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Your Employees Don't Trust You: Here's Why

At Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer event, expert panelists unveiled findings on an increasingly challenging issue: how to build trust as a leader. Speakers emphasized how managers and executives are investing more time into building trust in their teams… and for good reason. When employees lack trust, productivity and engagement can suffer. What’s worse: it can cause your team to walk out the door. After all, with today’s economy at nearly full employment, professionals understand they can find work elsewhere. So, how do you establish a greater level of trust on your team and within the company to retain your best people and enhance relationships?

Here are the facts:


Edelman’s research indicates that building trust is critical for leaders. The study found trust to be hyper local, meaning people trust those immediately surrounding them; such as friends, family, colleagues and, of course, their bosses. Yet when there’s a gap in trust between people and their closest network, relationships can suffer. It’s up to managers to develop the core indicator of strong, unwavering connections: trust.

But building trust isn’t a two-week project. Findings on the current state of trust are a bit bleak, and it appears there’s a long way to go in the race to a more trusting workplace. For instance:

  • 1 in 5 people are afraid of what their life will look like in 5 years

  • 50% of employees are scared their jobs will be replaced by technology or robots

  • Women trust less than men, showing distrust in 15 out of 17 markets


While the current state of trust in the workforce isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, there are opportunities for managers to improve.

How to Cultivate Trust



  1. Start with the little things- Building trust often begins with leaders keeping their word. It may sound simple, but it’s about doing what you say you’re going to do and honoring promises to employees. For example, if you say you’ll help an employee out with something, grab coffee or schedule a meeting, show up and follow through. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

  2. Develop your people- Investing in training will let employees know you believe in them and are an advocate for their growth. This not only conveys your confidence in the team, but ignites mutual trust and elevates engagement.

  3. Embrace vulnerability-Admitting you don’t know everything or have all the answers creates strong relationships grounded in trust. After all, lack of knowledge does not mean lack of intelligence. Seek out help when necessary and own your mistakes. Employees need to know their boss is human.

  4. Become a community champion- While employees want leaders to care about them, managers can also cultivate trust through demonstrating that they care about the local community. Whether it’s donating to a local charity or spearheading philanthropic events, employees expect leaders to give back. Edelman’s research illustrates that one of the largest areas employees look for when evaluating whether to trust a leader are the changes they make in the community.


In short, trust begets trust. When you show your employees that you trust them, value their development and care about their personal and professional growth, relationships will flourish. Consistent and thoughtful signals of trust lead to greater engagement, commitment and most of all, loyalty.

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