Article: The corporate dogma of trust and building high-performance organizations

Employee Engagement

The corporate dogma of trust and building high-performance organizations

Trust is a foundational block for creating a high performance organization. However, do corporations really practice what they preach when they say, “Create a culture of trust”?
The corporate dogma of trust and building high-performance organizations

Welcome to the absurd age of Shrinking Everything! Employment, corporate profits, home prices, the stock market, and the most romanticized word used in corporates- Trust.

Trust is often referred as the bedrock of the organization’s boom. And if there is no trust, communication and teamwork, then, performance inevitably suffers. Researchers and educators around the world preach the importance of trust.

In fact, much of the corporate’s belief on trust can be referred back to Stephen Covey’s The Speed of Trust, “When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organization, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up.… The inverse is equally true: When trust goes up, cost goes down, and speed goes up.”

Trust is, without a doubt, instrumental for business success. However, the following examples will give you a glimpse of corporate’s dogma of trust:

  • With so much technology available to make remote work faster, less expensive and more effective, some large organizations (including Yahoo! when CEO Marissa Mayer took the helm) have pulled their formerly-flexible-workforces back into the office. With the world getting more connected than ever, why would a company tell employees "You may no longer work from home — come back and work in the office?”
  • In 2017, Barclays Plc, a British multinational bank installed sensors that track how often bankers are at their workstations. These sensors are tracking devices called OccupEye, which use heat and motion sensors to record how long employees are spending at their workstations.

  • Amazon monitored its employees using GPS tags while they were inside the warehouse. If any employee was found to breach any of the company's rules, such as talking to colleagues or leaving work early, he could be dismissed on a ‘three strikes, and you are out' basis.

And like they say, it takes two hands to clap, the story of trust doesn’t restrict to the limited capabilities of employers to trust their workers.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, which has been studying trust in companies, people, and institutions for almost twenty years, has found that a majority of rank-and-file employees don’t trust their company’s leadership, and worse, less than a quarter believe that their CEO is ethical.

Trust is shrinking and so is the performance of organizations. Less-obvious causes of distrust tend to originate more from the traditional environments in which leaders have been mentored than from specific behaviors of well-meaning managers. For example, traditional leadership training often focused on rule enforcement, which is akin to parent-child communication and not how trustworthy adults function. Today, leaders in high-performance workplaces don’t write policies around the few bad apples; instead, they expect people to act in the best interests of the company and one another.

However, all is not lost. Here are some of the ways you can follow to address the less-visible causes of distrust:

Let ‘trust’ play a critical factor in making hiring decisions

First, don’t assume that technical skills and knowledge will outplay a candidate’s character. Why do you want to work here? And other traditional interview questions will never let you know a person’s values like integrity, accountability and ownership. Understand if the candidate you are hiring will create a culture in which people can count on one another.

Finally, check out those references at the bottom of the resume! 

Empower everyone

People want to talk about the problems at their workplace. But venting to anonymous colleagues is about the least effective approach to ameliorating the underlying conditions making workers unhappy in the workforce. It is one of the common and unconscious ways of propagating distrust among the employees. HR needs to smooth the way out where each employee can share their issues with their managers or independent teams without the fear of any negative consequences. If your employees are tight-lipped about their challenges in front of their managers, you need to actively consider the culture of empowering people to stand for themselves and each other.

Practice a fair culture over a diverse culture

Often employees of underrepresented group do not report incidents of harassment, incidents of bias, and discrimination for a sole reason--they don’t trust the management enough. They feel stranded and fear they will get fired from their jobs.

Take this incident of Google. In August this year, a memo circulated on the internet where a former employee of Google described the racism she felt as a black person working at the search giant's New York Headquarters.

The memo mentioned, "I never stopped feeling the burden of being black at Google.”

 Organizations need to create a more fair culture to create more trust among the minority group.

Keep the information flowing

When you withhold information, people think you have something to hide. In the absence of information, they will make stuff up and fill in the gaps on their own. When you eventually tell them, if the information conflicts with what they have made up or heard from other sources, chances are they won’t believe you.

Keep employees apprised on how the business is doing overall and where you see it headed in the next one to three years. Provide regular updates on shifts in the external environment. Encourage employees to ask questions, and when they do, tell the truth, reveal or communicate as much as you can.

Employee and employer skepticism is at an all time high! Building a culture of trust is what leaders need in order to successfully lead their organizations. The key is to recognize that we cannot demand trust but we have to earn it. And that starts with doing the little things, such as keeping communication transparent, respecting everyone,  with respect and treating everyone fairly.


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Topics: Employee Engagement, #ChangeTheGame

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