If employees are willing to follow you, they first want to assure themselves that you are worthy of their trust. While employees want to be fully confident in their leaders, A Survey of Trust in the Workplace found that one out of two employees lack trust in their leadership team, and that the leaders in their organizations are the least trusted group in the company. If you’re in a leadership position or aspiring to be, realize there are 5 key reasons discussed below that lead to employee mistrust in their leadership.
1. You Don’t Practice What You Preach – Nothing will destroy trust more than leaders who fail to exhibit the behavior they demand to see in others. Witnessing people say one thing, and then doing another – in any aspect of our lives – feels like betrayal. How can employees trust a leader who talks about one thing, but does another? If you hope to obtain trust from your employees, lead them with your own actions – actions which should reflect the very behaviors you are demanding from them. Otherwise, you will simply be viewed as someone who “talks the talk – but doesn’t walk the talk.”
2. You Don’t Follow Through on Commitments – Not following through on the commitments you make to your employees is one of the quickest ways you will lose credibility. If you make a promise to do something for your employees, no matter how big or small, and then don’t follow through with it, the trust in you and the organization will deteriorate. Even if you had the best of intentions when making the offer or commitment to do something, without follow through, employees will not trust any future commitments you make. Only commit to things that you have the time, ability, authority and resources to do. You are better off not making any promises at all than to make promises that you can’t or don’t keep.
3. You Don’t Follow the Rules – When those in leadership positions operate by their own set of rules, you send the message that you’re above it all. When organizations allow leaders to operate in that way and fail to hold them accountable, they are in essence endorsing the inappropriate behavior and demonstrating to employees that people in certain positions will not be held to the same standard that they are. Everyone including the leaders, need to play by the same set of rules and be held accountable by them.
4. You Are Dishonest in Your Dealings – Over-billing clients, falsifying budgetary numbers, unauthorized use of company property; these are but a few examples of dishonest behaviors that can occur within the leadership of an organization. When employees witness leaders being deceitful, every word or action thereafter becomes questionable. It’s hard to believe in someone or follow their direction if you’re wondering whether they are taking you down the right path or leading you astray. Honesty is the single most important characteristic in the leader-follower relationship – demonstrate that principal in your every day dealings at all levels.
5. You Show Preferential Treatment – A study by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business found that 84 percent of surveyed executives saw favoritism at work in their own organizations and almost 23 percent acknowledged showing favoritism themselves. Favoring one employee over others, especially when it comes to getting raises, promotions or even exposure creates chaos and resentment on a team. While we must acknowledge the realities of having natural inclinations towards certain individuals over others, leaders have a responsibility to endeavor to treat everyone fairly and equitably and establishing clear metrics and expectations that everyone will be measured on can help you stay on that path and taper misconceptions.
Remember – Trust isn’t something to take for granted, certainly not between leaders and their employees. It has to be earned.