Why trust is crucial when making organizational change

Why Trust Is Crucial When Making Organizational Change

The Effects of Distrust in the Workplace

During organizational change, the effects of distrust in the workplace become magnified. In broad terms, distrust is caused when employees don’t believe their managers; for example, they don’t believe that the implementation of new software will not lead to job losses. 

An environment of distrust arises because employees have doubt in their managers. Previous experience has led to a low level of credibility and reliability in managers and leaders. During organizational change, distrust arises because of uncertainty, poor communication, a loss of control, and office politics and rumor and gossip around the water cooler.

In this article, we outline the effects of distrust in the workplace and the conditions that show trust in your workplace is at a level that makes it prepared for organizational change.

How do You Know Your Employees Are Working in an Environment of Distrust?

When there is a lack of trust in the workplace and its leadership, your team suffers in multiple ways. In his book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identifies that effectiveness is founded on trust. There are several symptoms of an absence of trust in the workplace. Combined, these reduce innovation, productivity, morale and motivation.  

Here are the major signs that your organization or team is suffering from an absence of trust.

  • There Is a Lack of Participation in Team Meetings

Team meetings should be opportunities for employees to voice concerns, share insights and discuss ideas. If leaders find that they are doing all the talking, it is an indication that employees lack the confidence to contribute. This may be because of a lack of self-confidence. It is also often due to a lack of confidence in the leader. They don’t trust that the leader will treat ideas and points of views seriously.

When this happens, the organization suffers from a lack of input from participants of change – the very people who should be able to ensure that change is made effectively.

  • You Only Receive Positive Feedback

If you have asked for feedback and become defensive when that feedback is negative, and provide reasons to believe the feedback is incorrect, your employees will learn that your desire for feedback is not genuine. Eventually, all feedback you receive will be positive, reinforcing that you are ‘doing the right thing’. 

When employees don’t trust that their feedback will be accepted as intended and you only get positive feedback, your ability to make sustainable change decreases. You won’t be told of mistakes being made in the process of change, and these mistakes will reduce the effectiveness of the organizational change program.

  • Employees Don’t Make Decisions

When managers are not trusted by their employees, those employees will ask about every decision irrespective of whether permission is needed. Employees see this as a protective measure. If your employees ask for permission to do something when they have previously been told that permission is not necessary, it is a clear sign that they don’t feel trusted.

Such an environment leads to micromanaging by the manager and lower levels of the innovation and problem solving that are critical to successful organizational change.

  • Pessimism Permeates the Workplace

If pessimism permeates one-to-ones, team meetings and team projects, it’s a sign that employees do not feel trusted and don’t trust management decisions.

These feelings become invasive, leading to scaremongering and rumor spreading. Employees do not feel comfortable being honest, and a blame culture can quickly evolve. During periods of change, finger pointing detracts from the need to be objective and solve problems quickly – and this will harm delivery of change.

Is Your Organization Ready to Trust in Change?

Trust is critical to empower the conversations and interactions that enable problems to be identified and solutions found during change. The level of trust is demonstrated in four significant conditions:

1. Employees Believe in Leadership

Employees demonstrate that they have belief in leadership and internal relationships. They hold themselves accountable, accept delegated tasks and participate in meetings. Feedback is welcomed and offered.

2. Processes and Systems Support Employees

People are made to feel more important than the processes and systems they use. Leaders place more emphasis on their people, and systems and processes are defined and evolved to support people through change. Employees have professional development courses charted and are provided regular opportunities to review their own progress and define their learning needs.

3. Employees Understand the Change

The goals of change are cascaded through the organization, and people can explain them in their own words. Employees identify closely with the organization’s values and purpose, enabling them to visualize the future.

4. Employees Are Clear about Their Objectives

Employees are clear about their personal objectives and how their daily work contributes to the organization’s goals. There is a recognition and rewards process in place and leaders act as coaches to their employees.

Help Your People Trust in Change

If there is an absence of trust in your organization, it will negatively affect your ability to execute organizational change effectively. The effects of distrust damage a team’s ability to work collaboratively, raise concerns, make decisions and be accountable.

When your employees work in an environment of trust, they are empowered to work toward collective goals that resonate with the shared values and beliefs that underpin your organization’s purpose.

Contact us today, and discover how we can help your organization’s leaders, managers and teams become change ready in a trusting workplace.


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