Universal Priority: Do I TRUST them?

Is there organizational trust?

Leaders are a vital link in building organizational trust and engaging employees. Senior leaders create an environment in which the conditions for engagement either thrive or diminish. In a trusting workplace, employees feel safe. They do not fear negative consequences to their self image or their status. They do not fear emotional and psychological harm. Employees are able to express their genuine selves without concern for consequences that threaten their image or their future. Engaged employees trust that the company will consider each employee, seek to meet employees’ needs, and treat employees fairly.

Leaders set the tone for a trusting workplace. Leaders build organizational trust when the workplace is predictable, consistent, and nonthreatening. They build trust by putting their people first so they can feel safe. Organizational trust is a condition required for employee engagement and organizational excellence.

Several factors impact trust in leaders: honesty and integrity, fairness and consistency, and competence.

Honesty and integrity promote organizational trust.

Employees trust leaders who are ethical and truthful. Leaders impact the future of the organization and the employees in it; therefore, employees trust leaders who they believe are honest, who will do what’s right for the company, and who will do what they say they will do.

Fairness and consistency promote organizational trust.

Fairness is a foundation for building trust, and the lack of fairness feels threatening and can make a person feel undervalued. Fairness relates to many circumstances such as fairness in decision-making processes, fairness in decision outcomes, fairness in compensation and rewards, fairness in procedures, fairness in interactions and interpersonal treatment, and fairness in the distribution of resources. Using one’s power in a fair way enhances feelings of safety and nurtures engagement.

Examples of fairness which illustrate the importance of this concept include:

  • Fairness in interactions implies that employees have interactions with the organization’s leaders and managers. If interactions with leaders do not exist, it can negatively impact trust. When employees have interactions with their organization’s leaders and those interactions are positive, where employee views are considered, they are given timely feedback and are treated with kindness and consideration, they have greater trust in the leaders and the organization and feel more engaged.
  • Fairness in distributive justice: I am fairly rewarded based on my responsibilities, my effort, my outcomes, and for the difficulties of my job.
  • Fairness in procedural justice: Procedures must feel fair for employees to have trust and be engaged.

Additionally, without openness, it is difficult to build a climate of fairness. Consistency relates to fairness because inconsistent, unpredictable actions can feel unfair and therefore diminish trust. Engagement can suffer if employees feel unsafe due to situations that are unclear and unpredictable.

Competence promotes organizational trust.

Having competent leaders builds trust. Employees want to work for an organization where they have confidence in the ability of their leaders to guide the organization to be successful. The future of the organization is the future of each employee. Employees want to be a part of a winning team where the business is in good health and worth the investment of their time. Employee status is linked to the reputation of the organization; employees want to be proud not only of what they do but also where they do it. And reputation is a good predictor of competence. A successful organization with an admired reputation contributes to a positive sense of self for its employees.

Competent leaders know how to inspire those they lead and clarify decisions and direction. They also ensure that organizational systems and processes are designed to facilitate work.

Additionally, competent leaders are not only competent in thinking strategically and executing effectively, but also in doing their part to build employee engagement.

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