In their 2008 report on the State of Employee Engagement, consulting group Blessing White state that only about half (53 percent) of respondents trust executives at the top compared to 75 percent who trust their immediate manager or supervisor.
It is more difficult to demonstrate trustworthiness without a one-on-one relationship. The same is also a challenge with people you don’t see very often, if at all. But I think there is more to it than that.
Senior executives’ expectations of what being trustworthy means for them is quite different to what employees expect from them. It is quite easy to understand when we look at the four Elements of Trust described in a previous post: Congruence, Openness, Acceptance, and Reliability.
Senior executives see themselves as trustworthy by being Congruent (honest and ethical), and Reliable (producing results). And in reality, these are the elements that the board and shareholders are primarily focused on as well.
But employees see things differently. Yes of course they expect their senior leaders to be honest and ethical and run a profitable business, but for them personally, acceptance and openness are more important. They want to know that their senior executives value and respect them and the contribution they make, and they want a higher degree of openness between senior executives and themselves.
This involves not just communicating more openly with employees, but also listening to them. How would employees in your organization answer the questions:
• Does our senior executive team know what is on employees’ minds?
• Does our senior executive team care about what is on employees’ minds?
If half of the employees in your organization don’t trust your senior team, that is likely to be the same half who are not engaged or passionate about what they do.
Building trust requires all four elements of trust. It is worth the effort for senior executives to get out of their offices and meet with employees. They have things on their mind that could grow your business.
What are you doing in your organization to increase trust with employees? I’d like to hear about it – just post me a comment in the “comments” section below this post.