Thursday, 3 September 2009

Trust the boss? Not me!


A recent survey undertaken by Management Today and the Institute of Leadership and Management shows the average British worker as a rather suspicious person when it comes to putting trust in The Boss! The survey reveals that about a third of British workers don't trust their managers and leaders to do the right thing. According to the survey of 5700 workers, 31% of non-managers and 28% of managers say that they have ‘no’ or ‘low’ trust in their management team. Worrying statistics! The factors assessed in the survey were ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency. The report highlights some interesting variations: The larger the organisation, the less trust employees are likely to show in its leadership; the longer an employee has been with the organisation the less they trust their management team; women are generally more trusted and trusting than men; the highest levels of trust in management is to be found in private sector organisations.

The report's conclusions are simple and stark: Establishing trust takes time and is improved when the relationship between leader and follower is close. This finding has important implications for new CEOs of very large organisations, many of which are in the public sector and feature long-serving employees.The CEOs of these organisations have the steepest hill to climb to establish trust, and they will not be able to reach the summit without demonstrating a strong sense of personal integrity. If they can’t show the qualities of principle and honesty, and that they are in it for the long haul, not just as a lucrative or advantageous career move, they will not be trusted.
  • Are these results surprising, or is it generally to be expected that employees will distrust their management teams?
  • Why are employees in larger organisations less likely to trust their bosses?
  • What might be the reasons why women are generally more trusted and trusting than men?
  • Private sector industry bosses enjoy a higher level of trust than their counterparts in the public sector. Why might this be?
  • What follow-up research might be useful for managers to obtain further information on why employees do 0r don't trust them?
  • The survey assessed ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency as signs of a trustworth boss. Are these the best measures of a good leader?


  1. Part of the problem might be that managers don't always communicate clearly what's going on. Especially in larger organisations, there might be a lot going on and it can be quite complicated.

    This lack of communication might be because information is confidential, because managers don't want to worry their team, because they think their staff won't understand or because they believe, their staff doesn't need to know.

    But if your team only knows part of what's going on, it is difficult for them to trust their manager.

  2. Tara: Thanks for making these points. I hope anyone reading your comments will also check out your blog which raises some interesting and challenging issues along the same lines!