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Lead Your Team Managing

No Trust Among Your Team? How to Fix It

image for Nicolete Raftu/Shutterstock
Nicolete Raftu/Shutterstock

It's been said that strong relationships are built on trust, but new research finds that workers have very little faith in their employer, boss or co-workers.

Employers garner the least amount of trust from U.S. employees, according to the study from EY, a provider of assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Specifically, just 38 percent of American workers trust the company they work for. That's even less than many of their peers worldwide. Of the eight countries studied, only employees in the United Kingdom and Japan were less trusting of their employer.

In the U.S., younger workers are the most trusting. The study shows that 42 percent of millennials trust their company, compared with 40 percent of baby boomers and just 32 percent of Gen X workers. [See Related Story: Is Your Boss's Trust a Blessing or a Curse?]

There are a variety of reasons why employees worldwide have little faith in their organization. Among the factors driving employees' lack of trust in their employer are:

  1. Employee compensation is not fair.
  2. Equal opportunity for pay and promotion is not available.
  3. Strong leadership is lacking.
  4. Employee turnover is high.
  5. A collaborative work environment is not valued.

"The research findings underscore the importance of cultivating a workplace culture that values open communication, inclusive leadership and collaboration – the true building blocks of trust," Nancy Altobello, EY’s global vice chairwoman of talent, said in a statement

The study discovered a variety of benefits for employers when their employees trust them. Employees who have a high level of trust in an organization are more likely to be happier, produce higher quality work, be more engaged, stay with the company longer and recommend the company to others.

"Senior executives who understand the factors that impact trust within their organizations will be able to drive employee engagement and retention," Altobello said.

In addition to their lack of trust in the company they work for, a large percentage of employees also have little faith in those they work with. The study found that just 46 percent of U.S. workers have a great deal of trust in their colleagues and only 50 percent feel similarly about their boss.

Factors that influence whether employees trust their boss include whether their manager treats them with respect, follows through on what he or she says, communicates openly and transparently, and behaves ethically. In addition, workers are more likely to trust a manager when they feel their point of view is valued and are recognized for a job well done.

In order to trust their co-workers, employees expect them to treat others with respect, do quality work, be collaborative and cooperative, communicate openly and behave ethically.

Researchers also looked at what factors will drive trust in the next generation of employees. Those in Generation Z said pay, promotion equity and opportunities to learn and advance are what will influence their trust in an employer.

"We found that parents of Gen Z often both positively and negatively impact the level of trust this next wave of talent is looking for in their future employers," said Karyn Twaronite, EY global diversity and inclusiveness officer. "The impact of this could be far-reaching, so by understanding these factors, and proactively taking action on them, employers, bosses and teams can help to build trust for the workforce of today as well as tomorrow."

The study was based on surveys of 9,859 adults in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., between ages 19 and 68 who are employed full time. Of those, 1,233 were from the U.S.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has spent more than 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014.