Why Do Your Employees Trust Their Coworkers More Than You?

July 12, 2022

Why Do Your Employees Trust Their Coworkers More Than You?

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

Most business leaders get so lost in the details of how to make a profit that they forget the basics: success in any aspect of life is founded on relationships that are founded on trust. That’s why, as the world evolves and technology advances to make research and information more readily available, the social dynamics in the workplace begin to evolve as well.

Trust in the workplace has been a hot topic for years, even before the pandemic. But leaders truly realized how important building trust in the workplace is when the pandemic began and upended what we knew as normal.

I have always believed that it is everyone’s duty to lead, and this Entrepreneur article caught my attention: This Is Why Employees Trust Their Co-Workers More Than You. The title is very challenging, almost as if it is asking me, “Why do employees distrust leaders?” In fact, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, one out of three people do not trust their employers. That’s how bad the situation is!

And in the same Edelman survey, they found that the higher you go up the ladder (in other words, the more you earn the title of "leader"), the more other people lose trust in you, which is the opposite of what should be happening. People should be able to trust the person leading them because it would be impossible to lead if your people don’t trust you.

Getting your people to trust you is part of your responsibility as a leader.

Why trust matters

According to Haiilo, in a work environment with low trust, employees are often disengaged, unmotivated, disloyal, and uncommunicative. They often work poorly and withhold their creativity, talents, energy, and passion. This affects overall efficiency and productivity, morale, company culture, and company innovation and competitiveness.

Research shows that disengagement in US companies results in a profit loss of around $450 billion to $550 billion annually.

Trust promotes better communication in the workplace through teamwork and collaboration. When people share a sense of vulnerability, they are able to work together more effectively.

It also enhances alignment from management to employees, and everyone strives to work efficiently and is more engaged to contribute to reaching the team’s goals. Haiilo says that highly-trusted workplaces enjoy 50% higher employee productivity; energy is more than doubled; and employees take 13% fewer sick days because they are less stressed and burned out (74% and 40%, respectively) and less likely to get sick or pretend to be sick just to get off work.

Since people feel more heard and valued in a high-trust workplace, they feel more empowered and, subsequently, more invested in taking part in the decision-making. This improves innovation and creativity, and studies prove that employees who trust their workplace are 23% more likely to offer more ideas and solutions (Source: SHRM).

A low-trust environment breeds anxiety and fear, and burned-out employees are more likely to leave the company by up to 2.5 times, according to Accenture’s research. By developing trust at work, you increase employee loyalty and retention.

A team with a solid foundation in trust is also more resilient because they know they are not alone in times of uncertainty—they can rely on their coworkers and their leaders to carry each other through changes.

Remember, promoting a culture of trust rather than fear encourages collaboration and builds a creative workplace. When employees are afraid to make mistakes or have a fear of being punished, they are far less likely to take initiatives, yet risk is essential to innovation. (Source: Haiilo)

How to build trust

Everything starts with healthy communication. Give your people an avenue, a platform, where they can be heard and they can feel that their opinions are valued. This increases their ownership of their roles in the team. Most leaders’ mistakes are keeping communication one-sided: They send out newsletters with “motivational” messages but never take the chance to listen to their employees. Communication is a two-way street—you have to listen as much, if not more.

It is also important to communicate with transparency. Keep your employees informed and promote a culture of accountability through being vulnerable, setting realistic expectations, and giving (and receiving) feedback. Misinformation at work can be frustrating and alienating, plus it gets in the way of productivity and morale.

It is also important to have an organized and centralized communication platform so that everyone can send and receive information without the possibility of messages getting lost, buried, or difficult to access and keep track of. Open, honest, and organized communication is vital in keeping efficiency and productivity at optimal levels.

Being more authentic and personal in how you relate to your people is also important. When you treat your employees as human beings and approach them with empathy, it isn’t just trust that is fostered but also respect.

Focusing less on seniority and rank also lowers stress levels and frustrations. As Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones said, “Any man who must say I am the king is no true king.” In the same way, if you lead by example, you no longer have to pull rank to be recognized as one.

Give them a vision, and show them that they have a role that is vital in fulfilling that vision. This gives them a sense of purpose and, at the same time, shows your employees that you, as a leader, trust them. They, in turn, will learn to trust you if you lead with integrity and keep true to your words.

Give recognition to individuals and teams for their achievements and milestones. It is hard to trust a leader who takes credit for others’ hard work, but it is easy to trust a leader who shows appreciation to his people.

Go a step further. Show you care for them by celebrating the small and big things too, such as their birthdays or onboarding anniversaries. This shows you see them more as a means to make money than as individual people. Acknowledgment goes beyond saying thanks; sometimes it is as simple as letting your employees know you know their names.

Empower your employees by getting them involved in change management and creating new systems. This helps them be prepared for changes, and by getting their input, they are more likely to be willing to participate in ensuring that the newly established systems work.

By adopting a people-first mindset, you can encourage a healthy, more stress-free, and motivating work environment for everyone.

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.