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Employee trust in leadership wanes in Asia says survey

|Nov 13|magazine10 min read

Trust in leadership, one of the key drivers of employee engagement, is on the decline in Asia, revealed a recent survey by The Forum Corporation. One in five employees and two in five leaders believe that trust in leadership is lower today as compared to the past. These findings were the result of a global Leadership Pulse Survey published by Forum, and released today. The full report and infographic illustrating the findings can be viewed here.

“Employee trust in leadership is more important now than ever before as organisations grapple with mounting competitive, internal and external pressures. But we are seeing a decline in this critical element of the employee-manager relationship. This can be extremely detrimental as lack of trust directly reduces employee engagement and impacts morale and workforce productivity”, says Cynthia Stuckey, Managing Director of Forum in Asia-Pacific.

Conducted with close to 1,000 respondents globally, Forum’s Leadership Pulse Survey aims to illustrate the inherent connection between trust in leadership and employee engagement. It also seeks to investigate how leaders handle mistakes and whether employees are more trusting of leaders who admit to their shortcomings.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

While leaders in Asia say they admit to (97.2 percent) and apologise (99 percent) for their mistakes, employees do not agree. In fact, five out of 10 employees (50 percent) say that their leaders rarely or never apologise.

The overwhelming fear of looking incompetent or weak in front of employees is cited as the main reason why leaders in Asia do not shoulder up for their mistakes. The majority (67 percent) of leaders believe saying sorry will make them look incompetent, while another 25 percent believe they would look weak in front of their employees.

“The concept of ‘face’ is highly important in Asia and significantly influences leadership style across organisations in this region,” Cynthia explains. “’Losing face’ by demonstrating weakness and incompetence is considered to diminish the stature of the leaders in the eyes of his or her subordinates.”

By not owning up to their mistakes, leaders risk losing their employees’ trust but the study also finds other “bad boss behaviors” that could contribute to this erosion of confidence. These include lying, taking credit for others’ ideas or blaming employees unfairly, gossiping, poor communication and lack of clarity in giving directions. 

Walking the talk

There is a strong agreement between leaders and employees around the importance of trust in leadership. Leaders also gave building trust a high priority, with over 96.5 percent considering it of “great” or “very great” importance.

In order to inspire trust, employees ranked “walking the talk” at the top (61 percent), followed by spending time and listening (54 percent) as key activities. Employees also highlighted the value of encouraging employees to offer ideas and feedback, following through on commitments, and providing consistent messages to their teams.

“Trust is a critical component of a successful employee engagement strategy that increases productivity and performance,” adds Cynthia. “Building and strengthening trust in leadership is a multifaceted process that requires leaders to truly understand what their employees expect of them – to act with integrity, to provide coaching, to communicate openly and to build a positive climate.”

 

Methodology

Forum conducted their global leadership survey in September. They received 954 responses globally, asking questions around trust, apologising and engagement. Asia results are from respondents across 12 countries including China, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

About The Forum Corp.

Forum is a recognised global leader in linking learning to strategic business objectives. Our learning solutions help organisations effectively execute their business strategies by focusing on their most important asset: their people. We provide clients with practical and research-based advice and comprehensive sales and leadership training programs that mobilise employees, accelerate business-initiative implementation, and improve agility. For more information, visit www.forumasiapacific.com.sg, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect with us on LinkedIn.