Employees: Bosses Today Rarely Apologize, Inspire Less Trust, New Survey Reveals

Findings highlight disconnect between how managers and employees view workplace mistakes and trust

Nov 13, 2013, 00:00 ET from The Forum Corp.

BOSTON, Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Eighty-nine percent of managers say that they either always or often apologize for their mistakes at work. This sentiment is in sharp contrast to the only 19 percent of employees who say their bosses always or often says they're sorry, according to the global Leadership Pulse Survey published by The Forum Corporation. The survey of both managers and employees in North America illustrates the inherent connection between how company leaders handle mistakes at work and employee trust and workplace engagement. An infographic illustrating the findings can be viewed here.

Despite the fact that most bosses say they own up to workplace errors, employees do not agree. In fact, 43 percent of employees say that their managers rarely or never apologize. Managers who choose to ignore their workplace missteps are afraid of tarnishing their image. Seventy-eight percent of managers say they refrain from asking for forgiveness for fear of appearing incompetent, while 22 percent are afraid of looking weak, according to Forum's research.  According to the survey the most egregious examples of bad boss behavior include, in order:

  • Lying,
  • Taking credit for others' ideas or blaming employees unfairly,
  • Gossiping,
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of clarity

Managers not taking responsibility for workplace gaffes has a direct correlation to how much employees trust company leadership. While both managers and employees report that trust in the workplace is crucial, trust has eroded in recent years, according to Forum's research.

  • 96% of employees say it's extremely important for employees to have a manager they can trust
  • 56% percent of managers say it's extremely important for employees to trust their managers

For employees, the workplace has become more treacherous, with 37 percent of employees saying that they trust managers less today, compared to past years. Managers in North America had an even more cynical view than the employees, with 47 percent of managers saying that employees trust their managers less now than in the past. Overall, only 8 percent of employees said they trust their leaders "to a great extent" today.

"When managers aren't transparent in their actions – and that includes accepting responsibility for errors, being truthful with their employees and acknowledging hard work – that tends to breed mistrust among employees," said Andrew Graham, CEO of Forum Corp. in Boston. "The lack of employee engagement is a huge issue among U.S. workers and our research found that employees who register low levels of trust at work, are also the most likely group to report low engagement."

The study found that while trust in the U.S. workplace has suffered in recent years, there are certain actions that both employers and employees agree can bolster trust. According to the survey, the four most effective tactics for inspiring trust are:

  • Listening to employees and understanding their concerns
  • Walking the talk – managers doing as they say
  • Following through on commitments
  • Encouraging employees to offers ideas and suggestions

Forum conducted their global leadership survey in September. They received 954 responses globally, asking questions around trust, apologizing and engagement.  

About The Forum Corp.  
Forum is a recognized global leader in linking learning to strategic business objectives. Our learning solutions help organizations effectively execute their business strategies by focusing on their most important asset: their people. We provide clients with practical and research-based advice and tailored programs that mobilize employees, accelerate business-initiative implementation, and improve agility. For more information, visit www.forum.com, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

Lisa van der Pool
InkHouse for FORUM

SOURCE The Forum Corp.