Do your staff trust you? Find out what your management style says about you

03 November 2016 -


A test of your people management skills, the trust displayed throughout all levels of your organisation can be make or break in determining its growth, productivity and culture

Jermaine Haughton

Trust is a unique quality often built over a period of time, but can also be diminished in an instance. It is at the heart of all positive working relationships - from employee to employer, junior to senior staff or team leader to team member.

In an trusting environment, whereby all parties feel safe to work confidently and openly express their personality and ideas without fear of discrimination and negativity, there is typically an implicit feeling among colleagues that they each have each other’s best interests in mind.

Therefore, such scenarios as team leaders accepting valuable criticism from subordinates on their specific handling of the team and projects, or junior staff willing to work longer hours to complete tasks allocated by their line manager, can be made possible without lingering resentment and displeasure.

And CMI’s The Middle Manager Lifeline report found that the middle managers who trust their organisation to a great extent - known as ‘high trust’ managers - are more likely to be found in organisations that are growing.

This is reflected in the number of meaningful interactions that middle managers have with their business leaders, their working relationship with the senior leadership team, and their confidence to communicate information down to their own reports.

Some 68% of managers in rapidly growing organisations are identified as “high trust” and only 7% as “low trust”. Conversely, those who trust their organisation the least, “low-trust managers”, tend to be in ones that are in decline.

Only 15% of managers in declining organisations are “high trust”.

Despite this, the research found a significant level of distrust between middle and senior management within many firms in the UK.

Only 36% of Britain’s middle managers reported that they trust their business leader to a great extent. In fact, more than one in five middle managers trust their business leader very little – if at all (21%).

Trust is seemingly easier to manage for bosses at small businesses. In those with fewer than 50 employees, 61% of managers trusted their organisation to a great extent; in those with more than 1,000 employees, only 29% of managers expressed this level of trust.

Similarly, 58% of managers in the smallest organisations trusted their business leader to a great extent, compared to 37% in the largest ones.

Managing Trust

Management style can also play a significant role in building and maintaining trustful relationships within your organisation. Trust-building involves a continuous process of managers and employees showing honesty, competence and authenticity in who they are, what they say, and how they behave.

With many employers moving away from early to middle twentieth century ‘command and control’ management styles, the emphasis is on managers and executives more than ever to gain trust from peers, as more collaborative and coaching approaches have been introduced to boost the engagement and motivation of employees.

The study showed that middle managers are more likely to describe their company’s management style in negative terms than their senior colleagues.

While “reactive” was the most common adjective used by both senior and middle managers to describe their organisation’s management style, it was more pronouncedly used by middle managers (44%) compared to senior managers (33%).

More than one in three middle managers used “authoritarian” to describe their organisation’s management style, while less than one in four senior managers did.

Conversely, one in three senior managers used the words “empowering” and “reactive” while fewer than one in four middle managers did.

The basic components of trust building include establishing a personal code of conduct by telling the truth and showing respect, extending trust first to others and being willing to share important information appropriately with your team, but the CMI survey of 1,456 of its members showed that a failure for senior managers and directors to adopt these types of behaviours consistently has led to a depletion of trust between them and those lower down the ranks of their company.

Compared to chief executives and other senior staff, middle managers believe their organisations to be far less transparent (73% vs 52%) and don’t think that openness and honesty are commended to the same extent (48% vs 71%).

The report also stated that just over half of middle managers (53%) believe they can trust what their organisation tells them, compared to 70% of senior leaders.

High-trust managers score their organisation higher on all aspects of behaviour associated with an open and trustworthy culture.

The research concluded: “How a leader, and his/her wider leadership team, behaves is a significant driver of the overall culture of a company.

“If a leader is open and honest about decisions, it will inevitably encourage managers to behave in the same way.”

Read the full report from CMI

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