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Why Employees Trust Their Company’s Mission, But Not Their Leaders

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.
Published on December 13, 2017

“Where there is no vision, there’s no hope.” — George Washington Carver

Leaders, by design, are supposed to inspire their employees. In order to do so, they must create relationships and an environment that supports and motivates people. And that starts with the company’s mission and vision. Employees buy into those tenets and trust in them. As the George Washington Carver quote states, when leaders underestimate the importance of the mission, they’re in trouble. However, leaders are in even deeper trouble when employees don’t trust them.

In fact, a 2017 study  from Waggl found that 37 percent of employees don’t trust their immediate supervisor to make decisions with their best interests in mind. What they do believe in, however, is the mission and value of their organization. The same survey found that a remarkable 84 percent of employees trust in their company’s mission.

So why do employees trust a belief, goal, aspiration more than their leaders?

The answer is simple: leaders have forgotten that trust is a two-way street. Because they don’t trust their employees, the team doesn’t trust them either.

The Waggl study also found that the age demographic (26-40 years) that reported the highest level of supervisor trust also reported they had the most autonomy. If you want to build trust in leadership, you need to give employees more independence.

While these three concepts may seem obvious, they are not consistently practiced and need to be, in order to gain trust. Here’s how you build trust in leadership:

Stop Micromanaging

For years now, leaders have been warned against micromanaging. While the traditional methods of micromanaging employees, like passing by their desks every half hour to check in, have been abandoned by many, there are new ways leaders are hovering over employees — for example, overly intrusive internet restrictions.

A 2016 survey from CareerBuilder found that 54 percent of employers block employees from visiting certain sites. Yes, the internet is a place where employees can be easily distracted. But if employees can’t complete a simple Google search without being told they aren’t allowed to visit a single website, they’ll think they’re not trusted to do anything.

Don’t focus on “how” employees get their work done, find out how you can help them and get out of the way to let them do their jobs. Rather than watching employees’ every move, make sure you’re accessible to help them when they need help.

Empower Ideas

One of the best ways you can show employees that you trust them is to support their ideas. This means not only welcoming feedback and actually doing something about it.

Most organizations and people are averse to change. It’s easier to keep doing things the same way. When a voice emerges with a new idea or room for improvement, the first reaction is typically either, “No”, “Maybe”, or maybe “We can think about that” with no real intent to take action.

Be open to change. Actively ask your employees for feedback. Explore with them what it would look like if changes are implemented. Talk through the pros and cons with them so you arrive at a decision you can mutually agree upon.

You may end up scrapping the idea, but if they are in the exploratory process with you, you are likely to arrive at the same conclusion, which is empowering.

Invest In People

People are concerned about their future. They want to know that for every ounce of energy they’re pouring into a company, their efforts are appreciated. Employees are more confident in their value to the organization and trust leadership, when they are encouraged to personally develop and take the next steps in their careers within the company.

To do this, offer them leadership development and if possible leadership coaching. This will show employees that you believe and trust in them. It says, “We know you have valuable talent and skills, and we want you to stay around and be part of our mission.”

Customize your employee development program so that it addresses the needs of each individual. Use assessments to determine what opportunities each person has to become a better employee. Then, offer them educational opportunities and materials that will help them grow their skills.

Building trust in leadership is essential to a company’s success. The laws of reciprocity apply: if you don’t trust your employees, they won’t have trust in you. By following these steps, you can earn your employees’ trust to ensure your organization’s short- and long-term success.

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