A situation I come across often in the workplace is a breakdown of trust between the management and staff. I hear that the staff don’t trust what the management say, and the management think that staff are being challenging when they don’t adapt to change easily.
Having trust is crucial in tough economic times when difficult decisions are being made about jobs, a business’ future and change is happening all around. However, this is exactly the time when trust seems to be most difficult to maintain.
What is trust?
There are many definitions of trust, in this context what I mean is a sense of people doing what they say they will do, acting in an honest and open way, and creating an environment where everyone is working together for the agreed goals. I do understand that organisations are going through really challenging times at the moment, and that being open at all times for example, is not possible. However, there are ways of managing information that still allows your staff to trust that you will share with them everything you can as soon as you can.
So what can management teams do to maintain or build up trust? Trust must be built at all levels of the organisation, including the very top. Directors, senior managers and managers must all do their bit by acting in a trustworthy way on a daily basis.
Here are some points to consider to build trust on an organisational and individual level:-
- Deliver on promises – this is the most important point of all. If an organisation says it will do something, make sure it is done and at the time promised. For instance annual appraisals should be done every year, communication must be delivered to the agreed timetable, feedback which has been asked for must be followed-up! If a promise can’t be delivered on for any reason, then explain why clearly.
- Tell the truth – again this is an obvious point, but not always acted on. Don’t lie to people. You only get to lie to people once, after that they don’t believe a word you say. If mistakes have been made, say so. Acknowledge the mistake and apologise. Be up front. Your staff will respect you for it.
- Be transparent – share information as much as possible with the staff. I understand that this is not always possible, especially when big change decisions are being considered. However, be as open as possible.
- Treat everyone equally and fairly – consistency is very important, so if there are rules make sure they are applied equally to everyone. Seeing some people “get away” with things or being treated differently soon leads to bad feeling and distrust.
In addition to the above, there are some points which relate to individuals wanting to build trust:-
- Manage your moods – keep your moods as consistent as possible. Wild changes from positive to negative creates an uncertain environment and distrust.
- Listen – this is a much underestimated skill, and many people think that they are better at it than they really are! Listening to understand, ie. without interrupting or putting across your point of view, will go a long way to building trust.
- Be genuine – don’t try and be someone you are not. Your team will see through you and know that you are pretending.
- Say thank you – as often as you can and mean it.
- Help out in a crisis – if your team are really busy, then offer to help out. Answer the phone even if you only take a message. Your offer of help will be greatly appreciated.
- Be available – put times in your diary when your team can come and speak to you. This is particularly important the busier you get. If you start losing touch, you may start losing trust too.
- Invite opinion and feedback – ask your team what they think. Exchange ideas and views (remember to listen to them first), discuss what is going on. Being open is good. Remember to provide feedback to them.
This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.