Why Is It That So Many Employees Don’t Trust Their Employers?

More than half of us don’t believe our employers are open and upfront with us.

This disturbing news comes to us from the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey, which finds nearly 1 in 4 workers don’t trust their employers, 1 in 3 reported their employers aren’t always honest or truthful, and less than half believe employers are open and upfront.

This lack of trust in the workplace is a big deal, and is leading more than a quarter of U.S. employees to say they intend to seek new employment in the next year.

How employers can gain trust back

Trust is the expectation that workers can count on and rely on their organization. That involves a lot of things, including past interactions with their company, whether they feel like things are done fairly, openness in communication, whether their values are consistent with the company’s values, the reliability of the company, and their perceptions of their company’s motives.

There were three key factors in the survey that predicted more than half the variance in trust:

  1. Employees’ perception of the level of involvement they have in their organization. To better involve employees, companies can implement group problem solving, self-managed work teams, profit sharing and stock plans, and 360 performance evaluations. It’s not enough to do the annual employee survey without letting people know what the results are and how changes based on them will be implemented. Give employees control and autonomy in what affects them every day.
  2. Recognition provided by their organization. Employers must focus on monetary and non-monetary recognition, both formal and informal. Employers can reward people for high levels of performance, make employees’ accomplishments more visible, and implement peer recognition programs. And specific and meaningful praise from a leader is always appreciated.
  3. How well the organization communicates. Communication is critical, and it bleeds into all other workplace practices. Employers must support good communication between employees and managers, make sure everyone is familiar with the mission of the organization, and offer ongoing opportunities to give feedback to managers. Bottom-up communication is as important as top-down.

Feeling valued is key

Every organization is vulnerable to competitive and market challenges, and has to make tough decisions that may negatively impact employees at times. To keep employees’ trust intact, the best organizations find ways to do tough things in ways that are healthy, fair, and as transparent as possible.

Whether or not employees felt valued also generated a huge differentiation in survey results. Some 92 percent of employees who felt valued said they’re satisfied with their job compared with 29 percent of those who didn’t feel valued.

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There’s a huge gulf in this area, and the survey found similar variances around training, development, and advancement.

The other key finding is that what drives engagement varies slightly from organization to organization. As a leader, you need to figure out what keeps employees engaged at your company, and understand how it affects performance.

You can’t make someone engaged — it’s an internal state. But you can provide an environment and context that makes engagement more likely.

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on OCTanner.com

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-m-smith-cpim-crp



9 Comments on “Why Is It That So Many Employees Don’t Trust Their Employers?

  1. OR you can start by being honest and upfront.
    Open the books where possible
    DOCUMENT responsibilities and org charts.

  2. I work for a fortune 500 company and receive praise and congratulations on how well we are growing the company ,profits in the billions of dollars but when it comes time to hand out merit raises you are told we can only afford this much and in recent years the amount doesn’t come close to matching inflation yet the C.E.O. brings down a three million bonus now where is the dishonesty if the company can afford to give corporate execs large bonuses why cant they afford to give their employees enough to stay out of food banks quit handing out bullsh#t and start sharing the $$$$$ happy employees are productive employees

    1. Patrick,
      You bring up an excellent point that is generating a lot of discussion in the marketplace – the ridiculously disproportionate salaries of CEOs, who now make as much as 400 times more than their employees! I see this topic gaining momentum (along with the lack of trust issue) and we may FINALLY be approaching the point where this will have to be addressed.

  3. I’m currently about to finish a 1-yr contract position with one of if not the largest media company in the US. To say it’s been a tough go is only touching the surface.

    To say that I “don’t trust my (this) employer” is the biggest understatement of my 38 working years.

    To say that my “perception of level of involvement”, the “recognition I receive” or “how well the ‘organization’ communicates” are totally in-the-toilet as far as I’m concerned is also the largest understatement of my working career.

    To say that ineptitude, arrogance, as*-kissing and playing politics are Much more important to a workers success in the organizational structure, as opposed to actually caring about the outcome or quality of the work, or the companys own long-term success itself is also backwards.

    Yet they continue to generate profits, and those who ‘play the game’ correctly do well.. But do not ever ever try to ‘fix’ the broken system or offer that their are better ways or better people to do certain jobs or you Will get shot down. I’m there..

    Such is the sad state of affairs of most US corporations nowadays..

  4. Seeing that companies now cut every corner and screw workers out of any dime they can….gee, why don’t employees trust companies? My company is so sleazy, they tried to get us to sign illegal documents to get tax breaks for people on welfare. And I’m supposed to trust them?

  5. It’s a shame (for multiple reasons) that so many employees feel they can’t trust their employers but especially because the top three HR worries these days all focus on people: how to engage, develop, and retain them. Maybe if companies realized how much it actually costs to lose good employees (and hire and train new ones), they would make more of an effort to treat their staff respectfully. I recently wrote a blog post addressing this topic: http://vingapp.com/top-3-hr-worries-2-employee-engagement-ideas/

    1. We all need to keep fighting the good fight to educate leaders about the TREMENDOUS value of their employees to the organization, but it is challenging that it’s taking so long. Leaders are supposed to be bright people, but sometimes you have to wonder….

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