Long-time employees lose trust when employers keep policy enforcement under wraps
- A new university study found that keeping policy enforcement proceedings a secret causes distrust among long-term employees. The University of California, Irvine study found that employees' trust diminishes over time when employers' proceedings involving policy breaches are kept under cover. The paper is published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.
- According to the study, policy enforcement proceedings differ from legal trials because they're closed and don't involve due process. Also, when employees assume their organization wants to keep proceedings secret, mistrust spreads, keeping employees from sharing information that could pose risks to the workplace. Organizations argue that privacy is the reason for secrecy, according to the study.
- “Being open about enforcement proceedings helps protect against someone making false charges and allows all employees to know that violations have consequences,” said Jone Pearce, Dean’s Professor of organization and management at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business. “Openness keeps those rendering judgment honest, while secrecy undermines accountability.”
The lack of vertical communication is one of the most common complaints among employees, a problem that cuts across all industries. Organizations have a responsibility to protect their proprietary information, or trade secrets. They also have a responsibility to protect employees' confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, tax forms, financial information and health data. But keeping workers uninformed about information affecting their well-being and that keeps them engaged and productive isn't in any employers best interest.
The Generation Now report by Kollective found that 79% of U.S. workers received their news from the office grapevine, instead of the CEO or other senior officers. Without frequent, truthful information-sharing, employees rely on each other as news sources, and gossip will fill in the void.
HR knows to protect employees' privacy in internal investigations. In fact, resolving workplace problems often depends on keeping employees' testimonies and eye-witness reports confidential. Employers can help build and maintain trust among workers by stressing the value of confidentiality when it applies, while keeping general information flowing.