly share their ideas, ask questions, and present concerns or doubts but have stopped doing so, one of the reasons could be that they no longer trust that their words have an impact. 

People share ideas when they feel they’re being heard and will be taken seriously. Lack of discussion or debate can reveal that your employees no longer expect their ideas to be considered

There’s tension between coworkers

Conflicts between coworkers may be caused by petty or not-so-petty disagreements. If you notice tension between your employees and that they haven’t shared the issues with you, it’s a sign they don’t trust you to help solve their differences.

They don’t share important information with you or each other

Not everything should be shared between team members, but when they withhold critical information needed for a project, that’s an issue. This behavior can be a sign that your coworkers don’t trust each other to use critical information properly—or they’re withholding it due to feelings of competition or spite. 

They blame each other and are unwilling to acknowledge mistakes

When something goes wrong in a healthy work culture, people talk about what happened and how to do better next time. If team members are uncomfortable having conversations about failures or shortcomings—or worse, if they habitually point their fingers at others—it can be because they feel threatened. This means they don’t feel secure in their position, and that they lack trust in the organization.

How to gain your employee’s trust

As a manager, building a culture of trust starts with you. The first thing you should remember is that change won’t happen overnight—but with time and leadership, you will see an improvement. Follow these tips to start creating a culture of trust in your organization: 

  1. Share the load: When you can, pitch in and take a few tasks from the backlog. By doing this, you are sharing the load with your employees and building teamwork. You can also help troubleshoot issues—anything that shows you rolling up your sleeves and participating with the team. 
  2. Connect with people: Be conscientious; put down your phone and close your laptop during one-on-one meetings. Learn a little bit about the people on your team so you can build rapport and connection.
  3. Be reasonable: When there is conflict, be sure to communicate your position clearly, especially if you disagree with your colleagues’ opinions. When giving feedback, do it as soon as possible, and be respectful and specific. 
  4. Develop your employee’s careers: Check with employees regularly about where they want to take their careers. Give them challenges instead of tasks. For instance, when setting learning goals, provide opportunities for people to develop related skills. 
  5. Encourage dissension: The ability to express disagreement is a critical element of trust. Encourage your employees to share their concerns, challenge the status quo, and ask questions. 
  6. Delegate wisely: Don’t micromanage. Delegate decision making as well as tasks. The goal is to grant employees as much autonomy as possible. 

Trust is a two-way street

In the end, showing your employees you trust them will encourage them to trust you—and the organization as well. Conducting yourself with integrity, avoiding micromanaging, and creating an open and trusting culture where discussion is encouraged can go a long way towards success. 

Author Bio

Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time tracking app that helps over 15,000 companies all around the world track time. 

Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many people’s lives are touched and changed for the better. 

When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family and friends, and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can connect with him on Linkedin.

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