A recent CEO Trust Test conducted by specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters has exposed a significant trend among white-collar professionals in the UK and Ireland: over a third of respondents would reject a job offer if they disliked the company’s CEO.

The study, based on responses from 2,000 professionals, uncovered several noteworthy insights:

  • Job Offer Impact: 35 percent of professionals in the UK and Ireland would reconsider a job offer based on the company’s CEO, even if they liked their potential line manager. An additional 15 percent stated they would outright decline a job offer based on the CEO’s identity.
  • Distrust in Leadership: A striking 38 percent do not trust the leaders of their organisation to ‘do what is right,’ shedding light on the growing scepticism among employees regarding executive decisions.
  • Hidden Agendas and Corporate Politics: Almost half of the respondents identified hidden agendas and playing into corporate politics as the primary factors contributing to distrust in leadership.
  • Workplace Culture Impact: Nearly half (48%) believe that CEOs have the most significant impact on a company’s culture, highlighting the critical role senior leadership plays in shaping the work environment.

Chris Poole, Managing Director of Robert Walters UK, commented on the findings, stating, “Prospective employees are making career decisions based on a CEO’s opinion or lack thereof. The influence of CEOs has become more pronounced, impacting turnover, attraction, and retention rates.”

Factors Contributing to CEO Success

According to the research, 41 percent of professionals believe that CEOs who ‘lead by example’ bring the most value to a company. Another quarter attribute CEO success to being empathetic and a good listener, emphasising the importance of interpersonal skills.

The study referenced the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, revealing a correlation between employee trust and reciprocal trust in CEOs. Chris Poole emphasised the importance of transparent communication, valuing employee opinions, and maintaining a strong, consistent voice to build trust with employees.

The Solution: Two-Way Trust

Highlighting the blueprint for building trust, Chris Poole noted that employees seek transparent leaders who are good communicators, maintain a consistent voice, and actively contribute to creating a positive culture. The study found that factors such as hidden agendas, corporate politics, unclear messages, and inconsistent communication were leading causes of distrust among employees.

As CEOs’ influence continues to grow, professionals are increasingly scrutinising leadership qualities when considering job opportunities, making it imperative for organisations to prioritise transparent and effective leadership to attract and retain top talent.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.