Guide to effective people management
by Syd Strike

The CIPD quarterly survey of employee attitudes, issued in January 2010, explores the fast-changing world of work and emerging challenges for individuals, employers and policy-makers. It is “based on a representative sample of more than 2,000 people in employment in the UK.“

According to CIPD “employees’ attitudes to senior managers should ring the most alarm bells for employers. Only about a third of employees say they trust or have confidence in their senior managers and just a quarter agree their organisation’s directors consult them about important decisions. Employees’ negative perceptions of consultation is an issue that has got worse over the four quarterly surveys and is likely to be one of the reasons for the lack of trust and confidence among staff in their leaders.”

In this guide I would like to help you explore three key considerations:

  1. The effect of mistrust on the business
  2. Reason why employees mistrust management
  3. Solutions to mistrust

The effect of mistrust on the business

Perhaps your first consideration as a senior manager or HR manager supporting your management team should be the effect of mistrust on your people and your business.

Mistrust is like a disease. It spreads. It is very sad that in the workplace bad news tends to spread abroad much faster and with greater effect on people than good news. More sadly once the disease has affected sufficient people it changes, and reality turns into scaremongering and negative rumours which in turn begin to affect morale and motivation

Employees who have chosen to listen to the company ‘negative wizards’ are subsequently de motivated and they believe more and more that senior management do not care about them. They have their fears and concerns confirmed as middle managers are too busy to listen to them, neglect to hold two way energised meetings and in some cases are happy to deflect the blame for unresolved issues on the senior managers or the Human Resources Department. Eventually there comes an underlying malaise that is manifested by  sickness absence, low morale, high staff turnover and a lack of team working. The end result being dropping productivity, a negative effect on customer service, and ultimately an adverse effect on profit.  Staff believe that senior managers are more interested in getting the job done and making a profit, and have little or no regard to looking after the people. From their perspective, why should they bother to make an effort?

The reason employees mistrust management

There will of course be numerous reasons why mistrust emerges. The CIPD report highlights lack of consultation. I wish to highlight some key reasons, including consultation, that I have observed when working alongside management teams to find and administer effective solutions to this problem.

Communication is most likely the most obvious cause of mistrust, or should I be more specific and say lack of communication is the cause. Managers so often get this wrong. I know that most managers who fail to communicate well do not do this intentionally and more worryingly they are very often unaware of their lacking in this area.

Employees believe that managers should be honest and open with them and lack of openness and honesty is frequently given as a cause of employee dissatisfaction.

Companies that use consultation forums tend to enjoy better loyalty from their employees. However there is another dimension to consultation that is so often neglected and yet is so powerful as a motivator of teams, and that is managers who keep their teams informed and listen to ideas and concerns put forward by individual team members. It is as basic as that, but it works. So why don’t managers do this? Many managers will say that they do and of course this will be true. However others who believe they do communicate tend to pay lip service to communication and lack the skills to communicate effectively.
Middle and junior managers fail to support senior managers when they  find themselves feeling victim to a lack of support from their senior managers. Sadly instead of communicating their concerns upwards, they miss the opportunity to take positive action to resolve the issues and become part of the problem instead of the solution. They begin to voice their dissatisfactions to the workforce and blame senior managers for not supporting them.

Lack of senior management visibility is a common cause of mistrust in the workplace. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but not in the case of senior managers. Absence suggests to the team that you don’t care and are not interested in their needs. This in turn causes resentment  and mistrust. I am constantly encouraging senior managers to ‘walk the floor’. Interestingly I have had senior managers admit that they did walk the floor but didn’t know what to say to people, or could not help focussing on operational problems rather than paying attention to people. One of the best managing directors I have worked alongside made a habit of walking the terminal where he worked and speaking and listening to his employees. When showing me around he would stop and introduce me to people, whatever their position or rank. When I conducted an audit at his terminal, I interviewed 35 of his employees (half of the workforce), and everyone said he was the best MD they had ever worked for and their company the best place to be working. They were and still are a very successful operation.

Solutions to the mistrust problem

Improve communication, engage your staff, support your middle and junior managers, listen to your employees and demonstrate your loyalty to them with your presence.

If you would like help or advice give us a call or email us.

"With the best will in the world and the best Board win the world, and the best strategic direction in the world, nothing will happen unless everyone down the line understands what they are trying to achieve and gives of their best to achieve it. In so many cases their best is so much more than they themselves think is possible."
Sir John Harvey Jones
Management StyleClick