Trust and power – we’re learning a lot right now about how connected they are. Could we be at a kind of tipping point in the balance of power in the relationship between employers and skilled employees?
Trust used to be built into the hierarchy – contractual, almost. Relationships actually built on power rather than trust: ‘I trust my team because they know I’m the boss and they’ll do what I ask.’
Where does the power lie right now? Where should it lie? We’re in a critical period for millions of skilled employees.
‘You can’t tell me where to work any more.’ ‘It was tough working from home at first. I bust a gut to make it work.’ It’s payback time. Here’s where the power shifts. ‘If you don’t trust me now to work the way I want to, I’m off.’
HR leaders have always wanted to build more trust into organisations’ cultures. They know that engagement drives productivity, and trust drives engagement. Now we can put a real value on trust. There’s a kind of chess game going on, and smart employees aren’t prepared to be pawns.
Some exec teams – or individual bosses – are trying to insist on a full return to the office. Smart employers are making bold moves and saying ‘we’ll let you choose.’ Giving choice implies that you’re also giving trust.
David Maister’s Trust Equation is really helpful in understanding what’s happening right now. What he’s explaining here is that the positive factors in trust…
– Credibility, ie. whether you believe what someone says
– Reliability, ie. whether they deliver; do what they say they will do
– Intimacy, ie. the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something; how comfortable you feel with them
…Are completely divisible by one thing –
– Self-orientation, ie. your perception of whether someone is more interested in themselves, or in you. That’s why it takes a lot of work to build trust, and it can be lost in a heartbeat.
Insisting that people return to the office suggests that you only trust people when it suits you. And also that you think they will do what you tell them whether they want to or not.
How is this playing out in your organisation?
If you’d like to chat about how to win over your business leaders, get in touch.
My book ‘Empowering HR’ is on Amazon and other bookstores.