Studies suggest employee job satisfaction skyrockets when an employee establishes a trusting relationship at work. It also positively impacts job commitment and performance. Leaders know how to establish trust and they understand the importance of trusting their followers.
Trust is an element that affects many facets of policing. Police personnel must not only ensure they acquire public trust, they must also be concerned with trust within the organization. Trust is highly correlated with workplace morale. It is earned, fragile and extremely valuable. By definition, trust is a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something”. In an organization, it subsists within a dynamic and complex cluster of interrelated social and institutional factors. It is also instrumental in creating and maintaining a positive work environment.
Systemic paucity of trust is currently at the root of numerous internal and external conflicts in policing, resulting in silos and an “us versus them” culture. It becomes a breeding ground for workplaces where people become disloyal, unreliable, inadequate, uncommunicative and inconsistent in their moods. Furthermore, it can create a highly stressful and undesirable environment for everyone. Despite its manifestation at varying degrees throughout policing, some continue to ignore the problem, rationalize it or show indifference to it, which further contaminates and destroys morale.
Morale is impacted by a number of factors and plays an important role with respect to productivity, motivation and employee retention. Good morale and working relationships based on trust benefit the organization as a whole. According to Dr. Casey Mulqueen, director of research at the Tracom Group in Colorado, “work serves a social purpose for most people; we enjoy socializing and simply spending time with people whom we like and trust. In addition to making time at work more enjoyable, it also impacts people’s commitment to their jobs and colleagues, which positively impacts effort and performance”. Interestingly, satisfied employees mostly considered their connection to the organization and its purpose as more important than salary.
Some degree of luck may be at play when coworkers collectively feel they work with great people, but leadership, management, and each individual is ultimately responsible for contributing to a positive workplace. Work environments thrive when everyone understands and supports the fundamental aspects of good morale and builds it into the culture. Even doing little things for fellow coworkers can go a long way. Managers also need to keep a good pulse on workplace dynamics. They must be aware of possible warning signs, such as cruisers being left near empty or calls for service being held for the next shift without rightful justification or explanation. Such behaviour may be representative of underlying issue—poor morale is often rooted in trust issues.
Good morale can slowly erode over time and, once damaged, its reversal is challenging and difficult to navigate. Enhancing trust means taking a proactive approach and being transparent.
Regaining confidence first requires the acknowledgement of distrust. Progress can then take place through open communication and a commitment to transparency. The greatest trust issues or needs must be turned into transparency targets and objectives. It is important to keep in mind it can take a great deal of time to build trust, but it can be broken much more easily and suddenly.
In the realm of law enforcement, nurturing confidence in coworkers is key to high morale and productivity. Knowing that, ultimately, your teammates at all levels of the organization “have your back” is critical and desirable. A recent study of 33,000 people in 28 countries and various workplaces found that a large number of employees do not trust their employer. They also discovered that trust decreases from top positions down the organizational chart; 64 per cent of executives trust their organizations, while only 51 per cent of managers and 48 per cent of other staff stated they trust their organizations. Employees also indicated they trust their peers more than upper level management. This finding has significant implications for those climbing the corporate ladder.
Trust is the key to reaching the feeling of safety. Accordingly, managers are powerful contributors to overall workplace conditions. Everyone has an influential role to play in creating a trusting, healthy and safe work environment.
Isabelle Sauvé is a 14-year veteran with the OPP, and currently the new Psychological Services Advisor in the OPP’s Healthy Workplace Bureau. She has a MA in psychology and is a PhD candidate. She is also an ultramarathon/endurance athlete and the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series winner as well as a Guinness World record holder. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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