Trust in Executives Has Increased, But It Is Still Hard to Earn, Suggests New Research

By BlessingWhite , a Division of GP Strategies

PRINCETON – 7 August 2012 – 57% of North American employees say they trust their senior leaders, up from 52% in 2010 reports a new workplace study by global consulting firm BlessingWhite.


“Our latest research is consistent with past studies,” explains employee engagement practice vice president Joan Dasher. “It remains difficult for leaders at the top to build trust with people who they rarely see or may have never even met. Yet our findings also suggest that leaders are becoming better at it.”


Meanwhile, although trust in immediate managers has increased by a smaller margin, from 72% to 74%, employees are still much more likely to place trust in their managers than in senior executives.


Trust in Executives (2012 vs 2010)  Unfavorable   Neutral   Favorable
I trust senior leaders (2012)              22%     21%    57%
I trust senior leaders (2010)       24%    24%     52%
I trust my manager (2012)          14%     12%    74%
I trust my manager (2010)          14%     14%     72%


According to Dasher, immediate supervisors and managers have an advantage over leaders at the top: “Their teams see them in action. They can demonstrate trustworthiness in their daily actions and become known as people beyond their titles. Most executives don’t have that luxury. The workforce scrutinizes everything that executives say and do — and then speculates about their motives. If leaders do not communicate with care, many employees draw incorrect – and unfavorable – conclusions.”


The soon-to-be released North American Employee Engagement Update 2012 also confirms past findings that trust in executives has a stronger correlation to employee engagement than trust in immediate managers does. 57% of employees who trust senior leaders are engaged compared to 49% of those who trust their direct boss and 41% of the North American workforce overall.


“There is no doubt that leaders looking to build a culture of high engagement need to demonstrate trustworthiness,” Dasher says. “Lack of trust will overshadow the satisfaction that individuals find in the work they do and will damage the emotional connections employees have with the organization as a whole.”


Intended for business executives and HR leaders, the soon-to-be-released North American Employee Engagement Update 2012 is based on survey responses of more than 3,500 employed professionals – 2,616 of whom reside in North America. It presents five levels of engagement: Engaged, Almost Engaged, Honeymooner & Hamsters, Crash & Burners, and Disengaged. . A video explanation of the model can be found at


The recommendations focus on the roles and responsibilities of executives, managers, and individuals in driving engagement every day. Business leaders are encouraged to demonstrate authentic leadership, build community, create significance, and excite individuals to exceptional performance in order to build a culture that drives results and engagement.


The survey was conducted between March and June 2012, and results were compared to data gathered in 2010 and 2007. More than half of respondents hold executive, management, or supervisory titles.