Trust : How to Improve Employees Trust in Management

Dr. Katcher is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and President of The Discovery Group. He has more than two decades of experience conducting employee opinion and customer satisfaction surveys.
Bruce has delivered invited presentations to more than 50 professional associations. He has also published more than 20 papers in professional publications on the insights generated from his survey work.

He currently serves as President of the Board of the Society of Professional Consultants and is a member of the New England Society of Applied Psychologists, Northeast Human Resource Association, and the Society of Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

Check out Bruce's website or contact him by e-mail

1 out of 2 employees distrusts management.

Part 1 - The Problem

Sad but true, half of all employees don't trust the management of their organization. Our surveys show that 52 percent of employees simply don't believe the information they receive from senior management.

This is a problem for both employees and management.

How can employees possibly feel comfortable working for an organization when they don't trust the information they receive from management?

Also, how can management effectively motivate their workforce when many simply don't believe the information management tells them?

Three Characteristics of Distrust:

  1. Distrust is self-perpetuating. - When employees distrust management, management becomes less trusting of employees. Employees perceive this lack of trust and on it goes.
  2. Distrust is like a virus. - It gains strength as it spreads. As new employees join the organization, they learn from more seasoned co-workers that management cannot be trusted.
  3. Distrust is very resistant to change. - A senior manager of one of my unionized clients once lamented to me, "The only way we can stop this distrust is by moving our operation to a different part of the country and hiring all new employees." 

Part 2 - What Can Be Done?

  • Start Trusting Employees - To end the cycle, management needs to show that it trusts employees. Eventually, employees will feel that they can reciprocate. This can be an extremely difficult and agonizingly long process. It's like lowering your weapons when you are being continually fired upon. 
  • Don't Withhold Information - Many senior managers communicate on a "need-to-know" basis. Information, such as future plans and financial results, is often withheld from employees for no good reason. Employees then feel that the information they eventually do receive has been intentionally sanitized or delayed.  
  • Be Honest at All Times - If employees feel they have been mislead or lied to, their trust will be lost, perhaps permanently.  
  • Conduct More Face-to-Face Communication - Employees find it very difficult to trust senior managers whom they never see. Management-by-walking-around is very important.  
  • Listen to Employees and Let them Know You've Heard Them - Employees become extremely distrustful when they feel their views or suggestions are not heard. Management needs to acknowledge employee suggestions by acting on them and letting employees know that they did so.  

 Ó Copyright Bruce Katcher, 2005

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