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Build Trust

Trust falls probably aren't the best way to improve office morale.

©iStockphoto.com/JeanellNorvell

Employers shouldn't read this tip as a cue to schedule in a companywide ropes course that involves people taking "trust falls" into the awaiting arms of co-workers and supervisors. In fact, for some employees, this may be the No. 1 way to dismantle a trusting environment.

Joking aside, trust and accountability are indispensible assets in a business. Employees want to feel respected and valued, but they also want to trust that their jobs will be there when they come to the office in the morning. In a turbulent economy, building and restoring that trust can be challenging. According to organizational behavior research, pay cuts, layoffs and benefits reductions in the face of corporate downsizing erodes trust between the boardroom and the cubicle [source: Catt]. People are putting in more hours in hopes of dodging firings, but fear-driven motivation isn't a healthy signal.

Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, places trust at the foundational level of his emotional model, the hierarchy of human needs. Traveling to the peak of the pyramid, you find the qualities associated with engagement: self-actualization, creativity and problem-solving. Employers must bridge that gap between the bottom and top of the hierarchy by considering employees' perspectives [source: Catt]. Instead of forming assumptions, supervisors should facilitate dialogue to address potential problems and establish themselves as reliable resources.

Companies can throw piles of cash at team-building retreats, seminars, conferences and pizza lunches, but bolstering genuine employee happiness amid the daily grind doesn't have to cost a cent.

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