British employees' representatives have a lower trust in managers than those any other EU country, research shows

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British employees' representatives have the lowest trust in their company's managers among all the countries in the European Union, new research shows.

Only 64 percent of U.K. workers representatives had any in their management, compared to an E.U. average of around 84 percent, and this lack of trust hits their financial performance.

Professor Bernd Brandl, of Durham University Business School, analyzed on 22,000 companies in 28 E.U. states to chart the level of mutual trust between managers and their workforce representatives, such as union officials or other elected officials.

Professor Brandl analyzed data from the European Company Survey, which asked workers' representatives and managers how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement that the other side could be trusted.

He told the European Sociological Association conference in Manchester, England, today [Wednesday 21 August 2019] that while U.K. workers' representatives had the lowest trust in their managers, their managers' trust in employees representatives was higher than average for the E.U., reaching 93 percent.

"While in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden the share of establishments with employee representation is high, in countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and the U.K., the share is relatively low," he said.

"The gap in trust between the employee side and the management side in the U.K. is particularly wide, as trust of the management in the employee representation, 93 percent, is in line with the E.U. average of 91 percent, but trust in the management is exceptionally low, at 64 percent."

The reason for the lack of trust among U.K. workers was due to "idiosyncratic country differences" rather than anything he studied in his research, such as size of businesses or the education level of the workers.

Professor Brandl also found that in companies where both managers and agreed that each other could be trusted, this was linked to a better performance. Where trust was only 'one-way," this did not help.

But in the U.K., only 57 percent of firms had some mutual trust between staff and managers, the third lowest in the E.U., with an average of 77 percent. Only Spain and Portugal rated lower.

"Trust between employees and their representatives and the management is usually beneficial for many reasons," said Professor Brandl.

"If the employee and employer side have trust in each other, the quality and quantity of communication between the two sides is intensified, which in turn fosters problem-solving behavior, their willingness to compromise and therefore enables bargaining outcomes which are in both their long-term mutual interest.

"Mutual trust in particular can be pivotal for the efficacy of the employment relationship and decisive for the success or failure of companies."

Around 8 percent of U.K. firms had strong mutual trust between staff and managers—where managers and staff both 'strongly' agreed that the other side could be trusted—which was around the average for the E.U., but well behind countries such as Estonia, with 28 percent.

In other findings in the survey, Professor Brandl found:

  • The level of mutual trust between the employer and employees varies significantly across countries with relatively higher levels of mutual trust in Scandinavian and some east European countries, and lower levels of trust between the and employers in Mediterranean countries.
  • Management had a higher level of trust in workers' representatives than the level of trust of workers in management in all countries, apart from Lithuania.
  • Larger companies had less trust between staff and managers than smaller ones.
  • The structure of the company, whether it had many layers of hierarchical management, the age of the workforce, the level of staff education, did not affect trust, though having more women staff was linked to a small increase.

Provided by European Sociological Association

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