Trust at work has plummeted in last 12 months

Oct 30 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Trust in the UK's bosses has plummeted over the last 12 months, according to research by recruitment group Reed published on 24 October.

Reed surveyed over 2,600 workers and nearly 200 HR professionals for their Report 'Motivating People at Work: What is to be Done'.

Across the board, 45 per cent of workers said their trust in bosses has fallen over the last year. The figure among managers was even higher at 61 per cent. Morale has fallen even more, with 52 per cent of all workers and 68 per cent of managers saying morale is lower now than 12 months ago.

Certain sectors are suffering more from increased insecurity than others. Worker morale is worst in manufacturing and has declined least in the public sector over the last 12 months.

Organisations are giving higher priority to worker morale than a year ago according to the research, with 71 per cent increasing initiatives designed to raise motivation in the last 12 months. Large organisations are launching more initiatives than smaller ones. 81 per cent of organisations with over 5000 employees have increased their use of motivational schemes compared to 63 per cent of those with under 100 employees.

However, when implemented in the wrong way, many employer initiatives have backfired. "Inappropriate" training, "unattainable" or "driven" targets, "irrelevant" team building events, "ridiculous" incentives, excessive bonuses which felt like "bribery", and "constant supervision" indicating "lack of trust", all helped reduce motivation over the last year, according to people at work. What's more one in six workers said presentations about "living the brand" (used by 48 per cent of organisations over the last year) had lowered, rather than raised, morale.

Worst of all for morale in the current climate, however, was when organisations either did nothing or appeared to do nothing, leading to "lack of communication, closed door meetings, no contact". Instead "an honest approach" coupled with praise from their immediate or ultimate boss would do most to raise morale, according to over 80 per cent of workers.

Commenting on the research, James Reed, CEO of recruitment group Reed, said: "In the wake of high-profile company failures, falling stock markets and global uncertainty, UK organisations recognise they need to do more to build morale at work.

"Yet the decline in trust makes people more sensitive to what bosses do or don't do. It also makes it more likely that motivational programmes will backfire. Organisations need to demonstrate they are listening to workers and respond to each person as an individual, our research shows, if they want to maximise their success in a rapidly changing world."