Lack of Trust

Changing a low trust working environment can be challenging. Reina and Reina (2009) found 9 out of 10 employees had experienced some sort of breach of trust in the workplace on a regular basis. Tolero Solutions (2017) reported that ‘45% of people say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting on their work performance’. This level of mistrust may take some time to work through, but identifying that a lack of trust is a problem is an important first step. High staff turnover and low productivity can indicate that there is a problem and although the scale of mistrust may vary within an organisation, and over time, once the problem has been identified, it is important that you and senior colleagues act to address it.

Broken trust can be identified in a meeting with a member of staff, in a team meeting with a group of staff, or in staff surveys, etc. Covey (2009) suggests that the issue is so important, that achieving high levels of trust needs to be an explicit organisational objective:

This level of ‘trust accountability’ enables an organisation to stay focused on ‘trust’ because, as Covey suggests, trust has a direct and proportionate relationship with speed and cost. When trust goes up, ‘speed goes up and costs go down’

Rebuilding Trust in Your Work Environment

As a leader, you will know that for staff ‘to trust’ you, they become psychologically vulnerable.  Such vulnerability should be respected, and staff should be treated fairly (Mineo, 2014). In being fair, you demonstrate a balanced treatment in the allocation of recognition and rewards.  This approach can transform their working lives, which will improve productivity, support innovation, sustainability and lower costs.   
A 2013 survey by CIPD found that in addition to looking after the people you lead, you need to focus on finding ways to improve communication, and give ‘a stronger employee voice’. Listen to the concerns of staff and make time and resources available for a more meaningful consultation. It is also important that ‘systems of recognition and individual behaviour reinforces corporate values’. In other words, you need to be inclusive and take staff with you as you lead staff towards achieving personal and organisational goals. 

To fix broken trust you need ‘an authentic, open and honest, compassionate and accountable style’. (Tolero Solutions, 2017)Martinuzzi (2017) suggests that in your dealings with staff and customers you need to view promises you make as an unpaid debt and treat your reputation as a brand.  Be known as a truth teller in your organization and earn the trust of your customers by keeping your promises’. To fix broken trust you need to be a leader who is trusted, rather than feared.

Covey, S, with Merrill, R (2006). The one thing that changes everything, the speed of trust Vol. 28, No. 11 (3 parts), Part 1, November 2006, Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Covey, S, with Merrill, R (2009). Linkage’s Eleventh Annual Best of Organization Development Summit in Chicago, IL, (accessed Nov 2017)
Martinuzzi, B (2017). The Power of Trust: a Steel Cable Mindtools,
Mineo, D.L (2014). The Importance of Trust in Leadership Research Management Review, Vol 20; 1, pages 1-6
Reina, D.S., & Reina, M.L (2006). Trust and betrayal in the workplace: Building effective relationships in your organization 2nd ed. San Francisco: Berrett Koehler,
Tolero Solutions (2017). Lack of Trust in Leadership is the Biggest Issue Impacting Performance – How do you Fix the Problem? CIPD (2013). Megatrends; Are organisations losing the trust of their workers? CIPD: London,

Further Resources