Interestingly enough, many management surveys show that there is a high degree of trust from employees toward their first-line manager and that trust is eroding level after level as we are getting closer to the top of the company. Let me provide some hints from the trenches why this may be the case and what can be done to rebuild trust at all levels of the organization.
How often do we hear as employees our senior leaders explain to us that tough market conditions like an economic downturn, fierce competition, globalization are the root cause for salary freezes, no company bonus at the end of the year and an overall reduction in the employee total compensation package? Employees at all levels from the bottom up understand what is going on in the market place, they can also understand that remaining in the race will imply sacrifices like Workforce Reduction Programs and other cost reduction initiatives. On the other hand, where we create a fundamental disconnect is when employees see that the rigor that applies to them does not apply at the top, where salaries keep increasing as well as total compensation. Fair Market Value, some people will say, high-ranked executives get paid for the business value they create. Maybe, that is actually not my point. I'm more interested in the ethical dimension of this question and the ethical dilemma it generates for the executive that imposes to his employee base measures he does not apply to himself. Leadership is often characterised by being a "role model" and "walking the talk". I would argue that trust toward high level executives is currently low because they do not show the way, they do not apply to themselves the sacrifices they expect from their employees. As long as this perception will remain, trust will not be there as employees will keep feeling they are fooled...
We are invited to provide "bold" statements on the Management Exchange Forum. I guess it is one but it is one of fundamental importance as it touches on employee loyalty, employee engagement and trust in the company we work for.