I wanted to get a promotion and in my company that is a very formal process where they have a committee which interviews you, asks your staff questions, etc.

I got a 0/5 score (basically none of the 5 recommended me) from the committee and in big caps in the feedback form was:


Now I don't think this is all that relevant as why do employees need to trust me? They just need to obey. But that's not my call, so what can I do about this?

I gave my team a stern talking to about what they said about me, but management won't share the interview notes for each of them and nobody would admit to sabotaging my promotion.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Jul 6 '20 at 11:40

Your title question is "How to get people to trust me" but the body of your question makes it clear that you don't even understand why that should be relevant and shows that your style of leadership is based around blind obedience and fear.

It seems your question is too early; you first need to understand why it is important for your reports to trust you instead of being afraid of you and then you can work on getting them to actually trust you.

The feedback from your team shows you that they don't think you're a good enough leader to promote. Your response as giving them a stern talking to for being honest about what you can do shows them they were absolutely right.

As for a follow-up question you should ask yourself: if you reports don't trust you, are you sure they will tell you when there is a problem that you need to act on? Clearly being honest about problems earns them a "stern talking to" instead of a constructive discussion about what needs to be done. There might be a hundred things going wrong under your leadership right this moment and you would have no idea, because your reports fear you and won't confide in you because they don't trust you'll actually help them solve their problems. Which, incidentally, is your entire job. You are there to make sure your reports do their job, which is usually more "help them with their issues so they can be more efficient" than "whip them until they do what they're paid to do".

The only advice I can offer you right now is to forget everything you think you know about leading a team and reading a bunch of people management books. You've got a long journey ahead of you if you want to be a respected manager.

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    Hah, I was in middle of posting similar answer. The only thing worth adding is that OP also has a second option - quit and find a company that shares their current view on leadership. I am sure there are some around. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 5 '20 at 8:09
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    I am confident the entire group conspired against the OP and enjoyed the chance to deny them this promotion (I certainly would have, were I in their position). The OP will never gain the trust or respect of their subordinates, no matter how much they change their methods. The employees will see it as some kind of manipulation. The ground has been spoiled. – morbo Jul 5 '20 at 9:45
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    @morbo how do you figure out that it's a consipiration and not an honest evaluation? – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 5 '20 at 9:54
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    @TymoteuszPaul there are indeed enough of these companies around. Personally I suspect these are also the type of company which inspire questions, such as "Why is the turnover rate of engineers in my company so high?" . I always enjoy reading those. – Koenigsberg Jul 5 '20 at 10:21
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    +1 for "which, incidentally, is your entire job". Way too many managers do not understand this. – bytepusher Jul 5 '20 at 11:19

Employees that don’t trust you will hide things from you

I am not sure the other reasons will resonate with you, but this one should. If your staff trusted you enough to tell you about your behaviour, you might have had that promotion. They were dying to tell someone that you are abrasive and when asked, they probably told management everything. Had they trusted you, you could have heard what they told management.

Managers who have staff who don’t trust them are running around blind. Eventually they fall in a hole.

It won’t be just personal stuff about your personality that they hide. They won’t report a security error, or will avoid alerting you to something suspicious. They will hide their frustration and quit when you might need them most. They will stick only to their work and ignore anything unless it might get them in trouble.

None of these things are desirable most of the time and each one can create a lot of problems.

  • Any recommended books to achieve that? – nopromotion Jul 6 '20 at 1:17

The question includes an example of employee-management mutual trust in action.

The promotion committee needed your subordinates' view of what sort of manager you are. They got it by simply asking. They could trust the subordinates to give their honest opinions. On the other hand, the subordinates, in giving their honest opinions, were trusting management to protect them from any retaliation. The committee fulfilled that trust by keeping individual feedback confidential and only giving you the overall result.

Having trust, not simple obedience, helps in getting honest opinions.


Like the other answer already states, it is mindboggling that you start your quest to get the trust of your subordinates by giving them a stern talking about the things they said about you in an evaluation. It makes me doubt if becoming a manager who inspires trust among your employees is doable for you at all. Your talents might indeed be more appreciated in a military or a prison setting for example.

However if you nevertheless want to give it a go, here are some pointers.

  • Stand up for your team when necessary. When faced with unjust accusations from higher-ups/clients/other departments defend them.

  • Don't shoot the messenger. When a member of your team points out a problem, don't get mad at him/her. The problem might not even be his/her fault.

  • When having to mediate in a conflict within your team, do what is right and fair. Don't automatically side with the most senior/valuable/powerful employee.


How to get employees to trust you? I lost out on a promotion because I am “not trusted by those who report” to me?

I'm going to try and assume that you aren't just trolling...

Employees will only trust you when you stop giving them every reason to mistrust you.

Start by apologizing for your prior behavior. Stop the behaviors that inspire fear. Give up the notion that "They just need to obey." since management has clearly indicated that this is completely incorrect.

The fact that you "gave [your] team a stern talking to about what they said" says that you don't yet understand what you should be doing. Turn that around quickly, or else find yourself a new job that doesn't expect you to inspire trust.

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    ...assume that you aren't just trolling: that's why I didn't bother to write an answer. – fraxinus Jul 5 '20 at 21:49

nobody would admit to sabotaging my promotion

Firstly this is already known, all of them sabotaged you.

How to get employees to trust you?

It's too late for that this time, these peoples minds have been made up and they have committed to shafting you, this won't change any time soon. But generally by being supportive and handling their issues promptly and efficiently. You're a manager, not an overseer. This means you look after the individuals on your teams needs as well as keeping discipline. You cannot just do one or the other.

Having said that. None of this should be your primary focus. You're in imminent danger of being let go completely. You have 100% of your team complaining about your management and a clear indication from superiors that you're not performing well in their perception and they will probably be looking closely at your performance for a while. Focus on retaining your position or job searching, best to do both.

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    Maybe it's a matter of language, but I don't see a sabotage here (as in sabotage as conspirator plan to do OP dirty when undeserved)? Sure, their evaluation did throw OP promotion (and possibly career with this employer) under the bus, but I don't see anything that suggest that the evaluation wasn't a fair one, and few signs to the opposite. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 5 '20 at 9:57
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    @TymoteuszPaul I just used the OP's terminology for simplicity as English isn't their first language. But they proactively bad mouthed him/her knowing the promotion was in the balance, whether deserved or undeserved makes little difference in terms of the OP's problem. – Kilisi Jul 5 '20 at 10:09
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    Got it, thanks! – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 5 '20 at 10:15
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    all of them sabotaged you - I have a severe disagreement with this statement. None of them sabotaged OP. OP self-sabotaged. Sabotage is a direct and willful act with a specific goal of destruction in mind. The direct reports were simply honest in their feedback. The fact that their truth ended up in scuttling OP's promotion could not even be close to categorized as sabotage. The language here needs to be corrected rather than supported. It wasn't sabotage, and allowing it to be continue to be characterized as such is a continuation of OP's ignorance. – Joel Etherton Jul 5 '20 at 16:17
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    @Erik they had a choice to put a non committal 'Nothing special' or 'She's a tyrannical mf who scares the bejeezus out of us' They chose the latter. – Kilisi Jul 6 '20 at 5:21

so what can I do about this?

The fact that you've been rejected a promotion means that your style of controlling the team (which seems like the iron-fist style) is not what the committee expect from a manager. Obviously you have to change your entire style of management.

Look at other managers in your company. See how they treat their teams: how they resolve conflicts, how they react to unpleasant events, how they plan, how they ask, how they listen. Learn from their example - after all, it got them the promotion. Don't be shy to ask about the corporate culture guide, too.



Now I dont think this is all that relevant as why do employees need to trust me? They just need to obey. But thats not my call, so what can I do about this?

Your superiors believe that your staff needs to trust that when they bring a problem to you, that you will fix the problem and not by shooting the messenger (or firing or disciplining). If a schedule is in danger of being missed, they want the employee to bring it to your attention as soon as they become aware of that fact, not tell you on the day it is due. If they had a bad interaction with a customer, they want the employee to tell you so you can go smooth things over, not you loose the customer without an explanation. And if the fault is the customers and they want the employee punished refuse to do so.

As for how to gain their trust, I would suggest honesty: have a meeting with your staff, tell them what happened, tell them that you are going to change, ask for suggestions and then consider their suggestions in light of the fact that management wants you to be trusted. Be trustworthy.

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