Entrepreneur: If You Think Trusting Your Employees More is the Answer, You Might Want to Think Again

19 Feb 2022
Why trust could actually be harming employees' productivity, if you fail to avoid its pitfalls.

Originally found at Entrepreneur by Joel B. Carnevale

The future of work is upon us. Well, kinda. More people than ever, of course, are transitioning to remote work as a consequence of the pandemic. According to a mid-2020 Pew Research Center report, among those individuals who considered their jobs able to be performed away from the office, only 20% reported working remotely most or part of the time prior to the pandemic. That number has now jumped to 71%. And now that the monkey is out of the bag, as it were, there’s little reason to believe it’ll be put back in. 

Leaders are having to quickly adapt to these changes. Such efforts include altering leadership style, providing flexible work arrangements and rethinking how to divide and structure tasks among subordinates. Adapting has also required them to grapple with how much trust to place in team members, considering how much of what employees are now doing on a day-to-day basis is out of sight. This has prompted a nearly universal response: leaders need to place more trust in them. In many ways this makes sense. As people have switched to remote work, they’ve shown they can be at least as productive working remotely as they were in the office. So, yes, trusting employees more is probably a good move. Or is it? The hitch is that, like most things in life — including those we tend to view as inherently good — more is not always better. 

This, of course, is not an indictment against trust itself, or trust placed in employees. As kitschy as it might sound, it really is a foundation upon which all of our institutions are partially built and sustained — the proverbial glue that motivates individuals with potentially disparate interests and values to adhere to economic and social obligations. Likewise, there has been much written and researched about performance-enhancing effects that occur when leaders trust employees. 

But there is also a competing observation, likewise based on research, that more trust is not always the solution and, in some cases, can cause more harm than good. According to a 2014 Academy of Management Journal article, feeling trusted at work can be actually be emotionally draining, as employees worry about upholding a positive image and attend to the additional obligations and demands that often come with increased trust.

Continue reading the original article at Entrepreneur

Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal

Read the related Academy of Management Insights summary

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