Unconventional Insights for Managing Stakeholder Trust

by Michael Pirson & Deepak Malhotra

Overview — Most organizations understand the need to manage stakeholder trust. The bad news: Most organizations don't really understand how to manage the difficult job effectively. However, for those companies wishing to reap the benefits of improved cooperation with suppliers, increased motivation and productivity among employees, enhanced loyalty among customers, and higher levels of support from investors, managing stakeholder trust is a prudent, if not critical investment. Trust management may require an appreciation for some unconventional insights regarding the appropriate investment of resources. Stakeholders differ in regard to the kinds and degrees of vulnerability they face; what they need to believe before they will trust also differs. Would-be trust managers will be wise to consider these varying needs and to anticipate the tradeoffs that exist in strengthening relationships with specific stakeholders. Key concepts include:

  • Trust is multidimensional, and it is not obvious which dimension you need to focus on when dealing with any particular stakeholder group.
  • Stakeholder groups have different needs and vulnerabilities. Efforts aimed at solving one trust problem can exacerbate others.
  • Stakeholders of all types are interested in associating with organizations with whom they can identify, and with whom they perceive a match in values.

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