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The Role of Trust in Employee Productivity

What is trust?
How do you define it?
Does it change with time?
Why do you trust someone?
How do you trust someone?

And many more such questions keep coming to my mind. I shall try to explain the answer to the above and express my point of view.

So what exactly is trust?

Trust is a feeling of confidence in someone; you believe is reliable and honest as per the definition.

How is it demonstrated in our social and professional lives? In a market place crowded with people, when a little girl asks her father to hold her hand so that she does not get lost, I believe, it is called trust. The point to be noted is who is holding the hand, is it the father or the girl? The little girl in this situation is not confident of her and is asking her father to hold her hand as she believes that by doing so her father is going to take care of her and that no harm shall happen to her. The trust element here is without any self-interest.

Does trust change with time? In my opinion, trust does not change nevertheless as the child grows, she becomes more capable, confident and competent to take care of herself in tough situations. The dependence on some of your trust reduces with time, nevertheless somewhere at the back of the mind, the feeling of confidence still remains as the person to fall back when everything else fails.

How do you define trust in a professional environment? And how does it improve employee productivity. Why is it important to have a healthy work environment? Trust is an important element in the success of any organization. A group of people working together to achieve common goals is known as an organization and if these people do not trust each other and their managers, then progress, productivity and profits are distant words .

When trust is such an important element in personal and or professional relationships without which nothing moves, then the question is how do we build trust? Let’s first look at reasons that cause mistrust that shall give us the answer on how to build trust.

Some of the major reasons that cause mistrust in any relationship are as follows:

Breaking Commitments :

What is a commitment? Commitments are nothing but promises or expressions that people make to each other, whether in personal life or in professional, to do or deliver something in a given time frame for the benefit of the other. In the professional environment, Commitments may be broadly classified in three categories to co-workers, to customers, or to oneself. As leaders, we should be cautious in making promises or commitments and should not be spontaneous in our approach. As a manager or leader, it is important to have a balanced and calculative approach in the way we communicate with employees. Commitments may be small or big depending on the capacity of the manager and accordingly it may be easy or difficult to be fulfilled. As managers, we should be sensitive to the above and should ascertain if we are capable to full fill them. Any failure on the part of the leader / manager to fulfill the commitments can completely erode the trust between manager and subordinate. This shall cause a cascading effect to increasing employee dissatisfaction and negativity in the organization.

Not being Consistent

What is being consistent?

The definition says: acting or behaving in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate. Organizations where Managers behave in a consistent way in all kinds of situations are better managed and have a more conducive work environment and trust element in their managers, whereas organizations where managers behave inconsistently towards employees in different situations leads to mistrust and loss of productivity.

Consistency in behavior is very important in any kind of work environment and social circles. At work place managers need to be demonstrating consistent behaviour patterns towards their employees and peers to ensure productive environment and motivation levels. Consistency of behaviour is a combination of multiple factors like, how one communicates, Individual personality traits, work environment etc.

Not Working together / not being role model

If we study the organizations that have not been doing well , we discover that one of the major reasons has been that managers and the leadership has kept themselves isolated and have not really behaved as true role models and team players, instead they work more as administrators.

Being part of the team and demonstrating true leadership is more important. Right from our childhood we look up to our Mom and Dad as role models and try to emulate and improvise them. Managers and leaders need to work with the team and should take the lead by doing things themselves. Why do our parents become role models for us? All our life they have got involved and done things themselves for us so that we learn and understand things in a better way.

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

― James Baldwin

“A father has to be a provider, a teacher, a role model, but most importantly, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased. Otherwise, how will children ever understand the concept of God?” ― Stephen Colbert, I am America

In any organization, new programs or initiatives should not be just on paper; rather the leadership should adopt them and behave as role models for their employees by practicing them. Business scenarios should not be just left to the employees to manage rather managers and leaders should take the lead and get involved along with the employees to set examples.

Not being able to add value to others / Not having Vision

Leadership is all about doing things differently, setting examples for others to follow, being creative and innovating continuously. If as managers and leaders, we are not adding value for our employees, our organizations, and society at large then, we are actually part of the followers and not leaders. As leaders we need to be thinking big, doing things differently for others to follow. Respect and trust cannot be imposed, it has to be earned and it can be only earned if we as managers demonstrate true value creation for our employees by helping them to be successful in their work, making the organization profitable and helping the society better, with our efforts, initiatives and leadership. We have to be part of it rather than stand outside.

Not Respecting Subordinates

What happens if you do not respect your colleagues, it leads to differences creates virtual walls, negativity and loss of productivity. No organization or society can survive if people do not trust each other. Differences are bound to happen but trust is such a strong element that can resolve the differences yet maintain a positive environment.

As stated earlier, respect and trust cannot be imposed rather it should earn and it is a mutual expression. We expect our employees and subordinates to respect us, the same way they also expect respect from us. What is respect after all? According to Wikipedia Respect is a positive feeling of esteem or deferred for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem. Respect can be a specific feeling of regard for the actual quality of the one respected (e.g., “I have great respect for her judgment”). It can also be conducted in accord with a specific ethic of respect. Rude conduct is usually considered to indicate a lack of respect, disrespect, whereas actions that honor somebody or something indicate respect. Each person has some good qualities and some not so well, and we as managers or leaders should recognize the strengths of our employees and respect them for their good work. This not only motivates them but also brings in a mutual feeling of respect and trust in the relationship. When there is trust, there is a positive environment which helps in improving productivity.

No Delegation

Why do we have to delegate, can we run the organization on our own?

If we study some of the smaller organizations, we will understand that these are small just because of the fact that there is a huge difference between the capabilities of leadership and second level employees. As a result, delegation becomes difficult. Some managers have the fear of hiring people with better competencies due to their insecurity and this becomes a major bottleneck for the growth of the organization.

An important point to be noted is that, we as managers should always be surrounded by team members with equal or better competencies. Delegation of work is an important aspect of trust between the manager and employee. Most managers are afraid of delegation and hesitate from it. This is due to the fact that they do not have confidence and trust in their employees’ capabilities. As managers, it is important that we build capabilities of our employees. Delegation of work can be done in several ways, and while delegating, it is important to build checks and balances at multiple stages to ensure things are being done in the right way. Delegation of work builds confidence of employees and also gives them a chance to prove their capabilities. It also helps the managers to identify employees with various skills. Delegation makes them feel included and part of the organization goals and objectives. Further, it also improves the productivity of managers and they can devote their precious time for doing strategic activities rather than wasting time on operational level tasks. Plans and strategies that are built using bottom-up approach have a better success rate than those which are just top down. This also develops confidence and trust in their leadership which is a key factor of growth and cordial environment at workplace.

Being Biased

Favoritism and biased approach at work place is yet another major reason which hampers trust. Managers and leaders cannot afford to be biased to a group of employees or an employee in particular. Children have the same level of trust in their parents and this is just because parents have an equal bias to all their children and work towards building their skills with equal attention. Parents ensure that their kids get the same facilities, love and attention from them. As managers, it is our responsibility that we should ensure that all employees get the same benefits, growth opportunities and appreciation for their work. Employees come from various social statuses, places; speak different languages, Genders and cultures. Our workplace should be unbiased platform of work which treats all of them at par irrespective of their social and cultural backgrounds.

Lack of Communication

Wrong Communication, lack of communication or complex communication creates confusion and builds mistrust not only with management but also amongst fellow employees that ultimately affects organization growth.

Communication plays a vital role in building trust, both internally and externally. Organizations have realized this and are spending a lot to ensuring communication and not just communication but the right communication. Employees today need to know about the organization, their future, careers, growth, new initiatives, industry, challenges, goals and objectives of the company etc. Communication should be of appropriate content, simple to understand and at regular intervals. A well informed employee exhibits trust and confidence in its leadership which ultimately transforms in motivating employee behavior and better productivity.

It is equally important to have the right communication, with appropriate and simple content and regular frequency in the external world involving customers, partners, policy makers and investors. Trust is an important factor for them as well due to their stakes in the organization, as a user of our services, investments in the organization and being partners of success.

Lack of Recognition

A demoralized employee is like an enemy in the house. He does not trust anyone and is a source of negative energy in the organization.

Motivation and recognition plays an important role in building trust between two entities, whether it is personal or professional. As human beings, all of us look for appreciation of our work. A key thing to remember here is that, appreciation of work should always be in public and not in person, whereas criticism should be in person than in public. Recognition makes us feel good and it is an acknowledgement of our good work. It creates positive vibes amongst employees; gives them that booster shot to perform even better than before. One motivated employee creates motivation and a sense of competitiveness amongst 10 other employees. Although it is important to recognize high performing employees but at the same time, it is important to understand as to how do we convert the not so high or medium performers into high performers. Recognition plays a vital role in this art of physiological management. Mediocre employees, if recognized in public for their small good acts can just turn them around. Good managers know this art and can turn a mediocre organization in

to a high performance organization. Motivated employees have great trust in their leadership and an environment of trust creates high performance organizations.

Lack of Leadership Qualities in Management

Whether it is Company, home, Society or nation, we all look up to someone to lead us, to set directions , define strategy to win, to earn more , to be prosperous and to lead a happy and peaceful life. Who are these people? Do they come from some other place? Do they have some different qualities?

The answer to all these questions is, yes and they are called leaders.

What is a leadership? According to Wikipedia:

“Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task although there are alternative definitions of leadership. For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody who people follow or as somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal”

As a leader , we have to be visionary, creative, thinking big, hardworking, set examples, makes his or her hands dirty first, a good communicator, motivator, inspirational, creates and adds value to the organization and society at large.

Leaders create followers and societies of trust, which motivates employees and people to outperform and deliver their best to achieve the goals as set by their leadership. And why do they do it, because they trust that doing so will give them prosperity, more income, happiness, and recognition.

If I have to summarize the importance of trust, then it is a key element in the growth of an organization, Society and Nation at large. This comes out as one of the key ingredients, which is a byproduct of our behavior and actions.

One of the questions which I had raised was, how do you trust someone? Well based on the above details that I had tried to elaborate briefly, my conclusion is if we have the management which stands by its commitments, is consistent in their approach and behavior, works along the team as a role model, continually adds value to their employees, organization and have a bigger picture in place, Respects their subordinates, delegates work based on employees’ capabilities, demonstrates un biased behavior, communicates well internally and externally, recognizes performers, and demonstrates true leadership qualities, then we should trust them and do our best to ensure organizational success. Any organization with management demonstrating these behavioral qualities will definitely grow by leaps and bounds and there is no stopping for them.

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