February 11, 2019

By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner, TwoGreySuits

Many people have good intentions when they make promises to do something or to deliver. Promises are the same as comitments in my view. When a promise is broken, even unintentionally, you have let someone down. Trust that had been built up is partially eroded with broken promises. One of the very powerful things leaders can do is to stay true to their promises. When someone is believable and has a history of delivering on promises they become more trustworthy.

Certainly we call all think of current political leaders who make false claims almost every time they speak. Saying things untrue and breaking promises both erode trust. They cause people to become less believable and over the course of time less credible.

Many companies these days have some values statement that includes honesty or integrity. A consistent breach of these values, especially with Managers should mean that if uncorrected, eventually they will not be a ‘fit’ for the company culture. I see people getting terminated all the time for this – they can do the job but they don’t ‘fit.’

When your ‘word’ is good, people tend to remember, when not, they remember even more. Employers make promises all the time without realizing they may not be keeping them. The best one I can think of to illustrate is the promise of an initial three month salary/performance review which never happens. Look at the amount of trust that is lost at the start of the employment relationship with a new employee when this happens. “My direct Manager has not even bothered to tell me if I have passed my probation and worse, the pay raise I was expecting is delayed at best now and I have to go in and ask my new Manager about all of this creating a very uncomfortable and unnecessary situation for me, not my fault!” Even think about a time when you cancelled an employee 1:1 or when you kept them waiting too long because you were too busy. As a Manager each time even a very small commitment is broken with an employee, some respect is lost. The opposite is also very true, even keeping very small commitments can foster significant feelings of trust, thanks and respect.

I have learned in HR that pay dollars are sacrosanct or almost sacred with employees. NEVER underestimate this. This includes timely pay raises. We must never forget a big part of the reason the employee is there in the first place is related to dollars. So, if we accept this as true, then why do we fool around with people’s pay when they come to work for us. In companies with unstructured compensation plans, employee loyalty and engagement is lost real fast when pay promises are not kept or when people see fellow employees getting raises and they aren’t.

In summary, Managers should be more aware of the power they have to develop strong trust relationships – they should also be equally aware of the things they are doing which erode trust. The old adage is true -  don’t over promise and under deliver, do the opposite under promise and over deliver! Be true to your word and to your people!

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