March 2010 —

Important findings from the World Leadership Study by the Center for Creative Leadership underline the importance of trust in the workplace, especially for women.

Greensboro, NC – The majority of today’s U.S. workforce is comprised of women. And since research has consistently demonstrated that having women in top management positions correlates with financial success for organizations, retaining them is critical. Paying attention to what is important to women in the workplace can increase retention and in turn positively affect the overall health and viability of an organization.

A new report from the Center for Creative Leadership’s World Leadership Study conducted over the course of the recession shows that women have become less trusting of their bosses and co-workers than men, despite the fact that they remain more trusting of people in general.

The effects of the recession on trust seemed to be particularly profound for women. In the second quarter of 2008 (early in the recession), women’s trust in their bosses dipped to its lowest point in the two-year study, dropping from 61 percent who indicated they “trusted their bosses a lot” in the first quarter of 2008 to 42 percent in the second quarter of 2008. While women’s trust level dipped nearly 19 points, men’s trust level dipped only 6 points (from 58 percent to 52 percent) during that same time.

According to Jennifer Deal, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) and co-author of the report, the stark contrast between the trust level of men and women in the study indicates that women are more responsive to social cues, including threat signals than men.

“Interestingly, the sharp dip in the trust level of women in relationship to their bosses occurred at the start of the recession, even though experts at that time were denying we were in a recession. It is possible that what women were seeing and experiencing was inconsistent with communication about the economic position of the organization, causing women to question the authenticity – or knowledge – of management, and consequently whether they should trust management,” stated Deal.

Trust is imperative in organizations today and paying attention to this potential barometer in women may help build and maintain trust among workers especially in today’s economy.

Among other study findings:

  • The more employees trust their boss, the greater their intention to remain with the organization for six months, one year and five years.
  • For women who have the highest level of trust in their bosses, their intentions to stay one year actually increased over the course of the recession.
  • Women may be less trusting of bosses than men because the recession may be causing them to feel they need to work longer hours to hold onto their jobs, creating a feeling of vulnerability for those wanting a balance between work and personal life.
  • Managers who care about their employees, are skilled and knowledgeable, and consistently do what they say they are going to build trust with employees, which is crucial for retention.

Data for this study was collected from January, 2008 through December, 2009 with a sample consisting of 2,215 U.S. employees. Sarah Stawiski, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at CCL, and Marian Ruderman, Ph.D., a senior research fellow and director of Americas and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at CCL, co-authored the report. View the report on Building Trust in the Workplace: A Key to Retaining Women.

About the Center for Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development. By leveraging the power of leadership to drive results that matter most to clients, CCL transforms individual leaders, teams, organizations, and society. Our array of cutting-edge solutions is steeped in extensive research and experience gained from working with hundreds of thousands of leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education, CCL has locations in countries worldwide.

Stephen Martin
Center for Creative Leadership
+1 336 286 4038

Start typing and press Enter to search