I have been working a lot lately on issues in regards to trust in the workplace and realize that, for the small business owner, it can be extremely hard to trust your employees. The scenario I see happen all of the time is that owners give their trust to an employee with no responsibility or understanding of the impact they have on the business, the employee somehow dishonors that trust, the owner feels burned and they then have difficulty trusting any of their employees.
The things I see happen are owners/managers reading their employees email, not giving them ownership to make decisions with customers/clients, listening in on telephone conversations, asking other employees to spy on each other, and all other types of behaviour that not only makes the workplace inhospitable but it creates a nonproductive atmosphere.
I get it, trusting and being burned over and over make it difficult to trust again. Here's the thing though, if you don't trust your employees even a little bit, they are going to eventually feel as if they aren't part of the team and don't need to be on the job at all. Instead of giving trust away freely though you have to do it with responsibility tied directly to it and remember that the ultimate goal is to boost productivity, create a positive work environment and create exemplary customer service.
5 Ways to Boost Workplace Trust
Values: Are your values communicated on a regular basis to your team? I am fortunate to work with a leader in our community on the Main Street board who consistently repeats our core values when we are flustered about a circumstance - we lead by example, with integrity in our work and words. The idea that the companies values are consistently shared; at meetings, one-on-one, in print and via email are a reminder of what is expected in every situation. What are your core values? Do your employees know them? Do you abide by them as well?
Goals: Do your employees have both shared goals with the company and their own personal goals within the company? I like to think of this like team sports. The Razorbacks (to use our local team as the example) work together to win - obviously an ultimate goal, but they each have individual records for their own performance that they are trying to improve. Knowing what the team and the employee are working towards can be a huge benefit to improving trust.
Integerity: Do the owners and managers work with integrity? Do they gossip, spy and cheat? You are not going to gain trust if your own behavior looks suspicious. Putting on your big girl/boy pants and being a grown up in the workplace is your job. Stop the games and intrigue right now and show your team how to develop professional skills. Lying, cheating and playing games have no place in a productive workplace - and you need to model that behavior - remember, employees learn from their leaders and will do what they do.
Reward: Are employees recognized for accomplishing their goals? Do they get the positive reinforcement needed to know they are on the right path? Rewards and recognition do not always need to be financial - they can be part of the culture to support the good that is happening in the workplace.
Listening: Do you listen to your employees with a sense of openness and caring or are you to busy plotting your next move? People need to feel heard, even when you don't have time to do it. Working in an environment where people are listened to will create a sense that their ideas matter - and they will gain the trust that they need to share the good and the bad with you and the team.
Stuff happens. You get bad eggs. You have to honor the work each person does and not judge everyone through the lens of your past experiences. Start by becoming a trusted leader. Be honest, truthful and above all, stop the games. Your team isn't there to be hoodwinked by you or anyone else, they are there to learn to do a better and better job. Give them small amounts of responsibility, with clear understanding of the commitment, reward them for doing a good job and build on the trust.