Half the Team Doesn’t Trust the Boss
Over 50% of employees don’t trust their boss.*
5 reasons leaders seem dishonest:
- Pretending things are better than they are.
- Holding your nose in the air. Arrogant leaders sacrifice others to protect their image.
- Remaining isolated. You have to be seen to be trusted. Distance creates distrust.
- Guarding the good ole boys club. Everyone sees how you pretend your team is always right.
- Withholding information. People wonder what you’re up to when they don’t know what you’re up to.
12 ways to create feelings of trust:
- Confront problems. Back-peddlers can’t be trusted. When tough issues come up, stand up.
- Demonstrate care for people. Engage in behaviors that express compassion, empathy, and understanding. Successful leaders show heart. You’re more likely to do what’s best for people you care for.
- Never put others down, even when you’re dealing with performance issues.
- Stand with your team, when things go wrong. Cockroach-leaders run for cover when the lights come on. Don’t deny things went wrong. Loyalty matters most when times are tough. People stand with leaders who stand with them.
- Explore options.
- Avoid snap decisions.
- Be sad with optimism. Wipe that fake smile off your face. Don’t pretend that dark days aren’t that dark, but keep pressing into the future, whatever you do.
- Admit you don’t know. “Fake it till you make it” never works when it comes to answers. If you don’t know, say so. Commit to find out.
- Stay calm and steady.
- Invite feedback. Say, “Thank you,” when people tell you what they think.
- Give decisions and authority to others, even while you remain responsible. Trust others, if you expect them to trust you.
- Help others get where they want to go, as long as it helps your organization.
What makes people distrustful?
How might leaders create feelings of trust?
“Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled,” was how my old friend Frank Navran used to describe those issues of trust, respect and ethics.
Thanks Dr. Scott. Love the quote!
Love/hate the image of “cockroach leaders who run for cover when the lights come on”. I really admire people who run right towards problems while they are small, and that image is so powerfully the opposite! I guess we’ve all met a few people who scurry when things get messy and I want to resist any impulse to behave like that …
Thanks for your most excellent post this morning
Thanks Catie. Yes, the cockroach image is a bit disgusting.
This is an interesting post, at a non-profit I have served with we sometimes say “this is the age of leadership mistrust” and sadly the headlines tell us that mistrust is often founded. Being transparent and in-touch helps. In a major organizational change we worked hard to “over communicate” but looking back there was a step prior to that.. we ensured very good alignment within our leadership board. We discussed, agreed on a course, then executed. Because of the nature of the organization we expected (and received) some push back… often with an emotional component. Transparency in this case is standing on you record while admitting you are failable. We did not reopen our decisions to the general population but we were very open about how we made the decisions and what key factors were considered and weighed. I don’t think we eliminated distrust, but I think we reduced it dramatically.
Thanks Ken. “standing on your record while admitting you are fallible.” — That’s a real mouthful.
While reading this post, three “Ts” came to mind – and fit well with your list: trust (of course with this post), transparent, and timely. What do you think?
Thanks John. I see the word “timely” and think about how delay often causes distrust.
it’s interesting – often, especially in middle management – we really can’t be for the employees.
Yep. You are there to cushion senior management and serve the customer. If employees get hurt to deliver this, it’s seen as an occupational hazard/acceptable loss
some places, that is the policy for sure
Thanks Bill. I’ve seen what you are talking about. I sure hope we can rise above this.
I worked one place where the position from Sr management was “screw the workers” which lower management had to implement. That quickly became untenable – and I had to find a place with a more win/win vision.
I like to follow the Pillars of Trust…I have been doing a long time and it does work
Thanks Bob. Are you thinking of the 8 Pillars of Trust?
Hi Dan- trust is built over time and in incremental steps. Leaders who embrace trust as a business imperative must walk their talk and possess, at a minimum, character, competence and consistency. Generosity doesn’t hurt either. At Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, we created a simple trustworthy leadership acronym called VIP (Values, Integrity and Promises kept.)
Thanks Barbara. Love VIP. Every term is essential. Also, “generosity”… wow, that word really stands out. It’s so much easier to trust a generous person.
billgncs: Your post tells me your working for the wrong Sr. management team. If Sr. management does support middle management in this respect, I would think there’s much dysfunction within the organization.
Trust is the foundation of a successful organization. If leaders and their employees don’t trust one another the foundation will give way. I learned recently from a leadership course that trust can be built upon with care, consistency and competence. I know of leaders with great passion and vision, but no compassion (care) for those they have the priveleage to lead and a mission that changes course too frequently (consistency) to gain any momentum, leaving everyone with a headache! Great post, the 12 solutions are excellent for helping to build the trust foundation for a many variety of organizations. Love your words of inspiration!
Sean – Richmond VA
Thanks Sean. Wonderful addition. The juxtaposition of passion and compassion is so powerful. I also find the connection between momentum and trust fascinating. You open some new thoughts.
If I may humbly offer a correction: Never put others down, period. You are the leader.
One more: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use sarcasm to downplay feedback, whether you are with the person that provided it or in other company. It makes you untrustworthy.
Thanks Jody. Your edit is powerful. 🙂
General Albert Sidney Johnston said that “morale was faith in the man at the top”. This lesson, that people will not willingly follow and give their best to someone they don’t trust, seems to be lost on so many.
A thing that kills trust is the “need to know” principle, where you openly withhold information from people because they don’t need it to turn the handle.
Thanks Mitch. The great ideas just keep coming. Connecting morale to trust is another powerful connection.
Dan, you have many readers who often mention their children and school students when replying to your leadership posts. So, it’s not going to be too much of a stretch to draw a parallel between building trust among staff in the workplace and the trust our children need to speak to parents—especially during their turbulent high school years.
Most of us see it and experience it, but most of us don’t believe it and certainly won’t acknowledge it, yet the growing-up, developmental adolescent years in all of their phases— physical, emotional, spiritual, relationship, academic—are absolutely turbulent for almost all 14 to 18 year-olds especially in high school.
To speak to our kids, we need to win their trust. They have a lot of private stuff they want and need to share. However, they need to know for sure parents won’t violate their trust with all their personal “stuff.” Most of all, kids just need someone to dump on without getting the “adult advice”…unless they ask for it. They need us to listen.
And going from adolescent to adult can be likened to the workplace when people go from amateur to pro.
When we turn pro we learn to structure our lives, days and activities to accomplish our aims. We bring our will to bear so that we stick to our resolution. This changes our ways and lives completely. We’re no longer amateurs. We are different, and everyone in our life sees it.
When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, distraction, often denial. Our days were simultaneously full to the bursting point–and achingly, heartbreakingly empty. As amateurs, we were distracted by what was outside our control. We can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away. And we can do nothing about tomorrow. It is yet to come.
As pro’s we make today a masterpiece. We do have control over today. So, the rule is to apply ourselves each day to become a little better. That’s how we become a lot better. Therein lies trust of and from a parent or pro…a matter of how to be, not only how to do.
Thanks Books. I wish I would have had this insight when our children were growing up.
A Really informative post Dan. You have captured very depth phenomenon at workplace. I would like to share one tangible story that happened two days back. My daughter is working in the bank and has been selected for Mphil-PhD program at very repute Institution. When she expressed her desire to pursue her phd, many employees including her boss said, you have to resign, there is no way out. She also asked for study leave and wrote mail to one middle level HR manager. The HR manager replied that there is no such provision. Then I suggested her to write mail to CEO and General Manager, HR giving all details. Within two hours after sending the mail, HR department people called on telephone and congratulated her. They clearly told that she will get study leave. They show gratitude and encouragement. After some time, other people in the hierarchy including boss, started questioning different question. They were feeling uncomfortable and questioning , do you know, whom you have written the mail. She told, yes I know it. They were every more worried. She told politely, I have written mail to one HR managers, and she says, there is no such provision. Now, rest of the employees are happy, and say, you have done good job. Had you not written the mail, they would have asked you to resign.
The question here is about trust, withholding information, misguiding and pretending. And these things make people distrustful. Other employees will not trust such superiors. They misguide employees and do not provide the right information. So, sometimes, when time demands, people should dare to take big steps. If leaders/bosses take such things into account, they can create feeling of trust. I think trust building is intentional approach that comes from our character and personality.
A lot of times its easier to say “no” because of the trouble it would cause (i.e. I now have to inconvenience myself to find out) rather than serve someone else’s best interest. I see this nearly on a daily basis and it is sickening. Some people say no and look for a reason instead of the reverse.
Thanks Jody. We know we can trust someone if they are willing to inconvenience themselves for the convenience of others. Powerful!
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Love the story. I feel that top leadership earned trust by responding to this. Even if the answer had been “no” the fact that we know they took action indicates a level of trustworthyness…. Congratulations to your daughter.
A great post for anyone in a position of leadership. Accountability builds trust.