Why Professionals Are Sharing More and Trusting Less

By: Joe Burton
Employees stacking hands on top of each over over work desk

The rise of the sharing economy has us opening up and trusting folks in ways that would’ve been hard to imagine a few years ago. We trust strangers to drive us around (Uber), deliver our food (Seamless), rent our homes (Airbnb), babysit our kids (care.com), and our pets (dogvacay.com). You can even borrow luxury cars (RelayRide). Kids. Dogs. Cars. Oh, my! The trust and flexibility in these new models requires participants to suspend fear and judgment.

With all the mixed messages, research suggests that the sharing economy is carrying over to employees sharing more with each other about the workplace on external sites (GlassDoor) and internal collaboration tools (Slack, Yammer, and others). But sadly, without the trust factor or willingness to suspend fear and judgment about management.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed a “crisis in trust” with the largest-ever drop reported across all major institutions. Specifically, a minority of people now trust the media (43%), government (41%), CEOs (37%), and political leaders (29%). The study of 33,000 respondents showed the largest gap ever between the 13% of respondents considered “informed” (college educated, top 25% of earners, with significant media consumption) versus the 87% global mass population considered “not informed.” The majority of the mass population now mistrusts all four major institutions in 20 of the 28 largest countries.

When the subject comes to trust, employees would overwhelmingly rather hear from other employees over senior management or CEOs. Respondents ranked fellow employees more credible than senior management to share news on culture and treatment of employees by a factor of 2.5 times higher. The same was true for sharing financial results (1.7 times), handling a crisis (1.6 times), and to a lesser degree innovation (1.3 times), understanding industry drivers times), and programs addressing societal issues (1.2 times). CEOs fared even worse across the board.

This distrust results in four key themes where leaders with the right approach can make all the difference: sense of injustice, lack of hope, lack of confidence, and desire for change.

The report uncovered major trust issues, especially for business. This includes changes in the Mass Population Landscape. Increasingly, employees reject established authority. They view peers as credible as experts (thanks, social media). There are concerns about losing their jobs. They are looking for businesses to do good in addition to making profits. Trust in media is at an all-time low. And the rise in protectionism has made it’s way beyond politics and into the workforce.

Employees clearly want leaders to speak with them, not at them. They prefer spontaneous to rehearsed (57%), blunt to diplomatic (54%), and personal experience over data (51%). The mass population also looks more to social media than to advertising (62%) for influence. The old model isn’t working. The new model is breaking. It’s time for an operating model, with the people, that is mindful of the times.

Conversations about these concerns occur in your company daily, openly or in private collaboration channels. While this movement away from “for the people” to “with the people” may feel scary, the time is perfect for leaders trained in mindfulness and emotional intelligence to place people at the center to change the future. And that means any employee that wants to lead by creating a more open, transparent, and happy performance culture.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

About the Author

Headshot of Joe Burton

Retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace

Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He’s an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He’s worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.

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