Career Watch: Have your employees checked out?

How did the recession affect the U.S. workplace? The Great Recession rocked workplaces everywhere, and the very underpinnings of trust were upended.

According to a recent workplace survey by consulting firm Deloitte LLP, one-third of working Americans say they plan to look for a new job when the economy gets better, and, of this group, 48% cite a loss of trust in their employer as the reason. The hidden “aha”? Even now, when many employees are choosing to stay put, they have “quit.” In the absence of trust, they have checked out.

Also, major betrayals in the workplace — from companies mismanaging layoffs to CEOs committing crimes — can, and do, make headlines. They are not the only source of trouble, though. Minor betrayals, such as gossiping, finger-pointing or taking credit for others’ work, are more pervasive and erode trust over time. The accumulation of little betrayals becomes a big problem. In fact, according to our research, 90% of employees report that they feel the effects of eroded trust daily.

Why should employers be concerned about the level of trust among employees? When trust in a workplace remains broken, no one wins. Not individuals. Not teams. Not organizations. What’s more, the consequences come with a high price. On the “hard” side of businesses, we see major hits to productivity, performance and even profits. On the softer side, we see people lose confidence, commitment and energy. They disengage in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons — most often, a certain level of anger or fear. In interviews with individuals and teams, we hear comments like “I’m just going through the motions” or “We’ve lost all passion and creativity.”

Once trust has been breached, how can it be restored? Trust is fragile. In the workplace, as in life, it will be built and it will be broken — a natural part of human interaction. The key, then, to sustaining trust is to know how to rebuild it again and again.

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