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Trust: The Secret Sauce To Happy Employees
Sophia Lee
April 13, 2017

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, values speed above all else.

According to his former Chief of Staff, Ben Casnocha, this desire for efficiency made him a trusting boss. For instance, Reid allowed Ben to make executive decisions without consulting him - as long as he stayed within an error rate of 10-20%. Ben found this concept liberating since he felt empowered to work quickly without stressing over the occasional “foot fault.”

His employee experience captures the essence of trust in the workplace and its positive effects. The best part is: you don’t have to be the CEO of a billion dollar company to apply the lessons learned from this anecdote. As a manager, there are several settings in which you can build trust.

Manager → Employee Relationship

As we’ve established, when a manager trusts his or her employee, that person feels empowered to do the best work possible. However, trust doesn’t mean simply handing off a difficult project and expecting stellar work. The key is to trust employees with challenging opportunities while also setting them up for success the way Reid did.

Let’s consider a different scenario: what if Reid yelled at Ben the first time he made a bad decision? That likely would have stressed Ben out and hindered his ability to make confident decisions in the future. Instead, follow Reid’s example by setting realistic employee expectations, offering mentorship and giving your employees the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and communicate that mistakes are part of the learning process. This will pay enormous dividends: SHRM found that 70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arose as an important element for building their levels of employee engagement.

Employee → Manager Relationship

On the flip side, it’s just as important for employees to trust their managers. A survey by Ultimate Software revealed that a staggering 93% of employees said trust in their direct manager is an important factor to remain satisfied at work.

You may think the best way to earn an employee’s trust is by buttering them up with praise and encouragement. While positivity is an important aspect of management, it certainly isn’t the whole picture. Even more telling is the way you deliver feedback. You should be candid, but caring. It’s a tough balance to achieve, and it may not always go over well the first time, but your team will eventually realize that you’re someone they can rely on and who will give them honest, constructive feedback.

Employee → Employee Relationship

Nothing’s more toxic than an intensely competitive work environment. When employees are pitted against each other, they don’t have the support system needed to get work done effectively. This has extremely detrimental effects. Vitalsmarts found that employees are 32% less likely to be engaged when they believe that only obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers are valued.

It’s your job as a manager or HR leader to create an environment where your team feels they can openly offer feedback and discuss problems with each other. You can do this by leading as an example, encouraging team bonding activities and checking in with each employee to make sure they feel supported, and that their personal development goals are clearly outlined.

Even though you may have all the ingredients to build a happy workplace, that recipe is incomplete with the secret sauce of trust. Use Ben Casnocha’s experience with his boss as a learning for how to build trust throughout your organization. You’re guaranteed to develop employees who are more engaged, motivated and fulfilled.

Speaking of happy employees: if you want to build appreciation and levels of motivation, consider giving the gift of Blueboard employee rewards. Employees choose from our catalog of hand-curated experiences, including everything from kitesurfing to zero gravity float therapy to craft beer tasting. Check out our most popular experiential employee rewards here.

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