There are several ways a company can lose the trust of its employees and its customers. Bad management, subpar performance, layoffs, unfair treatment, the list goes on. Can one person rebuild that trust once it’s been flushed down the organizational hopper? According to David Wagner in an article for InformationWeek, regaining trust in the enterprise is a difficult task, but certainly not impossible.
Integrity, Confidence, and the Company
David DeSteno of the Harvard Business Review breaks employee trust into two categories, integrity and competence. Building up integrity is the easier option, because we are given small chances every day to prove our integrity. Loss of competence is a more serious problem. When we’re viewed as incompetent, the little chances to prove ourselves are withheld, and we become trapped in a cage of mistrust. But companies are not like individual people, says Wagner. As a collective, trust takes on a wholly different dynamic. At the organizational level, retaining great individuals with lots of integrity does not always offset a terrible manager or CEO. As a CIO, what can one do?
4 Ways to Combat Mistrust
Wagner offers several solutions, each designed to combat a different level of mistrust:
- Fire a manager.
- Rally the troops.
- Direct a solution to the problem.
- Make company gains more visible.
The simplest solution might be to fire a bad apple manager and replace them with someone more qualified and credible. The obvious pitfall here is that the higher the problem is on the food chain, the harder it is to replace said individual. In such a scenario, it becomes necessary to rally staff around the problem, so that at least the vast body of the company can be in the right. In other scenarios, you might need to justify company-wide layoffs, in which case you’ll need to bring the remaining employees to understand the decision and to help them find a new normal. In the worst case, your company (for various and unrelated reasons) is falling on hard times, but that doesn’t mean you’re at a loss to restore trust. Sometimes, all that’s needed is to make the gains more visible and losses less so.