Trust in senior management ‘weak’, says CIPD: HR Magazine

DeM Banter:  Reading about this more and more… and of course it appears to be reflected in the mainstream media as well.  …and then it hit me… am I senior leadership?  I think so… and now I am just mad.  So what what can we do about this to change it?  Please ponder that today… and I would highly encourage all senior leaders to ponder a HERO MOVEMENT!  

super-hero / View Original / October 24th, 2013

In contrast, trust in colleagues and line managers is high, according to the study of 3,000 public and private sector UK employees.

Employee Outlook: Focus on trust in leaders reports that only 34% of employees trust their senior managers. The figures for colleagues and line managers are 92% and 80% respectively.

The CIPD expressed concern about a “them and us” mentality breeding in the UK’s workplaces.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said trust was vital for building sustainable and successful organisations.

“We know that people want to work in organisations with a strong sense of purpose and values, and that environments of mutual trust enable people to speak up so that good ideas can prosper and bad practice can be stamped out,” Cheese said.

“Senior managers should try to tap into the strong levels of trust between colleagues and line mangers by observing what’s working well and increasing communications and transparency with frontline staff in order to close the inherent distance that exists between them.”

The study showed trust was particularly weak in the public sector, but strong in the voluntary sector.

It also found that trust ratings increased with an employee’s position. Senior managers were much more likely to report strong trust between employees and senior management than non-managerial workers.

Claire McCartney, research adviser at the CIPD, said there was a “real lack of awareness” among senior managers, who rate the trust levels much stronger than more junior employees.

“It seems they either have a tendency to view things through rose-tinted glasses, or are out of touch with how employees nearer the coalface are feeling,” she said.

“If senior leaders are in denial or burying their heads in the sand, there is a danger that a ‘them and us’ mentality will emerge and change will be very difficult to achieve.”

5 Replies to “Trust in senior management ‘weak’, says CIPD: HR Magazine”

  1. Bill, to me this is not news. I’ve seen this “trend” for over a decade and a half now and learned long ago that there are biases inherent to this type of analysis. What smart leaders need to be asking is “How big is the gap?” and “Are we closing it?” The gap provides a good indication of how well, or not, an organization communicates. Drivers of trust are openness, alignment, transparency, authenticity, and so on. For what it’s worth adding my own qualitative view on this matter…high tech has taken away the need to be close to the front, in among the troops, or on the shop floor. Management by walking around was the easiest way to keep the gap small. Leaders who send broadcast emails from their ivory towers and who are seldom seen rubbing elbows with the working class don’t earn trust…or respect.

    1. Roger: Good point on technology…there is a problem here…we need to do what we can to fix it–I know it’s only a small corner of the world, but that is where our influence is…we need to use it.

  2. HI Bill,

    Hmmm, “The study showed trust was particularly weak in the public sector, but strong in the voluntary sector.” Looks to me like trust is high in a place where people have to trust each other in order to get anything done. If this is so, then the real question becomes what is leadership in the public sector doing that does not build a trusting environment, and why should that be so?

    With regard to the technology piece, I don’t but it that MBWA doesn’t have a corollary here. Schedule the VTC, start an IM chat, or go old school and pick up the phone…. Remember, communication is a two way process. It takes both a sender and a receiver, and it requires some initiative. If you find yourself waiting too long for feedback, take charge of your destiny and start a conversation. In my case, I am geographically separate from both project teams I work with, so I am on the phone and email daily with those teams and have the occasional VTC thrown in for good measure when the bosses want one.

    Oh yeah, I always tell people that trust is like a balloon. You fill the balloon up a little at a time as you build up trust. It only takes one sharp issue to pop that balloon, and then you have to start all over again to try and build that trust back up. So, don’t pop the balloon…



  3. When speaking about trust on a broader scale – trust in leaders (plural), trust in business, trust in government, etc. – I have found Edelman’s Trust Barometer a great piece of work to reference and build upon. They’ve been conducting their research globally for over a decade, and it’s enlightening to see the trends in trust and how they match socio-economic and geo-political trends. At the end of this comment is the link to their 2012 report. Dive into this for the details. Then go to their 2013 Trust Barometer to learn about the attributes of trust which provide insight into how organizations might work to improve how well others trust them.

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