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Here’s what happens when employees don’t trust their managers

October 7, 2015, 8:15 PM UTC

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer for: How do you build trust with your employees? is by Dave Gilboa, co-CEO of Warby Parker.

Here’s a good rule to live by: whenever someone says ‘trust me’, turn around and run as fast you can. Trust cannot be commanded, it must be earned over time through consistent behavior and actions. This is true in any relationship — whether between two individuals or an employee and employer. Do you really think there is any chance someone who doesn’t trust their employer will produce their best work? More often than not, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

Clearly articulate and communicate values
One of the most important components of trust is safety — and the feeling that you, as an employee, will be treated fairly without unpredictable behavior from management. If there is inconsistency — a low performer is promoted while a high performer is let go, for example — distrust in your organization will run rampant.

As an employer, it’s your job to provide an environment of stability and a set of clearly-articulated values that employees are expected to abide by. In doing so, you build guardrails that provide safety and structure. This is why it’s crucial to articulate and communicate core values, then hold them sacred by hiring, promoting and firing in accordance to those values. Once you’ve built a sound infrastructure of what’s expected, it becomes a lot easier to recognize, reward or correct behavior.

To earn trust you have to give trust
Trust is a two-way street. We have a weekly all-hands meetings at Warby Parker where we share highly sensitive materials with all our employees: everything from detailed financial data to company-wide priorities to unannounced partnerships. We’re not just cheerleading for the brand, but having honest conversations with employees and relaying our strengths and vulnerabilities. We find that the better context we provide the team, the more motivated they are and the better they can do their job. We explain not only the ‘what’ and ‘how’ but the ‘why’ so they understand why certain decisions are being made. By trusting employees with information that would be harmful if ever leaked to the press or competitors, we are allowing employees to trust us back.

Listen and act
As an employer, it’s imperative to know if your employees are happy and engaged — and the only way to do that is to create an organization that listens and acts upon what employees express. This can be done through a multitude of channels. In addition to a semi-annual feedback process, we have all our employees fill out a semi-annual engagement surveys administered by a third party, and use weekly feedback reports between managers and employees to gather innovation ideas, and understand progress towards overall happiness throughout the organization. This helps establish an honest conversation. We then act on that feedback, celebrate quick wins for easy changes and build cross functional teams to address and implement changes for larger, more complex issues. If you’re not willing to make adjustments, why listen? Trust can only come from action.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you build trust with your employees?

Why you should never cover up your mistakes at work by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

Why employers need to stop policing social media by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite.

You can’t be a great leader without doing this by Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit.

Proof you’re not making business decisions quick enough by Todd McKinnon, CEO and co-founder of Okta.

Managers, here’s why honest feedback matters at work by Rich Cavallaro, president and CEO of Skanska USA.

How a boombox helped this CEO build trust with his employees by Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee.

Want your employees to work harder? Eliminate your offices by Lars Albright, co-founder and CEO of SessionM.

How this CEO regained trust with his employees by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.

This is the best way to build trust with your employees by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

The real reason your employees quit by Robert Hohman, CEO of Glassdoor.