Headlines: January 20th, 2009

Many councils have reduced staffing levels to cope with the economic downturn and others are set to do so. This is likely to further undermine trust in the leadership which a new survey has revealed is already at a low ebb.

The survey by Endaba, a global executive recruitment and development consultancy, revealed a major lack of trust of employees in chief executives and senior managers in local government. The top reasons given by respondents for their views were that top managers don’t care about employees, don’t say what they actually mean and don’t value the contribution made by employees.

More than a quarter of public sector workers don’t believe their chief executives are honest and truthful or that they deliver on their promises. But the trust level does increase with people higher up in the organisation. Only 27 percent of senior managers don’t trust their CEO, compared to 39 percent of other managers and 44 percent of employees working in non-management roles.

This trend towards diminished trust is far less pronounced amongst those working in less senior roles. Almost three-quarters of public sector employees claim they have trust in their line managers and 82 percent say they trust their colleagues.

With downsizing likely to increase as the recession bites deeper, the level of commitment to the ethic of public service across local government is likely to diminish. Job cuts can be viewed as a betrayal of employee trust in the system by breaking the psychological contract. This severs the employee’s sense of duty to the public interest.

Lynette Deutsch ,Endaba, said: “You can generally rebuild trust. There are a few exceptions, but they are rare. It’s all about behaviour. You can’t talk yourself out of a problem you behaved yourself into, so you need to learn strategies that can help you behave your way out of it instead. Ultimately, it comes down to what you do, not what you say.”