How do I gain cumbersome trust

Trust between coworkers and boss: 10 effective methods, how bosses destroy the trust of their coworkers

The management consultants Frank Kühn and Peter Wollmann have been in companies for years - and have observed the 10 mistakes with which bosses destroy the trust of their people.

Trust is the basis if a company wants to travel successfully in uncertain times. When nobody knows what it looks like around the next bend in the road. When goals can be out of date tomorrow. This is only possible with a "travel group" that you can rely on. With people who take on suitable (leadership) roles and tasks in the group at any time so that things go well together. Whom we trust.

Trust is therefore one of the most important and long-term success factors in companies. But it is repeatedly gambled away frivolously. We have found the following methods of destroying trust and credibility to be particularly effective in our counseling work.

1. Lack of openness and transparency

Closed executives have a problem: they have to be constantly on the lookout for what they want to publish. When it comes to "your locked up", you argue in a cumbersome, nebulous, annoyed way. That costs strength and credibility. In our day-to-day consulting work, we also experience managers who see the withholding of information as a hierarchical principle. Or those who are simply afraid of asking questions and being speechless among critical people.

This is how it works better:

Flip the paradigm that knowledge is power. Do not close off any information to let it out in bits and pieces. Create total transparency. This is a prerequisite for the people in the organization to be able to act responsibly. Today's world is too complex to allocate information. What if you are not allowed to say something because you would otherwise endanger a negotiation, for example? Then make that transparent too: say that you are not allowed to say anything yet and ask the employees to trust them.

2. Unclear values ​​and principles

If the management level only formulates values ​​unclearly or keeps them impersonal, this inevitably leads to guesswork, alleged misconduct and conflicts among employees. Because: You can only guess what is important to your manager.

This is how it works better:

Clearly expressed personal values ​​create trust. Agreed principles create behavioral security - if they are noticeably taken seriously at all levels and in an exemplary manner: if the senior boss also puts on his helmet on a tour of the plant. If he honestly and visibly values ​​critical and constructive queries.

Therefore: Talk about your personal values ​​and feelings. Say what annoys you and what you are happy about. Agree on principles for management and cooperation in the company. And above all: set a good example. If one principle is respect, act immediately if you notice otherwise in a meeting. Set clear signals.

3. Arbitrary behavior

Delay in the meeting, failure to keep promises - none of this is possible, neither with bosses nor with employees. Arbitrary behavior creates insecurity and wastes resources. As a show of power, it's ridiculous and the employees have long since figured it out.

This is how it works better:

Agile organizations in particular rely on formulated practices for lively information platforms, decentralized decision-making and collegial conflict handling to be lived reliably. Without exception, at all levels, in all areas. When our dynamic times call for quick action, arriving on time and having disciplined meetings is a must.

4. Disinterest

Each hierarchical level works differently and has to do with itself. Employees get the feeling that they and their work are not valued and interchangeable. How is he supposed to build trust in a leadership that he doesn't care about?

This is how it works better:

Remember, it is your people who make the company successful. Organization and leadership are there to support this as best as possible. Create opportunities for contact and exchange with your people. Go to project meetings and listen; be benevolent and respectful, even if you have to intervene. Actively involve people in change projects, benefit from their experiences and their expectations.

5. Employees as cost factors

Many employees feel that they are seen primarily as a cost factor or as “human capital”. But people don't just want to be personnel numbers and budget items. People create success. To do this, the leadership has to trust them - and they have to trust the leadership. And trust only exists between people - not between cost centers.

This is how it works better:

Everyone has valuable qualities and the fundamental positive motivation to contribute to success. To do this, he wants to feel connected. Address the people personally and by name. Engage them with recognition of their experience and skills. Make a clear distinction between cost factors (waste of material, poor working conditions, poorly prepared meetings, cumbersome processes) and people (Andy, Petra).

6. Lack of empathy

People have hopes, fears and problems - professionally and privately. Professional problems can arise, for example, from a lack of qualifications and motivation or from poor cooperation. Private problems can develop into professional ones if they occupy people so intensely that they do not let go of them even during working hours. "Don't make your problem my problem" is bad advice when the company suffers.

This is how it works better:

Problems really want to be understood, otherwise symptoms will be tinkered with. “Follow the smoke to find the fire” can be life-saving for a company. Empathy is not there to just be nice to one another, but to honestly understand motivations and obstacles and to tackle problem-solving together. Such an approach not only works better, but also supports trusting cooperation. And it eliminates the need for control procedures that are shaped by distrust in human behavior.

7. Set phrases

Some phrases explain the boss's world: “The boiler must always be under steam.” Or: “Time is our enemy.” So far, we have not found these insights helpful in our organizational work. Other phrases, on the other hand, are intended to cheer up: "The focus is on the employee." "We have to go an extra mile." Or: "Everyone's commitment is necessary, another year of hard work."

And then? Most of the time it continues the same way. As a manager, you lose your credibility with such empty phrases. Firstly, because most of the phrases are incorrect. Second, because you don't seem to find it necessary to be more specific to the needs of your employees.

This is how it works better:

Avoid any kind of empty phrase and think about what you really want to say. Make an effort and describe the company's situation, which target image you see for the company and which concrete steps are pending. Don't say truisms like: "Digitization will cost 50 percent of jobs", but rather what questions you are dealing with: "How can we approach digitization in such a way that we will continue to be a trustworthy employer for all generations in our company?"

8. Fashionable Terms and Abbreviations

KPI, digital strategy, change, HR, business partner - everything clear? Abbreviations and fashionable terms flood companies, mostly presented by the management level and their strategic advisors. Often without any real explanation and the employees do not dare to ask. So it can easily happen that the terms are subliminally coupled with individual interpretations, hopes and fears. Or it is assumed that top management doesn't know what they're talking about either. All of this is not conducive to credibility.

This is how it works better:

Deal with terms and abbreviations. What should they mean for the company? It's worth it, because you will find that you and your management colleagues sometimes talk past each other and leave everything in the rough. Trust also comes from knowing what you are talking about.

9. Bad stories

For example, stories about employees who have been treated unfairly shake trust significantly:

  • "Released from one day to the next despite hard work over 25 years."
  • "Pawn sacrifice after management failure."
  • “Other colleague preferred because of party membership.” And so on.

The problem: Stories can be told quickly and in an exciting way, they satisfy our need for the little sensations in everyday life.

This is how it works better:

Make sure the stories are good and honest. Act in such a way that memories of decent behavior arise. It doesn't work without authenticity. Then you will be perceived as a credible person. And trust is created.

10. Narcissism

The narcissist considers himself a wonderful symbiosis. He prefers to trust himself. Actually necessary self-reflection only affects him peripherally, he cannot accept criticism from outside. In this respect, he also thinks that feedback and journalism are the work of the devil.

In our consulting practice, we observe how employees suffer from narcissists. You lack affection and empathy and you despair of the bizarre decisions of your boss. From the narcissist's point of view, it's their own fault.

This is how it works better:

Real narcissists can hardly be helped. Therefore, draw your personal conclusions on how you want to deal with it.

Perfectly prepared for employee appraisals

With the checklist "Perfectly prepared for employee appraisals" you, as a manager, go into conversation with your employees with a good feeling - and you know exactly what you want to say. Download the checklist now!

A guest contribution by Frank Kühn and Peter Wollmann

The guest authors

Dr. As a consultant and development partner, Frank Kühn supports leading companies in strategic projects and transformation processes.

Peter Wollmann has been the program director of a global project for the Zurich Insurance Company since 2013. He is the editor and author of several publications on strategy, project and project portfolio management.

Wollmann and Kühn are co-authors of the book “Leading international projects - diverse strategies for project success”, Kogan Page Verlag, 32.45 euros.