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The Power of Trust

Hey Boss, Can I Trust You?

Never in my adult life have I felt more resolute that employers have a fundamental obligation to be diligent to “do the right thing” even when it seemed like the unpopular approach. In the midst of a pandemic, an all-time high unemployment rate, and most-recently protests that are affecting how and where businesses operate, it seems that employers are challenged to make more real-time and highly visible decisions that impact their employees and customers.

In what seems like a lifetime ago but was really just this past February, I had the chance to speak with a group of public-sector employees about the power of personal branding which really ended up being a conversation about the power of trust. In preparation for the presentation, I landed on an annual survey conducted by Edelman called the “Edelman Trust Barometer” which breaks down the sense of trust individuals have in their employers, their governments, media and in NGOs (non-government organizations).

Prior to the pandemic, 83% of employees feared losing their jobs to an inevitable recession, offshoring, independent contractors or “gig workers” or because their skills were becoming obsolete. In a May update, Edelman discovered that 56% of workers were concerned about losing their job solely due to the pandemic. No doubt every employer, particularly those in small and mid-sized businesses, is faced with decisions on which positions are essential and how to bring the individuals in those roles back into the workplace while doing all they can to provide a safe, compliant yet productive workplace.

As we began bringing team members back into the office, while most were quiet about the changes we’d made to address social distancing and community spread, it was nice to receive a few encouraging messages from employees who appreciated the changes, despite the inconveniences they might have experienced. Our senior leadership team has also become more aware of messaging and even though, like many businesses we are trying to navigate the ambiguous guidance provided legislators, we have grown more comfortable with being very transparent with our direction.

In Patrick Lencioni’s leadership fable The FIVE Dysfunctions of a TEAM, the foundation of a well-functioning team is the existence of vulnerability-based trust. Whatever the seat, a person’s willingness to be transparent and admit their weaknesses, failures and fears will greatly increase the team’s sense of trust in that person. The Edelman survey results suggest that if businesses want to increase trust, they must be willing to collaborate and recalibrate.