Trust in Manager-employee relationship

In a previous post Do you think your manager is fair to you?, I proposed that trust is the most important part of the manager-employee relationship and it determines whether manager is considered fair or not by his/her employees. So the question is: how do you create trust in such a relationship? This is pertinent for manager and employee both. Also, trust requires ongoing effort, and hence both sides have to be cognizant of the need to keep maintaining the trust.

In any healthy workplace, results-orientedness and managing for results are the most important competencies since that helps the business most directly. Hence, any creation and maintenance of trust has to rely on continuously delivering on time and with quality that meets the business requirements. This also creates confidence and reliability, other important constituents of trust. Once someone starts delivering results consistently and reliably, trust is not far away.

Some of the steps employees can take to ensure  trust is created and maintained (also see “How to Manage your boss“):

  • Pick tasks with maximum chance of success for you: Be careful about what tasks you pick so that you are able to deliver them on time and with quality. Make sure they are aligned with your skills and strengths.
  • Understand your manager: Some managers start assuming you are trustworthy and change their opinion when you do something wrong. Others start assuming you can’t be trusted until you continuously prove you can be. This will let you figure out what you need to do to be considered trustworthy. Also, some managers like more information, some like it less. So understand your manager and his/her personality.
  • Keep your manager informed: Managers don’t like it when they get to know of something from other channels when they want to hear it from you. So it is always a good idea to keep him/her informed as much as you can. Amount of information depends on what manager likes, of course.
  • Have regular 1-1s: If your manager hasn’t scheduled this, schedule one yourself. If he/she doesn’t agree, try hard to convince him/her about the usefulness of this exercise. Regular interactions keep the communication channels flowing and gives you a ready-made forum to discuss any misunderstandings/issues that may have crept during the intervening time through projects happening/not-happening.

Some of the steps managers can take:

  • Share Information: Most of the time, managers are accused of hoarding information and not sharing them enough. Many times, this is not truth, but perception. Either way, this causes problems in the way of trust-building, because your employees need to know at all times that they have all the information they need to be successful. Team meetings are the best way to share information, email, wiki, and blogs are other ways information can be shared fruitfully, however written material tends to be misinterpreted at times, so try to cover most of the important information in face-to-face team meetings so that questions can be asked and answered.
  • Open Door policy: This is probably the most overused cliche in management and everyone claims to do this. However, this has to be demonstrated rather than told (What you are shouts so loud in my ears I cannot hear what you say – R.W.Emerson). Best way of demonstrating this is to reach out to talk rather than waiting for them to walk into your office, and when they do walk in, drop whatever you are doing and give them your undivided attention. If you manage to create a real ‘open door policy’, it will go a long way towards creating trust in your workplace.
  • Encourage and use 1-1s: I can’t stress how important 1-1s are for creating a great manager-employee relationship and trust. So ensure you have 1-1s set up with all of your reports at regular intervals, and spend that time talking about things other than regular project deadlines and status reports. That time is best spent in discussing questions like “Am I doing all you need from me to be successful?” and “Do you feel happy about your work and career development?”.

 Hope these help in creating a great relationship at your workplace.

I will talk about conducting fruitful 1-1s in a subsequent post (I tried to find some existing stuff on google, but couldn’t find anything useful). Keep reading and commenting!

6 Replies to “Trust in Manager-employee relationship”

  1. This article is written without carrying out much research. This is one sided article. It is better to read lot of published articles and papers and write better articles.

  2. Thanks Indrajit for your comment. What I presented here is based on my experience as a manager, as an employee, as a student of MBA program, and as an active member of my peer group of managers and managees. However, I am open to feedback if you can provide some specific comments. Feel free to drop me a note or post here.

    1. 1-1s are quality time spent between you and your manager (or your report) – most of the time, I recommend spending time on agenda items that enhance the relationship between manager and report. My experience is that time spent this way goes a long way towards establishing trust.

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