Five Keys to Building Employee Trust

By Sylvia Melena, M.A.
Employee trust is not automatic. It is something you either earn or lose over time, word by word and action by action.   It takes a lot of effort to build it, and it can be lost in the blink of an eye.  Unfortunately, once it’s lost, it takes a great deal of effort to repair the damage and earn it back.
The great news is that when trust has been firmly established and your supervisor-employee relationship is rock solid, your employees will be more forgiving when you make mistakes.  And believe me, you’re human, so you will make mistakes.
We can spend days exploring how to build and establish trust and go over the many essential elements of trust.  For now, here are five keys to keep in mind:

  1. Honesty – Be honest in all your dealings with everyone.   If you can’t share information because you are bound by confidentiality, law, or ethical reasons, say so.  Employees value your honesty.  They also have the ability to detect when you are being dishonest.   You don’t need to lie or manipulate employees to get things done.  If you are honest with them and share the bigger picture, most will go the extra mile for you.  On the contrary, if you use deceit and manipulation to get things done, it may work for a while, but sooner or later your employees will figure it out.  When the moment of truth comes, your credibility will be lost and this loss will significantly hamper your effectiveness.
  1. Safety – Create an environment where your employees feel safe to be honest with you. If they have needs, issues, or concerns, they should feel safe to come to you for assistance.  They should feel safe to be vulnerable with you and to let you know about their struggles without fear of reprisal.  They need to be safe to express themselves honestly, even when their perspectives differ from yours.  You must demonstrate that you will not use this information against them, but rather to understand how you can best support them and help them achieve success.  When employees know you have their backs, they will have yours.
  1. Fairness – Treat everyone fairly. Let fairness rule when you rate performance, distribute resources, provide rewards, and select people for choice assignments.  Have an objective and standardized system to make these types of decisions and stay true to it.   Demonstrate transparency regarding your system and let your employees know what it takes to reap the rewards.  Employees should not have to guess what it takes to earn excellent performance ratings, receive recognition, or reap other benefits.
  1. Consistency – Be consistent in what you say and do. Employees can’t feel safe if they don’t know what to expect from you.  It is very disconcerting when leaders are inconsistent.  Imagine a leader who shows mercy one moment and lashes out the next.  Uncertainty creates a stressful environment for employees, and this stress is detrimental to your employee’s health, your success, and the success of your organization or company.
  1. Promise Keeping – Keep your promises. Be careful with what you say and how you say it, as promises can be made directly or merely implied.  Once employees perceive a promise, they expect you to deliver.  If you fail to deliver, their trust in you is instantly shattered.  Never say “never” and never say “always.”  Uttering these two words can inadvertently lead to a broken promise.

Each interaction you have with your employees is a golden opportunity to earn and reinforce their trust.  Use these opportunities to build strong supervisor-employee relationships that will lead to everyone’s success and create a thriving workplace. These five keys may not be a cure-all, but they are definitely a strong start.

HSC Summer Leadership Conference 2016

According to updated Pew Research Center data published on July 28, 2016, while U.S. Hispanics have made significant strides in decreasing the high school dropout rate and in increasing the college enrollment rate in the last decade, we still lag in four-year degree attainment. We have indeed made some noteworthy progress, but we still have work ahead of us. Read More

On July 28th, I had the privilege of making a contribution to the development of tomorrow’s Hispanic leaders and to moving the dial on Hispanic college retention and degree attainment. I had the honor of working with two amazing groups of bright, vibrant and talented Hispanic high school and college students. I designed and facilitated two back-to-back workshops on the “The Power of Building and Marketing Your Leadership Brand” for the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium’s Summer Leadership Conference in Austin, Texas.

It was a truly rewarding experience to be part of an effort where the public, private and non-profit sectors collectively invest in our nation’s future.

Managing Workplace Socializing

If you’re concerned that your employees are wasting time chit chatting, checking their cell phones, taking long breaks, or watching the clock before the end of their shift, it’s time take a long and hard look at what’s really going on.

It may be tempting to force employees into compliance by installing surveillance cameras and intensifying monitoring activities. Unfortunately, these enforcement measures will not get to the root of the problem and may in the long run exacerbate it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that monitoring is not an essential part of effective management.  As a matter of fact, it is.  However, monitoring alone may not be the fix.  What’s more, you may not even need a fix.

Not all workplace socializing is necessarily bad.  The real question is whether this workplace behavior is having a negative impact on your operations.

If your employees achieve high productivity levels and your company produces excellent results, then the chit chatting could be an indication of a cohesive and engaged team and may even be contributing to that cohesion.  On the other hand, if productivity levels are low and your workforce is yielding lackluster results, then you may have a bigger issue under the surface, which will require more than extensive monitoring to fix.

The only way you will get to the root of the problem is to conduct a thorough and systematic assessment.

There are a variety of issues that can impact workplace productivity and performance, such as undeveloped leadership, unclear expectations, absence of accountability, inadequate recognition, lack of tools and resources, unsupportive company culture, and many more.  However, without an accurate assessment of your organization’s specific situation, you will neither be able to uncover the key issues nor develop effective, targeted strategies to improve productivity and performance.

If you are concerned about the socializing your employees are displaying, you may want to take the time to objectively evaluate the actual impact on individual and company performance before moving forward with corrective action. While it may be tempting to intensify monitoring and compliance activities, please consider the type of environment this may create and the effect if could have on your company’s performance.

SYLVIA MELENA is the Founder and CEO of Melena Consulting Group and the author of Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance.

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