Employee Trust Is Harder to Earn in the Corner Office- But It Matters- A Lot

By BlessingWhite , a Division of GP Strategies

Employees are much more likely to trust their immediate managers than senior executives, reports a global workplace study by consulting firm BlessingWhite. In North America, 72% say they trust their managers compared to 52% who say they trust their organization’s top tier of leaders.


The “Employee Engagement Report 2011,” which explores workplace attitudes among employees on four continents and is based on survey responses of nearly 11,000 employed professionals, also revealed that trust in executives has a stronger correlation to employee engagement than trust in immediate managers does. Half of employees who trust senior leaders are engaged compared to 40% of those who trust their direct boss and 33% of the North American workforce overall.


“Our latest research is consistent with our pre-recession findings. Trust in leadership is an important factor in achieving high levels of engagement,” said BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice. “Individuals can enjoy their work and have a strong sense of accomplishment, but if they don’t trust their boss or their boss’s boss, they’ll begin to question how they fit in with the company and have less pride in the organization overall.”


It’s harder to build trust with people who you rarely see or have never met, Rice explains. “Most immediate supervisors and managers can demonstrate trustworthiness in their daily actions and become known beyond their titles. Executives don’t have that luxury. The workforce scrutinizes what they do, see, and hear — and will draw the most unexpected, unfortunate conclusions if leaders do not communicate carefully. In our leadership development and high-performance culture consulting, we find this same trouble spot across different organizational sizes and industries: Even in well-run companies, half the workforce typically does not trust the senior team.”


Intended for business executives and HR leaders, “Employee Engagement Report 2011” presents five levels of engagement: Engaged, Almost Engaged, Honeymooner & Hamsters, Crash & Burners, and Disengaged. The recommendations focus on the roles and responsibilities of executives, managers, and individuals in driving engagement every day. Business leaders are encouraged to demonstrate consistency in words and actions, communicate often and with depth, and create a culture that drives results and engagement.


The engagement survey was conducted between July 2010 and October 2010, and results were compared with pre-recession data (gathered December 2007). 27% of the 10,914 survey respondents reside in North America. More than half of respondents hold executive, management, or supervisory titles. The double-digit gap in trust of managers versus executives seen in North America exists in Australia/New Zealand, China, and Europe. In India and Southeast Asia the gap is smaller.