We don't believe a word you say

Sep 07 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Fewer than four out of 10 employees trust their senior managers to always communicate honestly and less than half believe their management behaves in a way which is consistent with their company's value.

A survey of over 1,100 UK employees by Mercer Human Resource Consulting has revealed high levels of distrust in management, with only 36 per cent of staff willing to give their bosses the benefit of the doubt when it comes to telling the truth.

The findings are similar to a recent Mercer survey in the US where only 40 per cent of employees trust management to communicate honestly.

The survey also found that levels of trust decline with length of service. Almost six out of 10 (57 per cent) of employees with less than a year's service trust management to communicate honestly, but this figure declines sharply to just a quarter (26 per cent) of employees with 15 or more years' service.

Dr. Patrick Gilbert, Head of Organisational Research & Effectiveness at Mercer, said: "It is particularly worrying that long-serving employees - who know most about their organisations - trust management the least."

He added: "Employees tend to be especially distrustful of management in times of organisational change as they can feel less secure in their jobs and uncertain about their future in the organisation.

"But trust is crucial for change to be successful, otherwise staff will not believe the messages communicated by management."

In particular, the survey found, only half the employees surveyed (53 per cent) feel their organisation does a good job of keeping employees informed about matters that affect them.

The more accessible and visible managers are, the more likely employees are to trust them

"Employees often suspect that far more goes on behind closed doors than managers let on. As well as questioning the information they receive from management, many employees worry they are not being told the whole story," said Dr Gilbert.

"The more accessible and visible managers are, the more likely employees are to trust them and have confidence in the organisation."

These communication issues are exacerbated because fewer than half the respondents (48 per cent) think there is sufficient contact between managers and employees in their organisation, while only six out of 10 think their manager does a good job of being available when needed.

"Many line managers get caught up with short-term operational goals and do not make enough time for their staff," Dr Gilbert added.

"What they may not realise is that regular meetings are an important part of effective people management, which is directly linked to employee engagement and ultimately affects company performance."

Meanwhile, although almost six out of 10 of employees feel their organisation has communicated its company values clearly, fewer than half (45 per cent) think management behaves in a way which is consistent with these values.

What's more, only a third feel that what their organisation says it values is consistent with what it actually rewards.

"A company's values provide a touchstone for guiding and evaluating behaviours, but these values only become meaningful if managers adopt them and lead by example," said Dr Gilbert.

"If these values are ignored by those at the top of the organisation, employees can become disaffected and cynical."

Older Comments

Building trust is one of the most important areas business leaders and managers should focus on, not only with their staff but with colleagues as well.

This requires a focus on communication, which should be formal and as well as informal and frequent, even with virtual teams.

'Walking the talk' is the foundation of building this trust. many Boards and management teams are great at the talking.....

Susan Bloch Managing Director, Leadership Solutions Group at Whitehead Mann

Concur that trust is important, actually the oil that makes an organization function at the highest level. Most organizations are at 25% of capability because of a lack of trust and large doses of frustration and stress.

The path to success is simple: create a sense of ownership in employees by asking them what they need to do a better job and then giving it to them. This must be a daily affair, not a one shot action, because it will take a while for employees to believe that you have changed. You will find that they want all sorts of things from better tools to less interference, from better information by which to understand what's needed to better training. If you respond positively, eventually there will nothing for them to distrust and as they get more of what they really need their performance starts to skyrocket.

Best regards, Ben Simonton Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed' http://www.bensimonton.com

Ben Simonton