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Employees trust each other but not their 'out of touch' leaders, says CIPD

A complex picture of the nature of trust within organisations and sectors, and between employees and managers has emerged from a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Despite a difficult few years following the banking crisis and scandals involving betrayals of trust in both public and private sectors, employee trust in their colleagues (92 per cent) and line managers (80 per cent) is very strong, especially in the public sector.

It's a different story, however, when it comes to the relationship between employees and senior management. A third of respondents (34 per cent) thought that trust was weak between them, rising to 43 per cent in the public sector.

The level of trust between employees and management was found to increase depending on the seniority of the management, with those at the top considering the relationship to be most strong. The authors said that this variation suggested a tendency of senior managers to view things through 'rose-tinted glasses'. Another explanation was that they were 'out of touch' with employees 'nearer the coalface'.

With employees generally trusting of their colleagues, but not their senior managers, and senior managers seemingly unaware of this malcontent, the researchers warned that there was a real 'danger' of a 'them and us' mentality emerging. If this becomes ingrained, they said that change would be very difficult to achieve.

So what can be done? On one level, it's a question of getting the right people at the top. Nine out of ten respondents said that trust should be a factor in the selection of senior managers.

Most employees said there were ways senior managers could build or rebuild trust too, by being approachable, competent, consistent, respectful and honest, by leading from example, and by admitting when they had made a mistake.

Acas can help your organisation improve its levels of trust. The Employment Relations Comment piece pdf icon Placing Trust in Employee Engagement [120kb] puts forward simple practical steps that organisations can take to build or rebuild trust. Acas also offers training courses aimed at boosting trust and engagement, such as Skills for supervisors and those listed under Staff retention.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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