Human Resources: The State of Trust in the Workplace

The Role of Trust in Workplace Relationships

This month, Valentine’s Day has got the analysts at the Kenexa High Performance Institute thinking about relationships and trust. We’re not just data nerds, we’re romantics at heart!  Everybody knows that the most important thing in romantic relationships is trust.  The same can be said for professional relationships as well—especially in the office.  In this article, we will share some of our findings on the state of trust in the workplace and how it impacts morale.


KHPI can offer two pieces of advice that will help you build trust with your employees and colleagues.

  1. Be a good listener.
    85% of workers trust their direct managers when they’re a good listener. By contrast, just 13% of workers trust managers that are bad listeners.
  2. Keep your promises.
    85% of workers trust their direct managers when they keep their commitments. This compares to just 8% for those who break commitments.


  • Just 48% of workers worldwide trust their leaders and 28% actively distrust them
  • Trust is largely made up of competence, integrity and benevolence. When it comes to trust in leadership, integrity is the most important (contributes 41%)
  • Half of all employees who distrust their senior leaders are seriously considering leaving their organization
  • Trust in leaders seems to decline with age. The odds that employees in their twenties trust leadership are double the odds that employees in their forties or fifties do so.

All data points are from WorkTrends Report: Trust Matters

  • HBR blog on building trust in virtual world
  • How trust affects knowledge sharing (an IBM research study and paper)
  • Eye color and trust–quirky new research that could lead to us all wearing colored contact lenses!
  • And for those more academically minded – a meta analysis of trust in leadership research (published in the Journal of Applied Psychology)

More employees are satisfied with their company, job, and life overall when they trust their senior leaders and direct manager. The fact is that trust matters in all kinds of relationships (it’s also an IBM value).