Leaders – They Don’t Trust You

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Apr 18, 2017

Corporate leaders have a big problem.

Trust in leadership is at an all-time low, and employees believe their leaders are detached and don’t care about them.

This is not good news for leaders or the organizations they run.

Disturbing research

Almost 1 in 3 employees don’t trust their employers, according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, which also discovered:

  • Only 51% of managers and 48% of employees trust their employer.
  • Just 24% believe their CEO exhibits highly ethical behavior.

A Rapt Media survey of U.S. employees uncovered these insights:

  • 69% are open to other opportunities or are already seeking their next job.
  • 57% feel their leaders are detached from the workforce.
  • 35% feel their companies don’t care about them – as a team member or a person.
  • 27% feel their bosses don’t appreciate them.

Why trust is paramount

When employees believe they’re working for trustworthy leaders, they’re more willing to invest their time and talents in making a difference at work. High trust levels lead to a greater sense of self-responsibility, greater interpersonal insight, and more collective action toward achieving common goals.

Trustworthy leaders are rewarded by employees who stretch, push their limits, and volunteer to go above and beyond. When leaders create a consistently high trust environment, collaboration increases and organizations leap forward.

The four elements of trust

The Ken Blanchard Companies offer four key elements leaders need to understand when they’re looking to build or restore trust.

  1. Ability is about demonstrating competence. Do leaders know how to produce results? Do they have the skills to make things happen — including knowing the organization and equipping employees with the resources and information they need to get their jobs done?
  2. Believability means acting with integrity. Leaders have to be honest and equitable in their dealings with employees by creating and following fair processes. Act in a consistent, values-driven manner that reassures employees they can rely on you.
  3. Connection is about demonstrating care and concern for other people. It means focusing on employees and identifying their needs. Leaders need to openly share information about the organization and about themselves to create a sense of connection.
  4. Dependability is about reliably following through on what you say you’re going to do. It means being accountable for your actions and responsive to the needs of others. It also requires being organized, predictable, and following through on promises.

Restoring trust

When leaders commit a serious breach of trust with their employees, all too often they prefer to act as if it didn’t happen; try to justify the mistake, or use hierarchy and status to make the problem go away.

This is exactly the wrong approach. A healthier and more productive approach to restore trust involves these Blanchard recommendations.

  1. Acknowledge & assure — Leaders begin the rebuilding process by acknowledging a problem exists. Assure the other party your intention is to restore trust and express your willingness to take the time and effort to get the relationship back on track.
  2. Admit — Acknowledge your part in causing the breach of trust. You must own your actions and take responsibility for whatever harm was caused, even if you don’t feel you’re entirely at fault.
  3. Apologize — Avoid making excuses, shifting blame, or using qualifying statements. Sincerely apologize for your role in the situation.
  4. Assess — Invite feedback from the other party about how they see the situation, discuss the issues and clearly identify what needs to change.
  5. Agree — The final step in rebuilding damaged trust is working together to create an action plan. After you’ve discussed each other’s perceptions and the specific ways trust was broken, identify and agree to the behaviors that will build trust going forward.