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Sep 28, 2023 Leslie Beale, PCC, JD

Trust Troubles: Three Hidden Impacts of Leaders Who Don’t Build Trust on Their Teams

When Jasmyn entered her manager’s office, she found him sitting at his desk with a pensive expression. Gazing toward the window, he didn’t appear to be taking in the view.

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

“No,” he replied. “Anna just turned in her resignation. I have no idea why.”

Jasmyn paused, reflecting. “I hate to say this, but I think I do.”

The Unexpected Truth

Jasmyn knew that her fellow team member had concerns about their manager. More than once, Anna felt micromanaged as she attempted to work on projects. She was frustrated with their boss’ leadership style, and felt she was being underutilized.

When Jasmyn encouraged her co-worker to reveal her feelings to their supervisor, Anna resisted. Why? She didn’t feel there was enough trust between them.

Trust: An Underrated Value in the Workplace

While we all know how important trust is in our daily lives and relationships, we often forget about our work environments. The truth is, trust forms the backbone of any high-functioning organization.

Statistics show that high-trust organizations are also healthy ones. Compared with low-trust organizations, employees reported less stress, decreased burnout, fewer sick days, more energy during their workdays, and more satisfaction with their lives overall.

When leaders can’t effectively establish trust, employees and teams begin to suffer. Sometimes these cracks can be obvious, but there are other impacts you may not realize are related to trust….

Ineffective Conflict

Conflict is not always a negative; when handled well, it can lead to innovation, and actually build trust. When trust is low, however, teams can’t engage in conflict effectively. They will either avoid conflict altogether, which results in resentment, time off work, lack of communication, and poor decision-making, or they will engage in destructive conflict: name-calling, personal attacks, etc.

Time is money, and conflict takes time. A recent CPP study reported that the average worker spends up to 2.8 hours per week dealing with workplace conflict, which translates to a mind-blowing $359 billion annually.

Low Productivity

When trust is low among team members, they get less done. Why? Because they spend their time protecting themselves instead. In high trust teams we see productive communication behaviors--asking for help, soliciting feedback, and sharing ideas. In low trust teams we see the opposite: refusing to seek assistance, working in silos, hiding mistakes, and more.

These behaviors undermine organizational growth significantly… in a recent Forbes study, 49% of employees surveyed confirmed that poor communication hindered their productivity.

Low Engagement, High Turnover

Trust is a central element of employee engagement and retention, and appears to be needed now more than ever. This year, Gallup reported the disturbing news that engagement levels of employees have been dropping steadily after peaking in 2020—from 36% down to 31%. What was rising? Actively disengaged employees, by 2%. Without trust, small problems can become big problems overnight because there is no healthy way to resolve them--and organizations literally are paying the price.

A Problem That Won’t Go Away

Because Anna and Jasmyn’s supervisor didn’t realize the importance of trust in the workplace, he and his team are now facing the costly scenario of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a new employee. Even worse, he runs the risk of the situation repeating itself with the new hire, not to mention other members of his team. It’s an issue that won’t resolve itself without quick and intentional changes.

Are you noticing the warning signs of low trust levels within your company? Book a discovery call today; we can identify the weak spots in your organization and help your leaders build a strong and lasting foundation of trust.

Published by Leslie Beale, PCC, JD September 28, 2023
Leslie Beale, PCC, JD