The Trust Gap Problem Creating Employee Turnover


Related to and stemming from transparency is honesty. Employees stay when they see honesty and integrity as company values. Lack of trust in leadership severely damages retention.

Telltale signs that your practices are creating a trust gap include:

  • Policy changes or decisions made without explanation
  • Perks taken away without reason or input 
  • Pay or hiring inequities without remedy
  • Refusal to share business challenges transparently
  • Punishing dissenting perspectives as disloyal
  • Scapegoating certain employees or teams
  • Leadership not holding themselves accountable

In working with hundreds of clients over the years, we have seen the tremendous damage that forms when a "trust gap" emerges between leadership and employees. This trust gap, fueled by a lack of transparency from upper management, creates cynicism that corrodes company culture and retention.

The trust gap widens with each instance of leadership concealing information, refusing to explain decisions, or giving empty platitudes without follow-through. Employee skepticism builds with every project implemented seemingly without rationale, policy changed on a whim, or corporate double-speak email.

Absent honest communication, employees fill information voids with their own interpretations, whether accurate or not. Rumors run rampant, assuming the worst of leaders' motives. Engagement and morale sink as commitments ring hollow. Talent retention suffers as workers feel unvalued.

Restoring trust where a gap has formed takes tireless effort and commitment to transparency from executives. It requires asking difficult questions, listening without defensiveness, and signaling openness through words and actions consistently.

The Transparency Mindset

Managers must embody the mindset that transparency is not just a slogan, but a daily practice. They must recognize how closely watched their every communication is for authenticity, candor and respect for employees.

Work cultures bank on trust. But trust unfailingly flows from transparency. Savvy executives understand honest communication - surrounding both company successes and challenges - builds credibility with employees, not overnight, but through steady reliability. Authenticity cannot be faked.

Bridging the trust gap plagues many enterprises.  If it can be done, however, it pays dividends in the form of engaged, invested employees for the long haul. There are no shortcuts.

Trust erodes when actions contradict policies, values and promises. Double standards breed cynicism. Employees need to feel safe speaking up without fear of retaliation. Companies should minimize hierarchy and seek diverse input.

Allow employees to skip the chain of command with regular skip-level meetings. This practice can also stave off lawsuits.  When employees have a clear line of complaint, they are more apt to bring problems to the company for solutions.

Use your HR function, outsourced HR Department, or a human resources consultant to create a plan that will get you out of the mire of distrust and back to a place where employees feel heard and valued.

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