How employers can increase employee trust

One in four employees don't trust their employer, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. The survey also says that around half of employees think their company is being open and honest with them. These things combined, make me wonder who it is that trusts the same company that they believe is not being open and honest with them?

There's always been a good amount of distrust between management and personnel. And a lot of that distrust is earned. For instance, I received an email today from an employee who had asked for time off 2 months prior, but his supervisor had failed to submit it to the higher ups for approval. Then, in order to cover his behind, the supervisor demanded that the employee sign something stating that he had not asked for the time off in advance. I wish this type of behavior was rare.

But, in all fairness to employers, employees frequently act in a non-trustworthy way themselves. They call in sick when they aren't, spend hours goofing off on the internet, and occasionally steal things from the office.

It's quite the battle, with no side being the innocent victim. But, one side does have a considerably higher level of power than the other does -- and that's the employer. Employees should have a higher level of trust in their employers because employers should be trustworthy.

It's logical that a business can't tell every employee everything that is going on -- after all, until a decision has been made, it's all just rumor and conjecture and can cause more problems than remaining quiet. But here are 6 areas that businesses should always be honest and upfront about with their employees. (That is, not only not lying, but telling them in advance.) This list, of course, is not exhaustive, but it's a good start.

1. Job descriptions should be realistic. Don't hire someone by saying their job duties will be X, Y, and Z, but when they start working, throw in the other letters of the alphabet as well. Yes, it's legal as job descriptions aren't usually legally binding, but when a huge portion of the workload is caught up under "other duties as assigned," employees stop trusting their employers.

2. Pay should be fair. Federal law prohibits employers from requiring their employees to keep their mouths shut about pay, but nevertheless employers make these rules all the time. The idea is that they don't want to deal with a rush of whining people who don't understand how pay works. Fine, I get that, as I have personally talked down many of these people who demand to know why the person who works 80 hours a week and has a law degree makes more money than the person with a high school diploma that puts in 35 hours a week does. But, companies should strive to have their pay scales and salaries be fair. If you can't explain to an employee why he earns $X while his co-worker pulls in $X+$5,000, then you're not being trustworthy.

3. Laws regarding leave should be followed. Nothing annoys supervisors more than employees who aren't at work. And, feel free to fire people who simply don't show up for their shift. But, do not punish people for taking advantage of laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act, which guarantees time off for illness (the employees' or a family member's) and childbirth/adoption. Making people feel less valued because they had the misfortune to get cancer makes the remaining staff distrust you as well.

4. Schedules should be set in advance and not messed with. If you've told someone he can have Tuesday off from work, don't change your mind last minute. In the case of a true emergency (for instance, a coworker is in the hospital), most employees are quite understanding. But your employees need to know that if they ask for time off and are granted time off, that they can buy plane tickets without repercussions.

5. Paychecks should be full and on time. If your employees are non-exempt, they should receive overtime starting at 40 hours and 7 minutes of work. (Or in some states, when they work more than 8 hours in one day.) Employees shouldn't be made "exempt" and not given overtime for the convenience of the employer. The job description determines exempt/non-exempt status. And for employees that are exempt, companies should not dock their paychecks for doctor's appointments, coming in late, or any number of other illegal deductions. Full paychecks, on pay day. Always.

6. Performance should be rewarded. Employees need to know that if they work hard, their employer will recognize the success. If promotion and pay decisions are made on another basis, it leaves employees feeling their hard work isn't valued, and that the company can't be trusted.

If companies were trustworthy in these six things, I'm sure the level of employee trust and satisfaction would skyrocket. Additionally, employees would magically become more trustworthy if they knew they could count on their bosses to behave correctly.