Having a group of nonexecutive, nonmanagerial employees who trust you is essential to the success of your business. Employees are less productive when they don’t trust their leaders, meaning objectives and key results take more time and expense to achieve. Some managers bring this lack of trust on themselves, working unethically and taking credit for others’ performance. On the other hand, sometimes trust issues stem from the way managers are trained. As the Harvard Business Review pointed out, managers and business leaders are told part of their job consists of enforcing rules. The relationship they have with their employees thus takes on the appearance of a parent and child, not two adults who can communicate on the same level.
This isn’t conducive to a healthy working environment – one where everyone feels free and able to put in their best effort. If you’re concerned your staff doesn’t trust you, it’s time to take action to rectify the situation.
How Do I Know If My Employees Trust Me?
Answering this question is difficult. After all, some employees are naturally quiet and keep to themselves, while others love talking about last night’s dinner with anyone who approaches. Still, there are ways to estimate your apparent trustworthiness across your team.
One sign your staff doesn’t trust you, author Michael Kerr told Business Insider, is if they withhold information – even something as simple as a life update they’ve told all their peers, but not you.
“If you are always the last to know something, then that’s a pretty big red flag that people don’t feel as though they can trust you with information,” Kerr said to the publication.
Another sign is that your staff doesn’t act in a supportive manner – they’re reluctant to engage or back up your ideas during meetings, and they rarely give you praise or recognition. Sometimes this lack of support devolves into disrespect, and employees will do things like leave your emails unanswered and save your assignments for last.
Other times, lack of trust is more obvious. Conversations will stop when you walk in the room, or your staff will go to another supervisor instead of you. They might excessively document their work, fearing you’ll take credit, or constantly ask for clarification on their assignments from your boss, not you.
Establishing Employee Trust
It’s hard to rebuild lost trust, but doing so is essential for increasing productivity and meeting OKRs, on both the individual and company-wide scales. To establish trust again, the Harvard Business Review noted leaders should treat their staff fairly, not necessarily equally. For example, disciplinary actions that don’t consider an individual employee’s unique circumstances and instead use the same response for every infraction breed frustration rather than promote a sense of fairness.
Also, be consistent as a leader. Don’t say one thing during a department meeting and the other during a one-on-one. Even if you’re confiding in an employee during a check-in with the truth, they’ll remember the way you acted in front of the group and start to doubt you in other situations.
Check-ins are a great way to prove yourself as a trustworthy supervisor. These aren’t just an opportunity to discuss your employee’s performance – the two of you can chat about yours as well. Ask individual members of your staff how they feel about your work, and inquire what you can do to gain their trust. Opening this type of dialogue shows you’re willing to change, making employees feel more assured that you’re an honest leader who has their back.