• Edwin and George

So, who do you trust at work?

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies.

This week we did Turtle-Neck Tuesdays - a ridiculous event you might think? Well I've been told by the team that "it's a vibe".


It's one of our "things" from our metaphorical leadership tool box that brings a few laughs, builds stronger relationships and increases trust in the team.


When you show vulnerability, it allows team members to feel more comfortable being open and honest with their concerns, questions, mistakes and roadblocks, which ultimately allows for stronger team performance.



Our organisations are broken – and it's breaking our people (1)


Who do you trust at work?


Hardly anyone if recent research is correct.


The ADP Research Institute (in a survey of 25,000 professionals) finds that only 7% completely trust their senior leaders, team leader or colleagues.


‘This is the lowest score we’ve ever seen.’ (2)


In the June edition of ‘The Harvard Business Review,’ Marcus Buckingham writes:

‘It’s frightening to imagine a world of work without trust – it’s the single most powerful driver of engagement and resilience.


When you completely trust your senior leaders, team leader and colleagues, you’re far more likely to give your best, to feel you belong to the company and stay. (3)


No wonder, the same edition of ‘The Harvard Business Review’ reports:

‘Surveys show that, post pandemic, anywhere from a quarter to over a half of professionals are looking to change jobs. This is partly due to changes in attitude on how work is done and dissatisfaction with the approach being taken.


But a typical reason for changing jobs is unhappiness with personal relationships at work – particularly a boss who has been making life miserable or who can’t be trusted.’ (4)

So we’re back to poor leadership again.


‘The pandemic has made many people wonder whether companies need a different kind of leadership to manage the situation, a question we might not be asking if there wasn’t a leadership crisis to begin with.’ (5)


How many of these ‘trust sapping’ statements are true where you work?


The EGM Trust Barometer


  1. There’s a culture of favouritism in my company

  2. People are reluctant to speak the truth

  3. There are instances of toxic leadership behaviours – bullying, discrimination, harassment

  4. We struggle to retain good people

  5. Our communications lack authenticity – leaders say what people want to hear, or hide behind excuses (‘this is confidential’ or ‘we don’t have that data’)

  6. If you’re good technically you end up leading people - no matter if you have people skills or not

  7. Leaders are left to ‘do their best’ – there’s no effective leadership development approach

  8. We make short-term decisions – preferring to meet arbitrary quarterly targets ahead of looking after our people (6)

  9. Senior leaders sit in offices or work in meeting rooms – they cancel 1-2-1s and arrive late for meetings involving team members - generally showing a lack of respect for other people’s time

  10. We are micro-managed.

Take statement number 10:


‘We would argue that micromanagement is one of the worst, most damaging and morale-sapping ways of managing people, that can seriously affect productivity, employee retention and ultimately, trust.’(7)


Here’s how it works:


Micro-managers need control - ultimately because they don’t trust their people. When they aren’t in control, micro-managers find someone to blame (often the same person each time), keeping the upper hand by never praising good work or recognising the knowledge, experience and skills of others. (8)


Are you being micro-managed? How many of these statements ring true?

  1. Every task needs approval

  2. Everything is over-complicated – even the simplest point is described in mind blowing detail

  3. You are contracted ‘out of working hours’

  4. Your manager needs to know where you are

  5. You have to provide constant updates

  6. Your manager has difficulty delegating

  7. You think your manager would be better suited teaching a class of 5-year olds

  8. You need to copy your manager into every email

  9. If you speak to another function or a senior leader you have to let your manager know

  10. Your manager believes that no-one can do the job like them.

Sadly, research regularly shows that staff who are micro-managed have lower engagement, trust their leaders less and aren’t as innovative or entrepreneurial as others.(9)

Increasing trust at work isn’t going to happen overnight.

Here are two things companies have to do:

  1. Work very (very) hard on the quality of leadership – pick the right people, onboard and support leaders to ‘world-class’ levels. Coach or remove those who show toxic benhaviours or who are not up to it – they do a lot of damage

In the words of the CEO at Gallup:


Here's something they'll probably never teach you in business school:


The single biggest decision you make in your job - bigger than all of the rest - is who you name manager. When you name the right people to manage your company's workplace, everything goes well. People love their jobs, your customers are engaged, and life is great.

When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits - nothing. (10)


For ideas on how to support and develop leaders, see our blog: ‘Assessing Leadership Development Strategy – Seven Key Areas.’ (11)

  1. Stop listening to ‘experts’ who don’t know what they’re doing

Trust at work at an all-time low.

  • Engagement is low.

  • Resilience is low.

  • Burnout is high.

These are difficult problems – companies have to think the solutions through.


Start listening to the people who have ‘real life’ knowledge and experience – who have a track record in leading people.


Stop listening to ‘experts’ who don’t know what they’re doing.

  • Too many companies doing similar things – implementing the same old people practices that didn’t work in 1995 and don’t work now (annual appraisals, poorly designed frameworks and competency models, aligned objectives)

  • Too many companies hurtling towards mediocrity

  • Too many companies driven on by ‘thought leaders, commentators, HR gurus and consultants - who don’t have the ‘real world’ experience to understand how their recommendations play out

A better strategy - do a few well thought through things to a high standard.


The simplest sign that you are talking to an expert you can trust is experience. Before you give your trust to someone ask yourself if they have experience in the very thing they claim to be an expert in. (12)


Or in the words of Steve Jobs (another great connoisseur of the Turtle Neck):



‘I think you need to own something over an extended period of time - where you have a chance to take responsibility for your recommendations, where you see your recommendations through all action stages - accumulate scar tissue for the mistakes and pick yourself up from the ground and dust yourself down. The person who hasn’t done this has learned a fraction compared to those who have.


You may get a broad cut of companies but it’s very thin – it’s two dimensional. Without the experience of doing the job you never get to three dimensional. ‘(13)


Fortunately, at EGM, all of our consultants have real ‘real life’ experience – to fully understand the implications of recommendations and the results they’ll achieve.


  1. Get out of your own way: let’s build better companies, EGM blog

  2. Global workplace study, ADP Research

  3. Becoming ‘a more critical consumer of information, Marcus Buckingham, Harvard Business Review, June 2021

  4. Are you ready to quit, Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review, June 2021

  5. Why Leadership Has to Change After Covid -19, Forbes Magazine: 11th February 2021

  6. For more on this subject see the infinite game, Simon Sinek

  7. See www.breathe.com 7 signs you are dealing with a micro-manager, 24 July, 2019

  8. Why people micro-manage, Ron Ashkenas, Harvard Business Review, November 2011

  9. See regular research by Gallup, for example: Beware of the manager from hell, Jim Clifton, Gallup, 2013

  10. Beware of the manager from hell, Jim Clifton, Gallup. March 2013

  11. Assessing leadership development strategy – seven key areas, EGM blog

  12. Becoming ‘a more critical consumer of information, Marcus Buckingham, Harvard Business Review, June 2021

  13. See Steve Jobs on consulting, YouTube

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