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Employee Trust

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Christopher McKinney
August 25, 2023

In a time where trust is declining across many areas, transparency and accountability are paramount; organizations must be very diligent to build and maintain trust with their employees, which is a 2-way street, and recognize that when a breach occurs, restoring trust with their employees is not just a matter of internal dynamics—there is a direct impact on public trust, perception. Employee experiences and external perceptions are critical to shaping an organization’s reputation and credibility.

Now, I am not advocating that the tail should wag the dog, but it behooves us to create an atmosphere where people feel valued, respected and empowered, with a shared sense of fairness. We must realize that employees are your ambassadors in the community and have varying levels of influence. What are they saying? Is it building trust for your organization or tearing it down? We must control the “controllables,” and creating a healthy workplace environment is one of them. By the end, you will see how restoring trust with your staff is a strategic move to restore faith with the public.

So, what are some of the “controllables”?

Toxic Leadership: The Poison Pill

Toxic leadership is a corrosive management style characterized by behaviors that undermine morale, productivity and well-being. This form of leadership often involves self-serving actions, manipulation, intimidation and an absence of genuine concern for the welfare of employees. It casts a long shadow over the workplace, affecting employee engagement and organizational trust. Toxic leaders create environments fraught with fear, insecurity and mistrust. Restoring trust requires proactive steps to cultivate open communication, empathy, and genuine care for employee well-being. This means senior leaders must take action to eliminate it swiftly.

Cronyism: Undermining Meritocracy

Cronyism sows the seeds of resentment and disillusionment among employees. When promotions and opportunities are perceived as being driven by personal connections rather than merit, employee engagement further wanes, affecting overall productivity. A commitment to meritocracy is essential, whereby promotions are based on qualifications, skills and achievements. Transparent advancement processes and unbiased decision-making demonstrate that you value talent and hard work above all else. By eliminating any hint of favoritism, organizations build credibility internally and externally.

Inconsistencies: Navigating Uneven Terrain

Inconsistency in the execution of awards programs and policies fosters a deep sense of inequality among employees. When recognition and incentives appear arbitrary, it becomes challenging to maintain a sense of unity and common purpose. Establishing clear, objective criteria for awards and consistently implementing policies provides a level playing field where staff are recognized for their contributions rather than personal biases. The message sent to the internal and external audience is fairness and commitment to upholding shared values.

“restoring internal trust is an investment in rebuilding public trust”

Discipline Equity: Cornerstone of Trust

Discrepancies in disciplinary actions create a chasm in employee trust within the organization. When consequences for misconduct are not uniform, it often leads to accusations of preferential treatment. To restore confidence, organizations must establish clear guidelines for disciplinary measures and consistently apply them across all levels. When employees see that actions have consequences, trust in the organization’s commitment to accountability is reinforced, projecting an image of integrity to external stakeholders.

Word-Action Congruence: From Internal-External

Restoring trust within the organization is only one part of the equation; the other is projecting trustworthiness to the outside world. As previously stated, employees are not just insiders but ambassadors who shape public perceptions through their experiences. An organization that actively listens to its employees, acknowledges their concerns and takes concrete actions to address them, sends a strong message of authenticity and integrity. When employees can vouch for their organization’s commitment to a healthy workplace, the public will likely view the organization as a credible and responsible entity.

Landing the Plane

The boundary between internal dynamics and external perceptions is increasingly porous in today’s interconnected world. Organizations must recognize that restoring employee trust is not a mere formality but the bedrock on which public trust is built. Toxic leadership, cronyism, inconsistencies in awards and policies and disparities in disciplinary measures are all symptoms of a deeper issue—a lack of a solid ethical foundation. Addressing these symptoms requires a multi-faceted approach that involves nurturing a culture of openness, embracing fairness and demonstrating a commitment to accountability.

As organizations take these steps, they foster a healthier work environment and radiate authenticity and integrity to the outside world. By creating a culture where employees feel valued, respected and heard, we effectively communicate our commitment to ethical conduct, transparency and employee well-being. The ripple effect is twofold: employees who trust their organization are more likely to convey that trust to the public, and the public, in turn, is more likely to view the organization as a reliable and responsible entity.

In essence, restoring internal trust is an investment in rebuilding public trust. It is a journey that requires consistent effort, transparent communication and a dedication to ethical values. By aligning internal practices with external expectations, we can reshape our reputation, reestablish credibility and emerge as leaders in an era where trust is the currency of success.

Author: Christopher McKinney, Sr. is CEO of 10X Leadership Consulting, a premier consulting company that takes clients to the next level by delivering exponential value, 10X value. 10XLC specializes in strategy, high performance cultures, change management & talent optimization. 10XLC has sustained a 93.4 Net Promoter Score average. Chris also served as CEO of a Regional Planning District supporting 4 counties & 12 cities/towns in South Carolina. During his tenure they elevated grant revenues 168% above the previous 10 years in 4 years and his leadership produced a 95% employee engagement during the pandemic. Email:[email protected]; Twitter: @10XLC; LinkedIn: christopher-h-mckinney-sr; website: www.10XLC.consulting

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