Losing the trust of an employee can affect more than just the relationship between that particular person and the business. It can also have a damaging impact upon the wider organisation.
One study shows that having just one distrustful employee in your team reduces how much other employees trust you.
As the study’s author says, trust is contagious – if one person distrusts you or your organisation it can cause others to wonder if they’ve misplaced their trust in you.
Why is it important to establish trust among your employees?
Without trust between you and your employees it’s difficult to establish a positive working relationship. Levels of employee trust influence your company culture. If there is a lack of trust, this will result in a toxic culture.
This negative atmosphere can reduce productivity and profit while increasing staff turnover. Not only will you struggle to keep hold of your existing staff, but you’ll also find it hard to recruit quality candidates for your business – word gets around quickly and it will become more difficult to attract top employees.
Find out more about company culture and its impact on business performance.
Can you regain an employee's trust?
It’s not about who was right or wrong
Even great leaders make mistakes. The first step to regaining trust is to admit your mistakes. Go to the person you’ve upset; be honest about the mistakes you made and explain the situation to them.
This isn’t about making excuses or trying to shift the blame onto your employee, but rather going through your thought processes with them on a practical and emotional level to better understand where things went wrong.
Analyse why you lost your employee’s trust
It’s important to figure out how and why you lost your employee’s trust. Don’t be afraid to ask your employee for constructive comments and feedback. Communication at this stage is really important. You need to be open with them if you want to rebuild that lost trust.
Managers or owners may be nervous about hearing feedback from employees, but it can build bridges if you do. If an employee knows you’ll listen and act upon what they say, this can start to rebuild trust.
In contrast, disregarding what they say can deepen the mistrust and even make a relationship unsalvageable.
Be clear about accountability
It’s important to be accountable for your actions if you want to keep trust between you and your staff. We’re human and we all make mistakes – there’s no shame in admitting when you were wrong and learning from it.
However, you should also hold your employees accountable. Trust may have been eroded because of something you’ve done, but that doesn’t mean they get a free pass to behave as they like.
An atmosphere of mutual trust needs accountability and responsibility to work both ways. Reward high performers and deal properly with poor performers through regular appraisals and reviews.
Establish trust with your employees by managing expectations
Trust is sometimes lost because employees are unclear as to what is expected of them. Make sure they know what their job is, how to do it and how it fits within the wider company vision.
If they don’t and they make a mistake, it’s very easy for them to lose trust in you or their manager. Clear expectations will stop that happening and employees will perform better because they know what to do.
Build trust by moving forwards
As with all relationships, focusing on the future is sometimes the best way to proceed. Covering old ground by bringing up the situation that ruptured the trust in the first place damages everyone.
If you really want to regain your employee’s trust in the long-term, forget about what caused them to lose it in the first place and concentrate on the future instead.
It can be helpful to get external, specialist support to help re-establish trust with your employees.