Trust In The Retail Workplace

Trust In The Retail Workplace

A portion of my job requires me to read…a lot…which I love. I am able to connect one topic to another, have something catch my interest that I was not very knowledgeable of. The other day I wrote an article about Retail Leaders: You Own Your Team’s Results & Satisfaction At Work and referenced the topic of trust.


According to Dr. Duane Tway trust is “the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.”

As found by Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy, people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:

_ Can I trust this person? (warmth)_
_ Can I respect this person? (competence)_

But in fact warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you. “From an evolutionary perspective,” Cuddy says, “it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”

This information has been in my head for a few days so as I have been researching things for work a couple of articles/stories have piqued my interest as they related to this top-of-mind-topic of trust in the workplace.

The first was from Huffington Post titled, Why Bosses Should Snoop On Employees Less. In a nutshell, London-based Daily Telegraph, employees found that the company had installed heat-sensing monitors under their desks.

“Monitoring is a particularly sensitive issue for journalists, who have seen their industry transform over the last decade from one that values going out, knowing people and finding scoops to one that values pushing out as much content as possible. Thus, desk monitoring is an implicit attempt to devalue shoe-leather reporting in favor of mind-numbing aggregation. At the Telegraph, it also appeared to shake employees’ trust in management.”

“Their bosses already have access to plenty of analytic’s data about how many stories they write, how well those stories perform, what sites the people reading their stories come from and even how long readers stay on the page. Every journalist is under a daily microscope already, and data about how one uses his desk is unlikely to be a tipping point performance metric.”

And this morning, I read, from The California Employment Law Report a very interesting article published January 19, 2016 titled, Can/Should Companies Follow Employees On Social Media? in which Gary Vaynerchuk states “intent trumps everything”. In Mr. Vaynerchuk’s case “he embraces using social media to engage with employees”, which is a wonderful use of various Social Media platforms and can be a huge morale booster. But when the intent becomes to catch or monitor employee’s behaviors, that is when it becomes an issue of trust.

For example, as noted in the article, Rulon-Miller v. IBM Corp. an IBM employee was terminated for an alleged conflict of interest due to her dating a manager of an IBM competitor. IBM warned the employee to stop dating the manager of the competition, and when she protested – IBM terminated her employment. The court found that IBM violated the employee’s right to privacy in terminating her employment due to off-work conduct, and the jury awarded her $300,000.”

These stories led me to recollect my own experience with broken trust in the workplace: I worked for a retailer that had cameras in all of their stores, there were three to four cameras in each location and the cameras were directed toward the predictable spots; Backroom safes/office areas, till areas, LP hot-spots, etc.. When I started with this company there was a Loss Prevention person who monitored the stores and followed up with stores/field leadership if/when there was a LP driven exception [deposit issues, theft, etc.]. However, the Loss Prevention person left the company and that is when a huge change occurred. The LP role was never replaced and the executives starting using the cameras as a tool to drive separation of undesirable employees. This resulted in a breach of trust. Trust from the team members who reported to me was important to protect so it was critical for me to communicate the importance of following policy and procedures to them when I knew this was happening, as well as review their job descriptions with them. However, it was then that I lost trust for the executives in my company. And that was impossible to get back.

In 2010, Deloitte LLP conducted an Ethics & Workplace survey which showed the following:

-48% of the group mentioned above cite a loss of trust in their employer as the reason for seeking a new job
-65% of Fortune 1000 executives believe trust will be a factor in voluntary employee turnover in the near future

We cannot afford to deliver a culture that does not support trust


So, how do you establish and maintain trust in the workplace? That should not be terribly difficult. Be transparent, be honest, speak with candor. Show integrity and ethics in every communication and interaction you share with someone or a group of people. It’s really that simple but…should that answer not satisfy, here is a significantly more cerebral answer…

According to an article by Human Resources expert, Susan Heathfield, there are Three Constructs of Trust, “Trust forms the foundation for effective communication, employee retention, and employee motivation and contribution of discretionary energy, the extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work.” That’s a pretty compelling argument for being honest, right? Additionally, in this article Ms. Heathfield cites Dr. Duane C. Tway, Jr.:

“There exists today, no practical construct of Trust that allows us to design and implement organizational interventions to significantly increase trust levels between people. We all think we know what Trust is from our own experience, but we don’t know much about how to improve it. Why? I believe it is because we have been taught to look at Trust as if it were a single entity.” Thinking about trust as made up of the interaction and existence of these three components makes trust easier to understand.

-The capacity for trusting means that your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others.
-The perception of competence is made up of your perception of your ability and the ability of others with whom you work to perform competently at whatever is needed in your current situation.
-The perception of intentions, as defined by Tway, is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission, or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives.

Trust is absolutely necessary for employees to:

-feel they are able to rely upon a person;
-cooperate with and experience teamwork with a group;
-take thoughtful risks;
-experience believable communication

or in other words…you need to have trust to be successful. Building trust into your company values will help drive this behavior.


As retail leaders there are a few things we can do to support trust in our areas of responsibility:

-Model the values that employees can identify with and respect;
-Honor all commitments and be counted on;
-Take a genuine interest in employees’ interests, and motivations;
-Establish shared expectations and determine what success will look like for them.

When you consistently bring support, honesty, perspective, courage, and fearlessness to your workplace, your coworkers and colleagues, you can foster a culture of trust and maintain it through behaviors that are consistently genuine.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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