How to build vital trust when your employees return to work
It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the workplace as we know it. We wouldn't be sweating much if the impact of the pandemic in the workplace was only physical in terms of the social distancing protocols being energetically adopted today. Sadly, the notorious COVID sunk its fangs deeper, triggering substantial psychological damage in our workplaces.
When the pandemic struck, and the accompanying economic strangulation thickened, employers rushed to drop employees to save the business.
Indeed, many workers were shocked at their dispensability; given how committed they were to the growth of the companies they worked. For some extremely dedicated employees who have built their lives around the company, the shock of being sacked unceremoniously came cutting like a sharp knife through a jolly cake!
The reality on the ground…
Consequently, trust shrank significantly. When employees return to work, they will struggle to commit to their employers wholesomely. This wouldn't be unnatural since the binding psychological contract (trust between employer and employee) has been breached.
Unfortunately, as a business owner, you terribly need your employee trust to accelerate the economic resuscitation of your company after the pandemic. There is no way you will grow speedily if your employees cynically place their eggs in many baskets.
Interestingly, a survey of executives globally before the pandemic showed that 55% of CEOs are worried about the significant slash in output that the lack of employee trust is wreaking on their businesses. This decline in productivity is even going to be aggressively amplified when employees return to work, given the prevailing deficiency of trust.
For leaders and business owners, there is one more battle to fight aside from financially repairing the ledgers. How can you get your employees to trust you again? How would you engage them wholeheartedly, how would you motivate them, and, essentially, how you get them to submit fully to leadership once more?
Big questions, aren't they?
Here are some proven strategies – backed with research – on building that vital trust as your work resumes. First, show your employees how much you trust them.
While trust is hard to build, it is inherently reciprocal. Ordinarily, I would struggle to trust you if you don't trust me. No rocket science here. If you trust me, that means I have graduated from your external circles into that internal fraternity where I directly decide your fate. If I become a major stakeholder in your life, it is only natural that I make you one in my life as well.
Yes, I know you are dying for me to tell you how you could show your staff you trust them. I wouldn't keep you waiting.
Be more transparent
I will ask you one simple question. How well would you trust your spouse when she is always running to the bathroom to pick his (or her) calls? Honesty is one of the most critical mental bricks needed to construct trust.
Be honest and open to your employees when you make decisions for the team. Aha, you think they would mistake you for being weak?
No, you can't be any wronger. Being open ensures they understand and accept the logical validation behind every decision you make.
By opening to them, you show them they aren't dispensable inanimate pegs filling the holes in your office.
Of course, you don't need to tell them the very confidential details. Also, not every decision needs to be explained in the heat of the moment when tempers are understandably high.
When your employees come to believe the energy you commit to transmitting the details to them, as well as the accuracy of the information you disburse to them, they will be compelled to trust you.
Allow your staff more operational autonomy
Here is it. If I don't trust you, I will terribly micromanage you, always looking over your shoulder in the office. Nah, don't think I love you any better. I am just worried that you would mess up my stuff!
If you want your employees to trust you, you have to trust them enough to wholly delegate responsibilities to them. The mental mechanics here is simple. If you delegate critical roles to my desk and you expect me to efficiently fix them, it means you trust me enough to fill in your shoes.
Now, if I can take the boss's position, that means I am now IMPORTANT to the company. This way, I would confidently trust my boss because he won't readily kick me off my job one morning if his coffee tastes bad.
How can you give your employees the autonomy to excel in their roles?
To effectively delegate roles to your staff, you must integrate more clarity and accountability in the project. This means your staff must clearly know what the project is about, the specific milestones to be hit, and the criteria with which you would measure their performance. Also, they must be sufficiently informed on the deadline and channels of progress reportage.
If you would delegate tasks to them where you expect to excel autonomously, you must ensure they are necessarily comfortable with the project. Ask them without pressure if they can handle it, and what infrastructure (in terms of guidance, tools, and resources) they need to do a great job.
This way, your trustworthiness in their perspective ramps up, as they would be driven to commit and give more.
Give them credit for successes and take responsibility for failures
Nothing kills the spirit of camaraderie as much as shifting blames. Given that employees are yet recovering from the mental injury of the pandemic, in terms of the broken employer-employee trust, it would be unwise to embellish their shortcomings and hoard all the successes for yourself.
Research from Harvard Business Review shows that one effective hack to lead your company through a crisis of this magnitude is by applauding your team when the company hits targets, and absolving them of blames when failure spoils the stew.
This doesn't mean you are not holding your employees accountable. Surely, this means more of being humble to accept the cracks in your leadership, especially being transparent to take the bulk of the blame when your decisions flop.
When you readily push the blame to your employees, you only amplify their anxiety and sense of insecurity. You know what? If you keep telling me I am wrong, I would be expecting you to kick me out soon, parading a middle finger in my face when I ask why.
Show them you are a competent leader
You don't need a TED talk to know that you must EARN your employees trust. Showing your leadership competence is one of the most assured ways of building employee trust. Isn't it only normal for people to feel safe on a ship when the sailor knows his onions?
Hey, don't misinterpret me. Showing you are incompetent doesn't mean telling your employees you are always right. You must prove how meritorious your leadership is by exposing them to the wealth of the logic and rationally loaded in your decisions.
When you make controversial decisions as the boss – which you always will – your employees may involuntarily question your competence. However, you can assuage their doubts by being able to rationalize such decisions before the aggrieved party. This would involve integrating more data and objectivity in your leadership.
There you are, we have come to the end of this nourishing lecture on post-COVID leadership. Tell me, wasn't it a balanced diet? Eula Blue is helping businesses to spring back from the dungeons of the pandemic. Taking a data-centric approach, we enable companies to make the most profitable decisions that get their rivals sweating profusely. Book a session with us today, sit back, and watch your brand become a formidable authority in your space.