Touchstone of trust: are you confident your CEO is honest?

A quarter of employees don’t trust their company leaders to be transparent and less than half think they listen. Why trust will be a make-or-break issue in 2024

Trust in the workplace is set to be one of the touchstone issues of 2024, but, so far, the portents aren’t great. While a shift back to in-person working at the office might not directly correlate with lower levels of trust, the news that more than a quarter of employees (26 per cent) do not trust their CEO to be honest and transparent hardly breeds confidence.

The study on trust was conducted by Personio, an HR software company. It found less than half (46 per cent) of employees feel that their company leaders listen to and act on their feedback, and that more than a quarter (28 per cent) are not even given a chance to share feedback with leadership on their experiences.

The survey paints a picture of employees who are condemned to a cycle of not being able to trust those whom they are being governed by in the workplace, yet not being given the opportunity to share and question this mistrust either.

Online monitoring

One reason for a breakdown in trust could be the implementation of online workplace monitoring tools, which has led to increase in micromanagement and suspicion. Often, this works from the top down: workers feel the need to constantly appear productive to their managers online and ensure that their status is constantly ‘active’.

In response, the growth in ‘mouse-jiggling’ tools begins. These range from small USB plug ins that constantly move your mouse around, so as to appear active online, to the wealth of online ‘hacks’ to ensure your laptop never shuts down if you have to step away. The implication that a lack of online movement directly correlates to a lack of productivity is harmful – encouraging not only sentiments of false productivity, but feeding into micromanaging behaviours, too.

In the new and evolving era of hybrid working, Gallup reports that effective management styles should include a weekly conversation with each employee focusing on recognition, goals and priorities, and collaboration and strengths. As this can be implemented across employees who are either exclusively remote, fully on-site, or a hybrid mix of the two, introducing it into the workforce seems a positive step for employers and employees alike. It might go some way to alleviating employee stress and increasing trust in employers.

Quiet quitting

If the issue of lack of trust in the workplace is not sufficiently addressed, for many employees, ‘quiet quitting’ is the next step. This is a phenomenon that refers to the practice of meeting the baseline job description but going no further. There is a strong air of detachment attached to this way of working, which is alarming for employers who are trying to foster trust within their workforce.

With quiet quitters making up over half of the US workforce according to Gallup research, this problem calls for some serious attention. Yet, as a report from Deloitte points out, it is common for organisations to only consider one aspect of trust – the relationship between a worker and a manager. But what also important is the collective experiences of colleagues in the workplace, as interpersonal interactions and expectations can strongly affect feelings of mistrust in work environments.

When workers become disillusioned, feeling as if there is no one they can trust in the workplace, they might turn to loud quitting. This is the practice of being actively disengaged, and perhaps even working to subvert the organisation for which they work. Such employees are essentially ‘cheating the system’.

‘When trust is absent, micromanaging behaviours become rife…’

A strong level of trust in the workplace facilitates feelings of security and confidence, contributing to an organisation’s health. When trust is absent, micromanaging behaviours and disillusionment in the working environment become rife, creating an atmosphere that can be challenging to feel like you are truly thriving. Finding the right balance – between productivity and over working, between micromanaging and being able to express concerns – is essential.

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