Trust and Distrust in Organizations

· culture,organization,trust,leadership,engagement

Trust and distrust in organizations is built on displaying confidence, benevolence, and integrity to those around you. These trust behaviors create trustworthiness in both life and in organizations. Confidence refers to the perception that one is capable and possesses both the ability and sufficient influence to accomplish goals set forth by the organization. Benevolence refers to one’s ability to be perceived as kind, good, and of having the best intentions for your organization and toward your staff. Finally, integrity is a manager’s ability to stay true to the ideals and goals that the organizational members, employees, find acceptable or important. Although these behaviors appear easy to accomplish and project, that is not always the case[1].

Trust is most often accomplished by exhibiting one’s vulnerability to others. By doing so, leaders and employees are illustrating their desire for the support of others. As strange as it sounds to exhibit vulnerability, it’s necessary to build trust. Please don’t confuse vulnerability with weakness or a lack of ability. Those terms are completely separate. Vulnerability doesn’t refer to an inability, it refers to a willingness to display truth. All of us have vulnerabilities, exhibiting those to your employees and/or co-workers shows that you trust them, which in turn invites them to trust you.

On the other hand, distrust is an inability or refusal to exhibit those vulnerabilities. We often see that in managers that refuse to admit fault or those that don’t trust their own employees. They show those behaviors by questioning employees’ motives and integrity. They also show these behaviors by engaging in activity that employees perceive as going against the goals or ideals of the organization. Often, employees that perceive managers as self-interested breeds distrust and creates an environment where employees don’t feel safe in their jobs.

The Effects of a Lack of Trust or Presence of Distrust within an Organization

The effects of a lack of trust or distrust are simple: employees will follow your lead by engaging in antisocial or counterproductive behavior. By showing your employees that you don’t trust them, they won’t trust you or your ability to maneuver the organization toward success. That means that they will often fear for their own job security and follow your lead—watch out for number one….and number one will no longer be the organization.

What Can You Do to Increase Trust within your Organization?

To increase trust within your organization, you have to show consistency in your behavior. That consistency is shown through behaviors that are reliable and predictable. Reliability and predictability increase employees’ confidence in a manager’s competence and their willingness to take risks on behalf of managers. Exhibiting integrity is easy—tell the truth and keep your promises. Additionally, share control. By sharing control with employees, you are showing them that you trust them. Again, if you trust them, they will ultimately trust you. Show your employees that they are valued through open and honest communication. Be upfront with them about issues that are facing the organization. Don’t sugarcoat problems that exist within the organization; make your employees part of the solution. Finally, show a genuine concern for the emotional well-being of your employees by LISTENING to their concerns. A business is successful because of its people. People are emotional. Show your sincerity by showing empathy toward your employees in both their work lives and their personal lives.

Through measurable, coachable, accountable, and transformational strategic experiences, the organizations with whom we work are better prepared to steer their organizations through the most demanding challenges. We provide organizations with critical and thought-provoking insight that builds cultures focused on relationships, accountability, and results. If you are ready to transform your organization, Nicole L. Turner Consulting is here to help. Contact us at

      [1] Cook, Karen S., and Roderick M. Kramer. Trust and Distrust In Organizations : Dilemmas and Approaches. Russell Sage Foundation, 2004.