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Establish Trust To Boost Employee Morale

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Robby Slaughter, founder and principal of AccelaWork, proposed an interesting idea in a popular business magazine. “Consider doing something drastic,” he challenged the journal’s readers. “Trust your employees.”

In the an issue of The Indianapolis Business Journal, Slaughter’s article, “Give Employees Chance To Break Your Trust,” discussed how trusting employees—rather than monitoring their every move—can create a more innovative and empowering workplace. Below is an excerpt from the article: (direct link here)

If you want the best team with the strongest commitment to ethical behavior, you must ensure they have every opportunity to lie, steal, and cheat.

This strategy sounds radical and counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we closely monitor employee activity? Shouldn’t we keep interior doors locked, ration valuable resources, bolt down furniture and equipment, and install security cameras? These are certainly prudent actions to reduce the threat of abuse and criminal activity. However, most people—and furthermore, most employees—are honest, law-abiding citizens. Why do we build work environments that practically boast about how little we trust our workers?

. . .

Due to practical and legal restrictions, workplaces must have some policies and some monitoring. Yet at the same time, we can all acknowledge that responsible people thrive in an environment of freedom. Fewer restrictions and less bureaucracy create greater potential for innovation. Brilliance often requires knowing the rules and knowingly setting them aside. Most important, responsible people will work because they are driven by the satisfaction of progress and discovery.

Likewise, irresponsible people quickly stand out in a culture that emphasizes freedom. They will exploit any cookie jar left unguarded. They will be lazy and complacent. If they are rarely monitored, their work will barely advance. Autonomy is a kind of disinfectant that almost instantly highlights those who would violate your trust.

consulting manager and her employee

© Flickr user innovate360


Slaughter talks about how clockwatching can be counterproductive. How blocking online banking or private email can only go to show employees that they aren’t valued and can’t be trusted. After all, does it really matter if someone spends three minutes reading an email from their grandma? As long as work is getting done at a high level, who cares what’s done on a minute to minute basis? No one has ever talked positively about a workplace because of all the micromanagement that was going on.

The best policy is to trust employees until they give you a reason not to. Unfortunately, too many workplaces operate in a way that means employees have to earn trust. If you don’t feel you can trust someone from the start, then maybe there was someone better you could’ve hired. Give people a long leash and odds are they’re going to surprise you in a positive way. Keep people tied short and all they’re going to do is strain to get away from those restrictions.

Establishing trust in the workplace not only boosts employee morale, it creates confidence and mutual respect among stakeholders.  As Slaughter concluded in his article, “The best teams succeed despite all the restrictions and paranoia that limit their activities . . . those worth keeping will take root and flourish in the open sun.” Mutual respect is what all successful teams are built on. Show your employees that you trust them to manage their time and to complete tasks when they’re supposed to, and they’ll likely reward you with the respect of trusting your judgement and leadership. It’s the sort of situation where everyone benefits from just a little bit of trust.

To learn more about AccelaWork’s philosophies on workplace success and productivity, reach out to our business process improvement consultants today! We can help you find the best way to tone back micromanagement in your organization.

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