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If trust is so important, why is it so scarce?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

 All the management books, the academic articles and the gurus are in agreement trust is essential if a leader and an organisation are to be successful. Yet resent research and repeated employee surveys show two thirds of employees don’t trust senior management!

How do we explain this apparent contradiction. It’s a controversial view but in my experience organisation’s jog along adequately enough without the ,” interference “ of senior managers. The same employee surveys that show two thirds of of employees don’t trust senior managers found that two thirds of employees did trust their immediate line manager.

It’s these managers in the front line that keep the business ticking over. They are trusted because their team sees them every day and have a relationship with them that’s more than just a payroll number. Often these managers came up from the shop floor so they know the job they are asking others to do which in turn means their employees have confidence in them. Their direct experience means team members known whether they will do what they say they will and whether they are fair and  consistent in the way they treat people.

The problem of lack of trust arises when organisations seek to make changes especially big changes like a restructuring, a merger, the introduction of new technology or new ways of working and changes in terms and conditions of employment. These changes are driven by senior management. The people that most employees have never met. The directives from the top convince employees that the senior managers either don’t have the direct experience or their work or the experience is out of date. Hence the often heard complaint that senior management is out of touch or don’t know what they are doing.

The information about the changes is often expressed in general terms not the detail that individuals want which only serves to increase employees suspicions. They trust their line manager but believe that they are being kept in the dark by senior management. Basically they don’t see how the changes will work unless senior management has a hidden agenda, a plan which despite the claims that employees jobs are safe and no one will lose out financially are simply not believed. Perhaps trust has been eroded by broken promises or past experience of senior managers being economical with the truth.

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