Deposits in "Trust Bank" pay big dividends in workplace

Trust. It's at the core of any meaningful relationship. And it's certainly a key requirement for any organization interested in creating and keeping a motivated, committed workforce.  

You can't automatically create must be earned, one behavior at a time. It's almost like each of us has an emotional bank account. If you are treated well by your manager, a "deposit" is made in your account. But when a personal violation occurs, a "withdrawal" is made. If your manager treats you well over a long period of time, trust builds and an occasional withdrawal is no big deal. But when an account is empty-or even has a negative balance-trust has no foundation on which to build.  

If a company has many employees with empty accounts and low trust, any attempt to implement any changes and improvements will be met with skepticism and resistance. Cultural change requires a personal commitment from everyone. Building trust must come first.  

Saying "Trust me" won't work. Only day-to-day actions can prove that management is trustworthy.  

Here are some behaviors that will help you to invest in your employees' emotional bank accounts:

Be Consistent.

Trust is destroyed when employees are constantly surprised by inconsistent treatment. Surprising them with negative feedback at performance review time; changing priorities without explanation; and changing the rules arbitrarily are the kinds of behaviors that convince employees to be suspicious and on their guard. They see that the top has the power to knock them off balance whenever they want to.  

Top management has a big role to play in establishing the values they want to operate from. If the top managers aren't in alignment, there is little chance that their behaviors will be consistent. Mixed signals destroy trust.  

Instead, say what you'll do and do what you say. Keep the promises you make or don't make them at all. If you need to change direction, explain why. Treat all employees like the most important customers you have-because they are.

Tell the truth.

If this were easy to do, we'd all be doing a lot more of it. Many managers hoard or hide company information from employees. They think knowledge is power and they want it all for themselves in the hope that it will give them job security. They don't tell poor performers the truth about their need to improve. They don't admit when they don't know the answer or admit that they've made a mistake.  

Telling the truth is closely related to the first point-being consistent. If you tell the truth consistently, you will build trust. Whether the news is good or bad, employees will learn to rely on you for a straight answer.

Treat people with respect and dignity.

This is not conditional. Even if they screw up or do something nasty to someone else, you need to set a clear example that people can trust. Does this mean you coddle poor performers or "look the other way" when mistakes are made? Not at all.  

On the contrary, it means treating them like adults who deserve to know the truth. For example, if they're failing on the job, they deserve to be told and given a chance to succeed. But if they don't succeed, they can be "helped out of the organization" in a dignified way. The rest of the employees will be grateful. They will see that you can be trusted to reward the right behavior and that everyone- even the worst performers- will be treated with dignity. But they will also be expected to take responsibility for their own behavior.

Share information.

One of the best ways to demonstrate that you trust your employees is to treat them like colleagues who are as committed to the organization as you are. Give them information about customers; tell them what the vision and goals of the company are and discuss how they fit in; tell them what you know as soon as you know it.

Ask for input and listen to it.

You don't trust people who do all the talking and don't listen to your opinions and ideas. Your employees don't either. Trust is built when employees know you will take time to listen to them and involve them during the decision making process. Telling them after the fact creates BOHICA (Bend Over Here It Comes Again).  

Trust isn't something you can demand from someone else until you've taken steps to deserve it.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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