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How Pervasive is Employee Distrust?

APA survey finds only half of workers believe their employer is open and upfront with them

by American Psychological Association
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Despite the rebound in the U.S. economy and an improving job market, nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey released today.

While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. “This lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance.” 

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“The layoffs, benefit cuts and job insecurity that accompanied the recession put a strain on the employee-employer relationship and people aren’t quick to forget,” added Ballard. Workers reported having more trust in their company when the organization recognizes employees for their contributions, provides opportunities for involvement and communicates effectively.

Although a majority of workers reported being satisfied with their job overall, less than half said that they are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities (49 percent) and employee recognition practices (47 percent) where they work. More than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. workers said they intend to seek new employment in the next year.

The gender pay gap may also be at play, with employed women being less likely than employed men to report that they receive adequate monetary compensation (42 percent of women versus 54 percent of men). The survey was conducted online among 1,562 U.S. workers from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, 2014, on behalf of APA by Harris Poll.

The survey also found that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. Employees who feel valued were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work and feeling happily engrossed in what they do. Additionally, those who felt valued by their employer were more likely to report being satisfied with their job (92 percent of those who felt valued versus 29 percent of those who do not) and to say they are motivated to do their best (91 percent versus 37 percent) and to recommend their employer to others (85 percent versus 15 percent). 

Employees who felt valued were also less likely to say they feel stressed out during the work day (25 percent versus 56 percent of those who do not feel valued) and more likely to report being in good psychological health (89 percent versus 69 percent of those who do not feel valued).

While more than 6 in 10 employed adults (61 percent) say they have the resources to manage the work stress they experience, almost one-third (31 percent) report typically feeling tense or stressed out during the workday. The most commonly cited sources of work stress were low salaries (51 percent say that it is a significant source of stress) and lack of opportunity for growth and advancement (44 percent). Unclear job expectations, job insecurity and long hours were also among the top five most frequently cited sources of work stress.

“The emphasis in recent years on employee wellness is a step in the right direction, but the psychological factors are often overlooked,” says Ballard. “It’s clear that an organizational culture that promotes and supports openness, honesty, transparency and trust is key to a healthy, high-performing workplace.”