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Lead Your Team Managing

Happy, Loyal Employees Need to Feel Trusted at Work

image for djile/Shutterstock
djile/Shutterstock

What's the secret to employee happiness and retention? According to research, it's as simple as trusting your team members.

A study from PayScale revealed that the more employees feel like their bosses trust them, the happier they are and the less likely they are to look for a new job.

The research found that 72% of workers who are able to act and make decisions on their own said they are satisfied in their jobs. Just 26% of employees who aren't able to do anything without being told first said they are similarly happy.

In addition, just 54% of workers who are trusted by their employers said they plan to look for new jobs within the next six months. Conversely, 76% of those whose bosses don't have any confidence in them to act on their own said they expect to pursue new jobs in the coming months.

The research reinforces a number of key organizational issues regarding job satisfaction and loyalty, said Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics and lead economist for PayScale.

"In all environments – professional and personal – trust is a required element for the creation of productive relationships," Bardaro said in a statement. "This report shows manager trust is a crucial ingredient when it comes to ensuring engaged and devoted employees."

The good news is that nearly 85% of U.S. employees said their managers trust them to act and make decisions in some capacity, with just 1% saying their bosses do not trust them to do anything at all until they are told what to do. 

Experience and salary appear to correlate with how much employees are trusted by their supervisors. The study found that 85% of those with annual incomes of more than $160,000 said they have managers who fully trust them, while only 63% of workers who make less than $19,000 said they have similar relationships with their bosses.

Not surprisingly, the more experience employees have, the more their supervisors are likely to trust them. Just 59% of those who have been working less than two years said their managers trust them, compared to 76% of workers with more than 10 years of experience.

The study's authors said the research has implications for both employees and employers.

"For workers, build that trust with your manager; it'll lead to happiness at work and potentially a higher salary," the study's authors wrote. "Employers, if you want to keep your employees, trust them. They'll be more likely to be happy in their job and less likely to leave for another one."

The study was based on surveys of 54,827 U.S. employees.

Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to build trust is by trusting. Executive Coach Libby Gill says that managers need to establish routines with their subordinates that enable them to keep up with what’s going on without micromanaging. A routine of weekly or monthly check-ins provides the manager with the opportunity to stay current without hovering.

Another key element of trust-building is to align the company values with their actions. In other words, walk the talk. Karen Cates, adjunct professor of executive education at Northwestern University, points out that "Alignment is critical, because it lays the foundation for trust, and trust leads to greater commitment. If you don't have alignment, it doesn't matter how great your benefits are. You still won't have commitment from your employees."

Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter International suggests that for a leader to build trust, he or she should be seen as objective and impartial.  Taking the time to understand the entire picture demonstrates the commitment of the leader, and shows they are worthy of trust.

From the perspective of the manager, the best thing an employee can do to earn trust is to provide consistent results. Kathy Robinson, founder of Career Advisors Network, notes that in addition to producing consistently exceptional results, your boss needs to know that your demeanor will always be calm, cool and professional. In other words, that they can trust you to behave appropriately. Robinson also recommends that employees avoid office gossip. While it may be entertaining, telling tales around the water cooler or lunch table can destroy the trust you have built up with management.

Adding to that theme, David DeSteno, author of Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride and a psychology professor at Northeastern University, stated in the Harvard Business Review that you have to show the leaders of your company that you have the right balance of competence and integrity to earn their trust. You do that, he says, by sacrificing short-term gain for long term benefits and by being willing to sacrifice for others when the stakes are high.

Finally, for both management and staff, remember that trust is easier to build than to rebuild. As Chrissy Scivicque points out, "Broken promises are the easiest way to destroy trust. If your words aren’t followed with action, they become meaningless."

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.