The ability to build and sustain high levels of personal and organizational trust is a critical competency for today’s leaders.
Whether it’s the world of business, politics or sports, there is no shortage of leadership failures to illustrate the effects of broken trust on a personal and organizational level.
Consider these recent, well-known examples of prominent leaders breaking trust where the damage extended beyond the individuals:
Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP, left the company after his series of trust-eroding gaffes and missteps following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. BP received significant public criticism and damage to its brand image as a result of Hayward’s seemingly uncaring response to the environmental disaster.
Jim Tressel, former head football coach at The Ohio State University, resigned under pressure in May 2011 after admitting he knew some of his players had violated NCAA rules but chose not to alert his superiors about the infractions. Between self-imposed penalties and those handed down by the NCAA, Ohio State stands to lose millions of dollars in football revenue.
New York Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned under pressure last year after initially denying, then later admitting, he sent a lewd picture from his Twitter account and engaged in “sexting” with numerous women over a period of years. Weiner’s actions seem to reinforce a growing lack of trust in politicians and their integrity.Trust or Consequences
Prominent breaches of trust such as these garner the news headlines, yet it’s leaders’ everyday actions that determine the level of trust in organizations. Most employees have experienced broken promises, unfulfilled commitments and leaders withholding information, have been treated unfairly or heard blatant lies and dishonesty in the workplace. Repeated occurrences of these kinds of trust-busting behaviors by leaders foster low-trust environments resulting in employees who are demoralized, afraid to take risks, disengaged, unproductive and ultimately at a higher risk to leave the organization.
According to “Trust Matters: New Links to Employee Retention and Well-Being,” a 2011 Kenexa High Performance Institute WorkTrends report, 50 percent of employees who distrust their senior leaders are seriously considering leaving their organization, compared to 14 percent of those who do trust their leaders. Deloitte’s 2010 “Ethics and Workplace Survey” reports that 48 percent of employed Americans who plan to look for a new job as the economy improves are doing so because of a lack of trust in their employer and a lack of transparent communication from senior leadership.