Senior managers are in denial about low levels of trust in their organizations

by Claire McCartney

There seems to be a real lack of awareness amongst senior managers, who rate the trust levels much stronger than more junior employees. It seems they either have a tendency to view things through rose tinted glasses, or are out of touch with how employees nearer the coalface are feeling. If senior leaders are in denial or burying their heads in the sand, there is a danger that a 'them and us' mentality will emerge and change will be very difficult to achieve.

Employees report that trust is the third most important attribute in senior managers (after competency and communication)*, and more than a third of employees also rate attributes such as openness and straight talking and honesty as important attributes. Encouragingly, a high proportion of survey respondents think that trust is a factor when selecting leaders within their organizations, but, with such poor trust scores between employees and senior managers, we must question whether those responsible for hiring decisions are getting this process right. Selecting and developing trustworthy leaders is a complex area and one we are investigating further."

The good news from the survey is that creating a climate of trust is not rocket science. The majority of employees point to simple and effective practices such as 'approachable', 'competent' and 'consistent leaders' who 'act with honesty and integrity' and 'lead by example'. They also admire leaders who 'admit mistakes' 'consult on major decisions and ask for employee opinions' and 'treat staff fairly and with respect'.

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