The Elephant in the Room

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by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans

Do they trust you enough to have a frank, effective stay interview?  Think back to a time when you had a manager you didn’t completely trust. How might a stay interview have gone? Here is what some in this situation have said:

“I consciously kept all conversations with her light, even superficial.”

“I avoided telling the truth about how I really felt or what I really wanted.”

“I never shared my career or life goals with that manager, fearing what he might do with the information.”

“I never felt fully committed to that manager or the organization.”

So, what is the result for managers when trust is lacking? They miss out. They lack pertinent information about their valued employees. And they lose out on clues for motivating, engaging, and retaining their talent. And how are employees affected? The conversation accomplishes nothing. Because they hold back, they miss an opportunity to possibly get more of what they want and need at work.

If you have strong, trusting relationships with your employees, start having ongoing stay interviews now.

If you don’t have strong, trusting relationships with your employees, start having ongoing stay interviews now. Those conversations will actually help to build trust with the people you hope to keep engaged and on your team. Paradoxical, isn’t it?

Trust has everything to do with holding effective stay interviews. In fact, trust (actually lack of trust) is often the “elephant in the room.” No one wants to really talk about it or recognize it, so we talk over it, under it, around it. Ultimately, though, the elephant is in the way, so we have to acknowledge it. And often we need to do something about it!

How Trustworthy Are You?

You think you’re trustworthy. But how might others view you? It depends on them, to some degree. And it depends on your actions.

How often do you behave in the following ways? Score yourself. A score of 1 means you seldom behave this way; 3 means you sometimes do and sometimes don’t behave this way; and 5 means you always behave this way. (Double-check your fives with someone who knows you very well.)

Trust-Building Behaviors Quiz

  1. I tell the truth. I’m authentic.
  2. I commit and then I follow through.
  3. I have their backs. I’m here to catch them if they fall.
  4. I give clear direction and cocreate tangible goals with people.
  5. I keep confidences.
  6. I treat people with respect.
  7. I communicate openly.
  8. I show that I’m interested and I care.
  9. I’m consistent in my actions. People know what to expect from me.
  10. I treat people fairly.
  11. I’m the lead cheerleader for my people.
  12. I walk my talk. I live my values.


How did you score? And more importantly, so what? If you gave yourself less than 65, you have at least a bit of room for improvement. Pay close attention to the trust-building behavior scores you hope to improve. Take action—start practicing those behaviors, and watch the reaction from the people you hope to engage and retain.

For the ultimate trust test, let your people score you!

When you ask your talented employees “What will keep you here?,” you’re asking them to trust you. They’ll do that when they trust you to listen carefully and to hold their answers with care.

The trust you build with your talented people will pave the way for frank, productive conversations. And those conversations will, in turn, build more trust.

*Content adapted from Bev and Sharon’s book, Hello Stay Interviews, Goodbye Talent Loss, Berrett-Koehler, 2015.

Beverly Kaye is the Founder of Career Systems International, a global leader in delivering innovative talent management solutions. Sharon Jordan-Evans ( is a sought-after executive coach and popular keynote speaker for Fortune 500 companies. They are the authors of five editions of Love ’Em or Lose ’Em, as well as Love It, Don’t Leave It. 

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