The Manager’s Role in Organisational Trust

Do you ever feel like trust is a rare commodity these days? It’s not just you. In recent times, trust has taken quite a hit – whether it’s trust in politicians, big corporations, or leaders in general. Trust is at an all-time low.


It’s the same in the workplace. Low organisational trust has considerable and far-reaching effects on organisations, their leaders and their staff. Managers hold the key to creating trusting workplaces. So much so that they can make or break an entire workplace. But the good news is that by getting the right leaders, through recruitment and development, organisational trust can soar.


Ability, Benevolence, Integrity, and Predictability

Dietz and Den Hartog (2005) identified four drivers of trust: Ability, benevolence, integrity and predictability that they say are the building blocks of trustworthiness. Our willingness to embrace the unknown and take risks relies on the belief that our leaders have these qualities. Trust hinges on our personal judgment of whether our leaders have what it takes, whether they’re genuinely looking out for us, whether they’re true to their values, and whether they’re consistent.


Trust is a Vulnerable Thing

It’s like opening up your heart to someone and hoping they won’t break it.

Numerous studies highlight that the level of trust employees feel within an organisation is significantly influenced by the behaviour of their immediate manager, as well as higher-ranking leaders. Yes, the middle manager – often overlooked, overworked and caught in the crossfire – can either weave the threads of trust into the fabric of our organisations or fray those threads to a near-breaking point!


Trust is Reciprocal

The crux of the matter lies in the reciprocal nature of trust. Managers who trust to their teams create an environment where trust can thrive. It’s a delicate balance, where trust is both given and received. In larger organisations, of course this can become increasingly complex, demanding extra effort and attention.


Restoring Trust

Restoring trust is not easy. It’s like trying to repair a shattered vase – even with glue, the cracks remain. Mending trust requires leaders to go above and beyond, demonstrating their commitment to the organisation’s greater good and the greater good of every individual. They need to show they are not just out for themselves. Traits like integrity, humility, and humanity are essential when leaders are working to restore personal and organisational trust.


A Perpetual Game of Chess

Organisational trust (or lack thereof) can have a huge impact on productivity. When trust is scarce, people become distracted and invest valuable time in unproductive tasks. They spend time watching their backs and protecting themselves. They scrutinise their colleagues and check up on each other. It’s like a perpetual game of chess, with everyone watching their backs worried about the other person’s next move. This hyper-vigilance comes at a cost, sapping creativity and stifling innovation.


Innovation Scrooges

Low trust can also stifle innovation. When people don’t trust their workplace or their manager, they become innovation Scrooges – hoarding their ideas fearing that others might take the credit for their contributions, or that their suggestions could just be dismissed. It’s hard to feel inspired when you’re watching the shadows, wondering who’s out to get you! The spark of innovation dims, leaving organisations with little potential for growth and transformation.


The Architects of Trust

Now, I would like to introduce you to the stars of the show – servant leaders. They compassionately lead their teams with a blend of trust, fairness, and kindness. By building quality relationships, they create an environment where trust and fairness thrive. They are architects of trust, shaping a culture that thrives on collaboration and open dialogue. When these leaders are part of the organisation, loyalty and productivity can blossom.


Knowing Your Stuff is Not Enough

For leaders of today, it’s not enough to be a walking encyclopaedia of knowledge. Technical prowess may be important, but it’s not what it takes to be a great manager or leader. There are many other dimensions to leadership. Meaningful, authentic conversations are essential. Monologues should be swapped for dialogues, creating safe spaces where voices are heard, and ideas flow freely. People want to be heard, and they deserve to speak up without fear.


So, remember, communication is more than just words. It’s about having Savvy Conversations. That means leaders who are real, ditch the spin, and embrace genuine, two-way communication. People want authenticity, not polished speeches. Get rid of the script and embrace being authentic.

Trust can be as elusive as a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but managers hold the treasure map. They’re the key to creating a culture of trust, innovation and productivity. If you’re a manager, remember – you’re not just a guardian of tasks; you are an architect of trust.


Want to know more?

Sarah Harvey is Founding Director of Savvy Conversations Ltd and author of the highly acclaimed book “Savvy Conversations: A practical framework for effective workplace relationships.”


Linked In:
Twitter: @SarahSavvySarah
Instagram: savvysarah


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected!

Subscribe to our Savvy Shout Out for savvy tips on all things Communication, Culture and Conflict.

(Don’t worry, we will only contact you once a month and we will never pass on your details to anyone else).

Subscribe now and receive our free guide: Expressing Yourself More Authentically (pdf)