The author is an Organisational Development Practitioner
With deep concern written on his face, the CEO looked at the staff during their monthly meeting and asked, ‘don’t you trust me?’ With that question, the room was thrust into dead silence as staff turned their eyes away from the CEO. No one wanted to lock eyes with him. They had all been copied on an anonymous email sent to the senior management team by ‘a concerned staff’ accusing the management of dishonor.
Apparently, the management had promised staff to work for an extra two months with half pay with the promise that the CEO and his team were burning the mid night oil to ensure the salary account was back on track. One of the staff had in the meantime written to the management indicating that staff did not trust the promise and were contemplating mass exodus from the company.
As the meeting progressed, deep thoughts went through the CEO’s mind and the more he thought, the more convinced he got that he should not after all worry about staff trust. He wondered, ‘with the intense battle for the few available places for work, should it really matter to me whether staff trust or not? Since many staff are stuck in the workplaces for lack of other places to run to due to the shortage of jobs, who would want to be concerned about whether they are trusted or not? Staff can never move away since there is nowhere to run to anyway and even if the current team that does not trust moves away, others will be waiting at the gate seeking to fill up their spaces and the machines will not stop running.
‘Is trust the energy that drives the company car or operates the computer or is it the skill that makes awesome presentations to stakeholders? Whether we are trusted or not, won’t we have profits soaring since the clients still need our products anyway? Will staff stop participating in corporate social responsibility or will they cease wearing workplace designated uniform just because they don’t trust the management?’
Far from it, Mr. CEO. Trust is actually the glue that holds organisations and companies together. It is one of the most critical values that dictate staff performance and productivity. It determines whether staff work from the heart or from the muscle. When staff trusts its management, there is an inertia that is generated towards better performance. The work environment is filled with hope and optimism even in the most difficult moments. Challenges are turned into opportunities and teamwork surmounts the highest of the barriers.
And trust is infectious. When staff trusts the management, the management ends up trusting the staff and vice versa. The organisation develops structures and systems knowing that staff will find pleasure in adhering to laid down rules since all know that the structures are inbuilt for the common good. Staff do not feel like the systems are implemented as a result of mistrust or to impede freedom at work. There is a general appreciation of the changes suggested by the management while the staff concerns and suggestions are taken into consideration since all operate under the spirit of good faith.