Trust: The New Workplace Currency

How to get it and why it matters.

10 Ways to Tell Trust is Lacking Where You Work

There is a perception gap about the importance of leader trust

Recent studies confirm what many of us see at work: those who lead and those who don't have differing perceptions about the importance of trust. That's no surprise, but what might be is how large that perception gap is.

One online survey by StaffBay.com found 87 percent of participants plan to look for a new job in 2014, with over half claiming the reason was because they "didn't trust their boss." Is it important to have a boss you can trust? According to the Forum Leadership Pulse Survey, 91 percent of employees said yes while just 48 percent of bosses did.

That differing perception of what matters at work is a problem. If you're one of the 52 percent of bosses who don't think it matters to be a trusted leader, ask yourself this: Am I getting the results I want? If not, look again.

How many of these 10 behaviors do you find in your culture?

  1. People only doing what needs to be done or what's asked of them, nothing more. How to get higher employee engagement is a regular management topic.

  2. There's a silo mentality, with limited collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing between departments. People frequently ignore emails or requests and too often escalate into dark-side antics and negative company politics.

  3. Safe decision making with only limited or mediocre innovation is typical. Thoughtful risk-taking is the exception.

  4. Complaining, finger-pointing, and blaming, with little personal accountability, ownership of mistakes, or stepping up to take on responsibilities is commonplace.

  5. Highly competitive behaviors exist with aggressive opposition or blocking of others' ideas. The "win" is more important than how it is achieved, even morphing into gray-area ethics.

  6. Pertinent information that's needed for good decision making is withheld, or people operate with a need-to-know approach. Open and honest feedback, input, and dialogue are unusual to find.

  7. Alignment between words and actions is not the norm and even key decision makers say one thing and do another. Touted company values are nice words, but not integrated into the culture or used for making decisions. 

  8. Rumors come true more often than not since official communications operate with a last-century-spin-mentality, and transparency is for other people. 

  9. Policies, systems, and procedures are grounded in a belief that, for the most part, employees can't be trusted, and need to be prodded, monitored, and controlled. 

  10. Top down command is the preferred style and most who lead believe influence comes with their titles, not realizing in today's workplace the right behaviors, not the right titles, drive natural followership and results.

If you find any of these behaviors a regular part of the culture where you work, it's a good bet trust is lacking. And when it is, great results seldom happen. Trust enables engagement, innovation and exceptional work. Without it, what you find are behaviors like the ones above.

As novelist Roberson Davies wrote, "The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. " For many who lead, it's time our minds start comprehending that there's a growing gap between what see in the work environment and what those we lead see and want.

More about how to operate with and build trust at work:

You'll find more trust building approaches in Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).

Nan S. Russell is a workplace expert with real-world experience, and the author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way.

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