The crisis in trust that many organisations are facing in the midst of pay cuts, redundancy and restructuring predates the recession and should not be blamed solely on the economy, a report from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) claims.
The report, "Where has all the trust gone?", concluded that the "crisis" was a result of a breakdown in trust in different relationships throughout organisations, such as between employees and leaders, and between workers and the organisations themselves.
However, it said that the focus of blame for the collapse in trust among employees, managers and customers should not be squared solely at senior leadership and that those at all levels should take a "collective responsibility".
The CIPD's five types of trust relationship:
- Trust in each other
- Trust in leaders
- Trust in the organisation
- Trust in external relations
- Trust in the direct line manager
Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey of Cass Business School, who led the research, commented: "Trust is an important asset for any organisation and its employees. When trust has been broken, senior leaders need to show a great deal of humility by apologising for their mistakes and also demonstrate their ability and commitment to putting things right.
"However, we should all take collective responsibility for building and maintaining trust and employers should encourage their employees to show benevolence towards senior leaders who are trying to do the right thing in the face of adversity."
The research found that trust in direct line managers was particularly important as they were pivotal in how the organisation was seen as a whole. In particular, it noted that if line managers "jumped into the trenches with the troops" and blamed those at the top for pay and job cuts, they could have a serious impact on the trust of senior management.
Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at the CIPD, added that HR can play a vital role in rebuilding trust.
"The need for collective responsibility is clear, but our research also demonstrates the important role HR can play in building and repairing trust," she said.
"HR policies and practices give employees important indicators of the trustworthiness of the organisation and HR must play a role in ensuring that approaches to management and leadership within an organisation do not undermine genuinely good intentions."
Read more of Robinson's thoughts on the role HR can play in repairing trust in her opinion article for Personnel Today.