Mutual trust and confidence. The very heart of the employment relationship. A duty by which both employee and employer are bound. Implied into every contract of employment, running through it like an invisible thread. A breach of which is so fundamental, that it can bring the entire contract to an untimely, immediate end.
And with good reason.
Because it is not just a legal thing, it is a foundations thing. Trust is everything. It is the platform, the groundwork upon which we build everything else in the workplace.
Trust is a hygiene factor.
When we dismiss an employee because they have stolen from us, we do not dismiss them because of the value of the items that they took, but the fact that trust between us has been irrevocably breached. It is legal recognition that some things are so serious that there is simply no way back.
There are some important things about trust that I believe to be true. Firstly, you’ve either got it or you haven’t. I will give it willingly. But when it is broken, it is broken. There are no shades of trust, no easy way back following a breach. Trust is delicate. Fragile. What takes time to build can be destroyed in a careless moment. And at work, mistrust spreads.
Failure to communicate. Dressing up difficult messages. Not doing what you said you would do. Lies. Rumours. Poorly handled people stuff. Poorly managed change stuff. Weak leadership.
All of these things impact on the levels of trust within an organisation.
Too many rules. Policies prescribing for every potential eventuality. Micro management. Levels and levels of sign off. Blaming. Excessive emailing. Presenteeism.
All send a clear signal about how much you trust the people around you.
CIPD research in 2013 found that 31% of employees did not trust senior management within their own organisations.
How do you know if you have a trust problem, at your place? How do you know if a third of your workers don’t trust?
An out of control rumour mill. High turnover. Low engagement. Blame culture. Decisions only taken at the top. A lack of creativity. Risk aversion. No before yes. Politics. Games. Disempowerment.
All might be signals you have a trust issue. Maybe not a fundamental breach, but a problem all the same.
So my questions are these.
Do you trust? And how do you show it?