Trusting your Employees

Should I keep an employee that I don’t trust?

My first response would be, “What don’t you trust?” And is it possible that you as the leader are feeding the distrust.

At Robert J Russell Companies we visit many companies and have learned a tremendous amount about how different organizations operate, what makes them successful and what gets in their way. On occasion we meet companies that are based on a foundation of distrust, which is usually driven by the leader at the top. Employee practices are set up as policing documents instead of guiding principles and micro -management is the rule of the day.


We recently met a company just like this. The Executive Director contacted us to discuss a problem she was having with an employee, when I asked questions to get to the root cause of the problem she had to share some information that was not favorable for the company as a whole. When we advised the Executive Director on recommended next steps, and she reported the information to her board of directors she was yelled at for airing their dirty laundry in public. Where is the root of the distrust is it the Executive Director, or the Board, or both?

A few years ago I came into the office and noticed that my Outlook had been opened and that email had downloaded, I knew the only way that could happen is if someone had opened my email. I contacted our IT support and they immediately took a look at what had caused the breach – however there was nothing out of the ordinary.

About 3 hours later (after a few password changes and some forensic work) a long time trusted employee (let’s call him Harry) emailed me to tell me that he had made a terrible mistake. He told me that he was the one that went on to my computer because he needed to delete an email he sent to me in error. Immediately I felt that this was a one time encounter and that it was merely a mistake that would not happen again. I waited until the next day to make sure I felt the same way, and I did. I trust this person the same today as I did before the breach occurred.

I think the question of trust is not an easy one, it depends on many factors. Is the lack of trust a real issue or a perceived one? Has the employee given you any reason to not trust them, and most importantly – as the leader/the person responsible for the decision to keep or fire them, are you trusting?

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