Use Surveys to Assess Trust Between Senior Management And Employees

Filed under: Corporate Culture,Employee Retention,Management |

By Howard Deutsch

Achieving high levels of trust between senior management and employees is essential for the sustainable success of any organization. The best leaders earn the respect and trust of the people they lead. Lack of trust between senior management and employees negatively impacts employee satisfaction, engagement and performance. It also impacts customers, competitiveness and profit. The best senior leaders also trust their employees and their employees know they are trusted.

Employee surveys are an effective tool for assessing the level of trust between senior management and employees. Well-designed employee satisfaction surveys, employee engagement surveys and employee opinion surveys include direct and indirect questions that measure trust between senior management and employees.

Senior managers, including CEO’s, presidents, chairpersons, etc. should want to know if they are creating a culture of trust. If the results of employee surveys indicate low levels of trust as measured by low rating scores and comments indicating a lack of trust, executive managers will have information for changing their leadership styles in order to increase trust.

What is the level of trust between senior management and employees in your organization? If asked, how would your company’s employees describe their level of trust?

Following are representative comments received in two recent employee satisfaction surveys / employee engagement surveys. One employee survey was conducted for a bank with several hundred employees and the other employee survey was conducted for a professional services company with almost 1,000 employees. The level of trust at each of these organizations was rated by employees at less than 3.5 on a five point scale, where 5 indicates a high level of trust. These ratings were lower than the ratings for most of the other survey questions. The comments are illustrative of comments received in similar employee opinion surveys / employee satisfaction surveys / employee engagement surveys conducted in large and small organizations across many industries:

1 – Employees have a significant level of distrust in senior management. Some employees do not feel they can bring ideas, suggestions and problems to senior managers due to concerns about negative reactions. There is fear, concerns about favoritism, concerns regarding perceived high levels of employee turnover, and some senior managers are less trustworthy than others.

2 – Some employees are afraid to share their concerns with senior management for fear of being tagged as a “complainer” or being told “you are just feeling sorry for yourself”.

3 – I don’t really have much trust in the management.

4 – Too much favoritism.

5 – This is the same person who I went to when I (and my coworkers) had problems with a certain someone. The problem got pinned on me. Don’t really trust her much.

6 – If people feel intimidated and are afraid to speak their minds, trust isn’t there.

7 – Right now morale is down and we are looking for senior management to help change this. I think the trust is not there since last year’s cut back, not that it’s their fault it’s just our perception of trust in the whole organization.

8 – Our EVP uses personal information against you to get you to do what he wants and I have personal knowledge that he has shared my personal situation with others within the organization.

9 – Unexpected turnover/employee termination rates reduce trust levels considerably.

10 – Some of our senior managers are very good, some seem to be clueless at times

11 – The feeling from a lot of employees is that if they complain about an ineffective or restrictive process, they are black-listed which creates a lack of trust.

12 -I do not feel that I have anyone to turn to to discuss my concerns or frustrations. Not my supervisor, manager or upper management. I feel this is an important aspect of the workforce as we should always feel there is someone to turn to who truly cares and is concerned.

13 – Would not go to HR if I had a problem to discuss. It is a shame that we have to feel that way

14 – You don’t know who you can trust. They encourage you to come forward and then you get stabbed in the back.

15 – There is a lack of trust due to lack of communication on major issues e.g. merger.

16 – Not for me personally, but other employees seem to have a very low level of trust between themselves and upper management.

17 – Employees do not trust Senior Management. There needs to be more transparency to create a level of trust between employees and management.

18 – I have heard different partners that I work with complain that senior management is not focused on the necessary values in order for the firm to be effective and profitable.

19 – Some of our senior managers need to hold themselves to the same standards that they hold employees to. Ethical behavior should apply to everyone.

20 – Everything is kept a secret

21 – What senior management does seems to be for their own good. I can’t tell that it is with the best interest of other members of the firm.

22 – Lack of trust is possibly the biggest issue here.

23 – They are sending our jobs overseas. Why should we trust them?

24 – While I have “trust” as an individual manager, I know there are multiple managers that do not feel a sense of trust. Frankly, I think it may be more to their inability to communicate “upstream” as opposed to failure at the management level. We all need to take responsibility for being change agents. I want the Executive Committee and management to be aware however, that management morale appears to be quite low, and that focus internally is quite important at the moment.

25 – I’m not saying it isn’t starting to happen, but trust is earned, and we aren’t there yet.

26 – Executive management acts like they do not trust employees and we don’t trust executive management. There is a lot of tension and we are not focusing enough on customers.

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