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05/1 2011

Loss of Trust in the Workplace — And How to Regain It

Many organizations — and individual leaders — face a loss of trust by employees in the workplace.   Some studies indicate that nearly half of those planning a job change cite a lack of trust as a major factor in their decsion to change jobs, and 65% of executives feel that a lack of trust will significantly increase voluntary turnover in coming  years.

According to Drs. Dennis and Michelle Reina, co-authors of the book “Re-Building Trust in the Workplace”, major events (such as criminal activities by leaders) are not the only factors negatively impacting trust levels — instead, activities such as gossiping, finger-pointing, or taking credit for the work of others tend to have a more long-term, more significant influence on lower levels of trust.

The Drs. Reina suggest the following 7-step process for leaders to try and mend trust, and to re-energize and re-engaged the workforce:

  1. Observe and acknowledge what happened:  Acknowledge any specific incident(s) that have occurred, listen to employees, and demonstrate that their feelings do matter
  2. Allow feelings to surface:  Establish ongoing communication venues (focus groups, town hall meetings, and one-on-one conversations) to help ensure that employee emotions are not driven underground
  3. Get and give support:  Leaders need to share information with employees feel involved and knowledgeable about current issues — and leaders also need to find mentors and/or an executive coach to serve as a personal support network
  4. Reframe the experience:  Leaders need to help others see the big picture issues around key decisions (such as the business reasons behind decisions, and also communicate the potential benefits facing employees as a result of the decisions that were made)
  5. Take responsibility:   It is important for leaders to own-up to the decisions that they made, and they need to hold themselves (and others) accountable for future behaviors
  6. Forgive yourself and others:  It is important to acknowledge the impact of broken trust, and to let others know that you will learn from the experience and expect others to learn from the experience, as well
  7. Let go and move on:  Leaders need to “let go” (and help others let go), and help others focus on moving forward with a sense of shared responsibility

Some surveys show that 90% of employees inidicate that they see the effects of low trust daily in the workplace — and with a statistic like that, effective leaders will need to pay careful attention to trust levels within their own organizations, and will need to keep the above process steps handy for use when needed.

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