Why trust is important in the workplace

by Lauren Acurantes30 Jan 2017
The American businessman and academic Bill George once said: “No matter how effective your strategy, your vision, or your communication, you will fail to achieve the desired result for your organisation if you cannot inspire trust.”

George’s sentiments have been backed up recently by business consultant Sue Bingham in an article for the Harvard Business Review.  

Bingham argued that high performing workplaces are best defined by the high level of trust between managers and employees.

She cited a survey conducted by PwC with global CEOs that found that across industries, 55% of CEOs were concerned about the lack of trust within their organisations.

Meanwhile, a survey done by the World Economic Forum revealed that less than 50% of employees trust the companies they work for, meaning employers have to be more cognizant of ways to build trusting relationships with their employees.

“When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organisation, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up.… The inverse is equally true: When trust goes up, cost goes down, and speed goes up,” she said, quoting from Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust.

Bingham said there are four ways to address trust issues in the workplace that usually stem from traditional environments where the focus can sometimes be on rule enforcement.

Hire based on accountability
Use smart hiring practices by asking behaviour-based questions such as asking for a time when the candidate put a co-worker’s interests above their own, she said.  This technique will help you gauge a candidate’s level of honesty and accountability ensuring that you are creating a culture where workers can depend on one another.
She also stressed the importance of background checks and references to uncover falsities about their length of stay at their previous employment and past salaries.

Don’t make negative assumptions
Don’t let your cynicism cloud your judgment, she said. Managers who make negative assumptions about their employees tend to micromanage, withhold information, and create unnecessary rules and policies causing even the best hires to lose their passion.
Show positivity by giving employees “challenging assignments with the clear and confident belief that your expectations will be met”.

‘Treat employees fairly, not equally’
Most traditional HR departments recommend treating employees equally to mitigate risk, said Bingham, but “this strips people of their individuality and unique abilities to contribute”.
“A better approach is to have adult discussions that seek to determine the cause of a problem and to expect employees to identify and act on their own solutions. This counselling-style approach is quicker, more respectful, and provides significantly better results,” she said.

Have zero tolerance for deceit
Take a cue from companies with high performing employees and create a zero tolerance policy for deceit within your organisation, she said. Make it clear that any employee, regardless of rank, can lose their job if they’re found to be dishonest about their work, she added.

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