In a new survey conducted by Right Management in conjunction with LinkedIn, 4,000 individuals throughout North America were asked about the trust they have (or don’t have) for their managers.

Some of the findings:

  • 19% of employees “rarely” trust their managers to make the best decisions
  • As many as 57% say they “occasionally” trust their managers.
  • 31% of senior executives (C-level and VP) “always” trust managers’ decisions compared to only 22% of non-management employees.
  • Employees at smaller companies are more likely to trust their managers’ decisions (26% reporting “always”) compared to those at larger firms (only 20% reporting “always”).
  • 27% of workers aged 55+ “rarely” trust managers to make the best decisions, versus 15% of 18-24 year-olds.
  • Only 1 in 5 employees “always” trust their managers to make the best decisions

It wasn’t clear from the study results that I viewed how, or if, these numbers had changed from previous surveys. However, the findings of this survey don’t surprise me. I think there are several factors that can decrease employee trust in a manager (not counting actual incompetence).

Burned by layoffs

So many companies experienced layoffs in the last couple of years, that it’s hard for remaining employees to rebuild trust. Even though their direct manager may not have had any say over a layoff and was forbidden to share knowledge of the layoff beforehand at the risk of jeopardizing his own job, feelings of being misled are common. People are people, after all, and they can’t help their feelings of “If you let this happen, who’s to say some other bad thing isn’t going to hit us down the road?”

Reorgs and change can play havoc

The level of change and restructuring in organizations in recent months also plays into it. People are shaken by seeing what they think to be true about their companies and their jobs radically changed. Even if no layoffs have occurred, huge reorgs indicate that something is not working correctly, and in the minds of employees, that indicates some kind of managerial miscue.

This uneasiness and vulnerability carries over to managers as well. They start to worry about their places in the company and some mistakenly try too much to please their bosses, which adds undue burdens on their teams. (Many times, managers don’t know the day-to-day duties of their team members and, because they don’t understand the bandwidth they have, make bad decisions.) This same insecurity can cause some managers to worry more about their own profiles in the company–at the expense of exercising positive management.

Lack of communication

For some reason, when things get hectic, as they often do in downsized companies, and new initiatives are begun in a panic, communication is the first thing to go. It’s ironic because that’s the time when good communication is needed more than ever. Managers are often preoccupied with high-level, strategy-making meetings and are remiss about trickling the information down to the front lines where it’s needed the most. And if employees don’t always know what’s going on, they think the worst.

Maybe the mistrust is misplaced

The other thing to consider in survey results such as these is that a great many people are going to believe they know better than their managers, even if they don’t. There are always going to be people who feel they could have done things better than their managers. Like arm chair quarterbacks, however, they don’t always have the context of the decision to make that assessment fairly.

Not to beat a dead horse, but let’s see how TechRepublic members feel about their managers by taking this poll.