Trust me I’m a boss?

Is it any surprise that almost a third of us no longer trust our senior managers. How far do you trust your bosses to navigate your company safely through the choppy waters of the recession? Not as far as you can throw them, if the results of a new survey are to be believed.

According to the research, commissioned by the Institute of Leadership and Management and Management Today, almost a third of UK employees now have “low or no trust” in their bosses. In a year when the credibility of senior UK business figures and politicians has taken a pummelling, this probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; if anything, given the dismal showings of some of our financial captains of industry, it seems a rather generous verdict on their abilities.

Disgruntled workers seem pretty sure of where the blame lies for all this mess, too. They generally bypass line managers and point the finger at the people at the top, with chief executives of big corporations rating particularly badly on an index that measures ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency.

Bosses in national/local government and the media – two sectors coming under extreme pressure from the recession – fare the worst in the trust stakes, while those in charity and retail score highest.

Everywhere you look, senior managers are suddenly being asked by workers to justify their actions and (in many cases) vastly inflated salaries. Bosses at Barclays, for example, were stunned by the sudden unionisation and subsequent proposed strike action from employees over plans to scrap their final-salary pension scheme. Then there was the much-publicised occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, where workers refused to accept their management’ reasoning for closing down the factory.

Yet as others have shown, there is still room for management creativity in a recession – earlier in the summer, for example, when BT bosses proposed the company’s staff take a year off in exchange for a 75% pay cut in order to alleviate pressure on the business, the plan was met with warm approval by workers posting on talkboards.

Are you happy with your boss’s performance? Do you trust them to safeguard your jobs, or when it comes to the crunch, are they only interested in saving their own hides?

Guardian September 2nd 2009