Everywhere you look these days, you'll find stories of unethical companies. If you think the atmosphere isn't affecting your employees and their perceptions of management, think again.

In fact, fewer than two in five employees trust senior leaders at U.S. companies, according to a just-released Watson Wyatt survey. Since the last survey, which was done two years ago, there has been a significant drop in confidence in the job being done by senior management and in their ability to conduct business with honesty and integrity.

What does this have to do with the bottom line? According to the survey's author, Ilene Gochman, PhD, employee trust levels and corporate performance are closely linked. In fact, she reports that the rate of three-year total returns to shareholders is almost three times higher at companies with high trust levels than at companies with low trust levels.

That includes companies like our cover story subject, IKEA Seattle. Owners Bjorn Bailey and Anders Berglund realized a long time ago that the best way gain their employees' trust was to make them an integral part of the store's success. So one day a year, if the store hits certain sales goals, the owners give every dollar they make right back to them.

On this year's Bonus Day, the registers topped $900,000 — thanks to some persuasive selling and promotion by the store's 425 employees. Some people — cashiers, stockboys, managers — took home several thousand dollars that night.

But as much as they appreciate the bonuses, most of the IKEA employees we interviewed insist it's not about the money.

“In this day and age, when it seems like there's a lot of detachment in the world and at your company, it's just so refreshing to feel this kind of connectedness,” said business manager Chris Welander. “If I ever run my own business some day, I'm going to remember this.”

How many companies could count on their employees to say that?

CMI welcomes letters

We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Please send comments to bscofidio@primediabusiness.com.