What breeds distrust in your organization?

The Leadership Trust Deficit

The leaders I work with are, for the most part, 99.9 percent trustworthy. At least in the relationships we have, there is no doubt in my mind they are good people genuinely interested in bringing out the best in themselves and those who work for them.

And yet, if we were to survey their employees, I’ll bet they don’t all get high marks in the trust department. There are many reasons for this, and I’d like to talk about them. First, here’s what the research says:

Only seven percent of employees say they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. In a 2011 Maritz survey, more than 90,000 employees worldwide said the No. 1 driver of employee engagement was “when senior management takes a genuine interest in me as an individual.”

Employees want consistency between their leaders’ words and actions. But only 11 percent of employees strongly agree that their managers “walk the talk,” the Maritz poll reveals.

Trusting relationships are what make the difference between people’s feeling good about what they do and simply going through the motions. Trust is inspiring and energy producing. ~ Dennis and Michelle Reina, Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace

Fairly or unfairly, leaders’ behaviors are magnified and weighted, including their values, work ethics, integrity and perceived honesty. Employees have high moral expectations for those they choose to follow.

Why, then, do almost 90 percent of leaders rate so poorly on measures of trust? It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers don’t trust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.

These statistics are particularly troubling. A distrustful environment creates expensive—and sometimes irreparable—problems.

I’ll bet there’s a trust deficit in your company, and you may not even realize it. Maybe it’s part of the culture, and it’s not talked about. It’s a hidden cause of lack of engagement. What do you think?

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