It's important for employers to trust the people working for them, but it's equally imperative that employees trust the people they're working for. Studies have shown that employees at high-trust work places have more energy, are more productive, enjoy more life satisfaction, miss less time and are more likely to keep working for that employer.
So trust is important. But how do you build it?
Paul J. Zak wanted to find out, so he created an experiment in which participants were asked to electronically send money to strangers, where one group could choose how much to send to the second group, and the second group could choose to keep all the cash for themselves or send some back to the sender. Researchers monitored the level of oxytocin -- a brain chemical associated with bonding -- in both the senders and the receivers and found that the more money the subjects received, the more oxytocin their brains released, and the more likely they were to send money back the other way. In other words: the more trust the first group showed, the more likely the second group was to reciprocate that trust.
In the real world, Zak and his associates spent years and traveled the world testing and measuring how trust is built among groups, even going as far as measuring native tribes in Papau New Guinea. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Zak found eight ways to build organizational trust:
1. When employees perform well, recognize them. There are caveats to this, though. Recognition is most effective when occurs "immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it's tangible, unexpected, personal and public." Zak writes that public recognition of success "inspires others to aim for excellence."
2. Assign tasks that are challenging but come with finite goals and end points. When a manager assigns a team a difficult but achievable job, the moderate stress of the task releases neurochemicals, including oxytocin and adrenocorticotropin, that intensify people’s focus and strengthen social connections," writes Zak. However, goals that are vague or impossible to reach leave employees feeling helpless.
3. Emphasize autonomy. How's this for the importance of autonomy? A 2014 study found employees would trade a 20 percent raise in exchange for greater control over how they do their jobs.
4. Enable "job crafting." I'll be honest: I don't see this one translating to the football sector, but Zak writes of a company that doesn't assign job titles and allows employees to choose which projects they work on.
5. Be transparent with goals and strategies. Zak writes that uncertainty about a company's direction "leads to chronic stress, which inhibits the release of oxytocin and undermines teamwork. Openness is the antidote."
6-7. Organizations that invest in their employees' intra-office relationships and personal well-being are better for it. Taking time to encourage relationship building, rather than focusing solely on the bottom line, will create a culture of trust among co-workers, and employers that invest in their employees' personal growth -- rather than just their professional growth -- will reap the benefits down the line. "Investing in the whole person has a powerful effect on engagement and retention," Zak writes.
8. If you want to foster trust, show it. Says the CEO of a software company:
"I found that being very open about the things I did not know actually had the opposite effect than I would have thought. It helped me build credibility." Asking for help from an employee by definition shows that employees expertise is valued. Further, employees will be much more open to talk about their blindspots and shortcomings if leaders are forthcoming about their own.
In short, Zak implies that managers should treat those they manage like adults. No, wait. He literally writes that: "It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults."