Why Is Trust So Hard to Achieve in Management?

Summing Up There are many reasons for the trust gap between employees and management—but also many ways to bridge the divide, according to Jim Heskett's readers. What do YOU think?
by James Heskett

Summing Up

Do Managers Take Trust for Granted?

Trust is a big issue these days judging from the volume of responses to this month's column. Its importance in management is agreed on. There is a long list of behaviors that can damage it. The list of things that can be done to restore it is equally long. Yet many managers are experiencing a trust deficit. What's up?

Reasons for the trust deficit, in the view of respondents, included the following: (1) "(management) actions … inconsistent with the mission and vision of the company" (Linda Murphy); (2) an emphasis on "productivity, effectiveness and of achievement at all costs" (Liam); (3) "excessive turnover and continuous change" (Marlis Krichewsky); (4) leaders who "use ambiguity and weasel words in their promises" (Jim Conlow); (5) managers who make "unwritten promises" that are not fulfilled (Kamal Hossain); (6) behaviors of managers who "compete with each other to climb to the next higher level" and make unfulfilled promises to do so (Subrata Chakraborty); (7) a "modern fashion of us all being 'economical with the truth' in our communications with other people" (Hugh Quick); and (8) management that does "not observe sanctions when trust is violated" (Tony Smale).

Charles Green added that "We don't have it because we haven't taught it, learned it, practiced it." In fairness, Rolf Van Dulst points out that the cause for broken promises that lead to damaged trust may well be "plans and intentions … (that are) overtaken by circumstances beyond … control."

There were even more suggestions about what to do about the trust deficit, other than just making sure that all expectations and promises are fulfilled on a regular basis. For starters, Karen Caswelch suggested that we take steps to ensure that in our hiring, we consistently select people who share and value behaviors that produce trust as a shield against management turnover that leads to broken commitments.

Mike Flanagan stressed the importance of ensuring that "transparency, honesty, communication, consistency and predictability are present" in everything we do as managers. Jill Machol noted the importance of keeping employees "informed as information (regarding change) becomes available." Ann Brown commented that "The best an organization's management team can do is be transparent (and) … persistently continue open conversation and not expect to be perfect." Karl Hunrick suggested that we need to employ more managers willing to take risk, because "Without risk there can be no trust." Bruno Borghi pointed out that "Trust requires reciprocity." Mike Beer suggested that managers succeed by "inviting honest, collective and public conversations," in the process "making themselves vulnerable." Bob Lee added that "Trust is a factor of relationships, not the least of which, with one's self."

Questions that we might ask ourselves include several posed by Maree Stewart: Are women more or less trusting than men? Are young people more or less trusting than older? What part do unions play? My concern, of course, is whether there is anything here that can be or remains to be taught? As Dan Wallace, a graduate of Harvard Business School, points out "… none of this was addressed when I was a student there … trust would be more prevalent if our best schools of leadership taught it."

Finally, Richant raised a point in advancing a hypothesis for the trust deficit to which I had given little thought. He said: "the problem starts with … management having a belief that they (already) are trusted." Carrying that thought to its ultimate conclusion, therefore there is no need to pursue the question. Do managers take trust for granted? What do you think?

Original Article

Revered management thought-leaders such as Chris Argyris and the late W. Edwards Deming argued years ago that trust is an essential condition for good performance. Trust is an issue on the minds of many people these days. A good portion of the daily news centers around the lack of trust with which leaders are viewed by their followers. It's important to understand why this is the case, given the economic benefits that trust may impart to an organization. These include` higher morale, increased loyalty to the organization, more delegation of authority, and greater assurance in transacting business faster and cheaper. I say may, because there is surprisingly little hard evidence to support these assumptions.

Trust may facilitate the implementation of strategy. Doesn't it stand to reason that if levels of trust between employees and their managers, or the organization in general, are low, it will be more difficult to implement anything-policies, practices, and eventually strategies of which they are a part? This appeared to be confirmed by data that I collected for my most recent book. For example, only 30 percent to 69 percent of employees agreed with the statement, "In my office, management is trusted," in the organizations I studied. That strikes me as a pretty wide and low range of levels of agreement. The numbers coincided with the financial performance of each organization, by the way. But my data base was not sufficiently large to be definitive.

The issue seems to be important enough to warrant effort on the part of managers. But what kind of effort? On what should they concentrate? Several things come to mind.

It would seem that trust is engendered by the process of setting and meeting expectations. That is, don't set an expectation that can't be met. Knowledge sharing would seem to foster trust as well. Other research suggests that trust may be associated with managers who hire, recognize, and fire the right people. At an organizational level, an aversion to letting people go in bad times may be associated with higher levels of trust. In sum, perhaps we're talking about a "no surprises" approach to management. But again, this is all very conditional because there is not much good data on which to base a conclusion.

If these hypotheses regarding trust in organizations are anywhere near the mark, it suggests that building trust is not rocket science. It should be pretty simple, in fact. Don't create expectations that can't be met; share knowledge; hire, recognize, and fire the right people; be consistent and predictable; and avoid large-scale layoffs as much as possible.

If that's the case, why do I find such a wide range of trust when I go into the field? Am I looking at the wrong organizations? Is this something you've experienced or observed as well? Why is trust so hard to achieve in management? What do you think?

To Read More:

Chris Argyris, Integrating the Individual and the Organization (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1964)

Ron McCoy, Ed., The Best of Deming (SPC Press, 1994).

Helen Rosethorn, The Employer Brand: Keeping Faith with the Deal (Farnham, UK: Gower, 2009)

Leonard A. Schlesinger and Jeffrey Zornitsky, "Job Satisfaction, Service Capability, and Customer Satisfaction," Human Resource Planning, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 141-149.

    • Anonymous
    As Native Americans, particularly Manitonquat, say, it starts with respect. From respect grows rapport, then communication, then trust, then cooperation. Cooperation is how humans survive. Management has no respect for employees, as a rule, in fact they exhibit flagrant disrespect, and contempt, very often. Employees know they might as well be targets on the firing range. Steven Covey has a book on trust, so it's an issue. Smart employees keep their heads down, do only what they are told, and take as few risks as possible. And they trust no-one at work, especially not management. A better question for you to ask is how Dilbert-compliant the workplace is. People on my bus have never said their workplace was under 90% DC.
    • Martin Kupp
    • Professor, ESCP Europe, Paris
    Thank you James for this interesting and important topic. My comment might be very culturally biased but where I grew up and got educated the saying was: You have to earn my trust. Working in education I have come to realize that this the fundamental wrong approach. Actually it is quite the opposite: Give trust first and then see whether people will live up to it! For me this is ground rule in education but I also see this behavior with a lot of successful executives that I am working with. Looking forward to an interesting dialog, Martin
    • Anonymous
    I am not sure trust is difficult to achieve as an individual manager, however, "management" is a group of individuals who all act and react in different ways. And perhaps this is the issue that you are struggling with. Management is not a single entity or organism but rather it is made up of different personalities who often have different agendas and approaches. If one of them acts in a manner that is inconsistent with the message that they try to project as a group, then trust is quickly lost. For example, Company values and behaviours are fine in print with slogans like "we live by our values" etc but if they are not lived by the management as a whole, then they are just words. How many times have you seen a manager act in a way that is not consistent with this?
    • TGale
    This is why the study of human behaviour is so interesting. Mankind has always relied upon communication, trust and respect as critical to survival. The principle is so simple yet the application so difficult. Everybody from all levels of any relationship, personal or professional nod and smile in agreement to the topic of management/labour trust then go back to work and poison their lives in myriad ways. Maybe we should be having this frank a discussion on the barriers rather than the goal.
    • Jimmy Fasusi
    • President, Kensington Office Machines
    Trust may facilitate the implementation of strategy but also trust does not replace other styles of leaderships. Trust works alongside existing leadership styles to intensify credibility, leverage and impact. The effort should be to minimize job lost to mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing. Management should guard against firing the right workers because this will take toll on workers loyalty and trust which may eventually result in fear, anxiety, bad judgement and insecurity. If the management concentrate on having a dependable feedback, high performance team, and a motivated workforce where every worker is respected and uniquely valued then the facilitation and implementation of strategies are easily achievable.
    • Liam
    • Sr. Manger, Community Natural Foods
    The management style of post world war two is one of productivity, effectiveness and of achievement at all costs. This desire by business owners and managers lead to employees being viewed as numbers and not people and this, I believe, caused workers to be viewed as highly expendable;hard to feel trusting when you might feel as though you could be out of a job in a blink.

    Fast forward through the decades since the war, the business world has created generations of a management style that is broken (I have heard it referred to as Management 1.0) and has created a type of social conditioning when it comes to the relationships between managers and employees. In the end a manager, even before the relationship begins, is damned because of this preexisting condition. Management 2.0 needs to be one where it fosters strong relationships through mutually beneficial collaborations (everyone's skin is is the game), one where clear expectations are established and, more importantly, authorities are given and understood.
    • Anonymous
    Trust can be nurtured over many years, and lost in one bumbling management event. For instance, a Board of Directors conducts an updated salary study but directs that the President keep the results confidential from the management team, including the manager who is responsible for issuing payroll checks. Such information has purposefully been shared before in a small business practicing participative management style, where average tenure is 23 years among all staff. Add to that a core value that says "guided by openness and honesty in all we do." The Board members, mostly middle managers at large corporations, think they are deciding appropriately, as apparently much more information is confidential in their organizations, thus their experience. However, as you point out, and as the experience has been in this small business, "Knowledge sharing would seem to foster trust as well."
    • Karen Caswelch
    • CEO, Akoya, Inc.
    I think institutional trust is just something very hard to create and keep. It is much easier to have a boss that you trust, but what happens when s/he moves on? Unless the institution values trust and integrity and makes that the critical value when hiring, I think the standard is extremely variable. When I hire, Character and Values is number 1, before capability, but it's hard to evaluate. Many institutions evaluate capability as their priority when hiring which drives inconsistency in their leadership team when it comes to trust and integrity.

    Jim, if you're looking for organizations to analyze, I would look to find ones that embue values in their hiring process as a start.
    • Anonymous
    Many managers rise to their positions by "back-stabbing", taking credit for others ideas and work or just by being connected to the right people at the right time. Assuming employees and other managers recognize this, why would trust be expected?
    In the broader view, citizens do not trust their governments, husbands/wives do not trust their wives/husbands, parents do not trust their children and no one thinking clearly would trust an investment banker. Should someone who happens to have an MBA or law degree be considered more trustworthy? Really?
    • Rishant
    • student, IIT Kanpur
    I think the problem starts with the management having a belief that they are trusted. Trust is a dynamic concept and it has to be nurtured and taken to higher level.

    Many management people think that it is the duty and a precondition for the people in the organisation to trust them.

    The managers need to realise that the startegy to " increase the trust " is the only strategy. The bias is because they feel that there people already trust them. They never feel the need to increase trust which ultimately leads to increasing mistrust.
    • Rishant
    • student, IIT Kanpur
    I think the problem starts with the management having a belief that they are trusted. Trust is a dynamic concept and it has to be nurtured and taken to higher level.

    Many management people think that it is the duty and a precondition for the people in the organisation to trust them.

    The managers need to realise that the startegy to " increase the trust " is the only strategy. The bias is because they feel that there people already trust them. They never feel the need to increase trust which ultimately leads to increasing mistrust.
    • Anonymous
    Trust of management (the entity, not the individual) is low because any semblance of a social contract that once existed between management and workers is gone. This does not always manifest in lower wages; it does in the areas of job security, benefits, and workload. Management expectations are that employees will continuously become more productive by working harder and longer hours with no increase in compensation. With at-will employment dominating the workplace, fear often becomes the primary motivator and it is hard to trust what you fear.
    • Anonymous
    It is almost imporssible to maintain true transparency in any organization. The timing of informing employees of changes in the organization regardless of the nature of the change is the critical issue. Secrets are not secrets if known by more than one person. Inavertant leaks or hints of leaks are killers to the transparency trust. This lack of trust by employees only mirrors the "sign of the times" distrust with our govenrment and our givernmen t officials were rumors of rumors are boundless. This mistrust spills over to the individual organizations where we as employees work. Mmanagement must constantly take time out to keep the employees informated through various means of communication; personnel meetings, written communiques, and ongoing updating of what is happening in the company as viewed by the employees and the outside community. Opening up lines of communication to air rumors is also ciritcal to the tr
    ansparency issue. I am fortunate to work for an orgainization that embraces all of these concepts of comminication and transparency. In healthcare attaining a high percentage of employee satisfaction with administration for their efforts at tranparency is not easy but is a requirement for employee retention and satisfaction that leads to true teamwork.
    • Mike Flanagan
    • Corp Purch Mgr
    I believe trust is engendered first by similarity in morality, and then enhanced by actions and words. Trust is either earned or given when the interaction of people prove similar between them on a moral level. Knowing that a person is good and honest, (like oneself) trust is extended to them.

    Trust is a very delicate attribute between people. Trust is present in many of our daily experiences. Marriage, employment, parenting, and relationships. Once broken by either then to repair it to the original state is nearly impossible

    Perhaps the reason for not finding much trust in a variety of companies is due to the lack of similar morality between workers, and the management. With less transparency and communication, there is less foundation for trust.

    When transparency, honesty, communication, consistency and predictability are present and in sync, trust will follow and grow.
    • Jack Flanagan
    • Founder, Center for Effective Nonprofit Governance and Management
    Sometimes we, as professional managers, make things far more difficult than they need to be.

    To generate and maintain trust a leader must not only "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk".

    The concept is simple, the execution far more difficult when we as managers overemphasize the former and, with good reason, are found wanting in the latter.
    • JoannaL
    • Business Systems Analyst
    My agreement is wholeheartedly with Karen Caswelch. I would also add that once hired, the evaluation process must include a requirement to manifest things like trust and integrity. My belief is that trust is the output of integrity and respect for the employee.

    A sample in the evaluation process may be something like this: "Over the last quarter, provide an example of something you've done that showed integrity/fostered trust/showed appreciation to your employees". Some of the open-ended interview questions ought to continue through the work life of employees.

    Allowing the manager to present actions showing trust/integrity/appreciation would allow for building upon those actions. That is, if actions fall short, suggestions for improvements will come from what was already done from the perspective of the manager -rather than some arbitrary requirement.

    As to reality: Alas, I also agree with #12Anonymous -my workplace is mostly guided by fear, allowing for rude, ruthless and insecure personalities rising to levels of management. This environment fosters the gambit from outright dishonesty for fear of repercussions by both managers and employees, to mechanical adherence to processes with no hope of improvements.
    • Karl Hunrick
    • Strategic Business Partner, Bonneville Power Administration
    Trust is dynamic, both interpersonally and organizationally. Organizations tend to reflect what the inhabitants (people) think, feel, and do. It can only begin person-to-person. Building trust between two people is an intimate process that is based mostly on the participating parties' willingness and ability to engage in honest dialogue:
    ? Focusing the conversation on what you can and should do is a much more constructive approach than complaining about what the other person is or isn't doing.
    ? The hardest part of the dialogue, but perhaps the most productive, will be identifying what each of you is willing to risk in order to further the relationship.

    Within teams or organizations, people should come to explicit agreements about how they want to work together and how they expect to be treated on the team, as earlier comments suggest setting explicit expectations. This should include designing processes for holding each other accountable for individual and collective responsibilities.

    Above all - recall that trust is an essential component is all relationships, and the most important component is our willingness to risk: it is what we measure our investment against. Without risk there can be no trust.
    • Jill Machol
    • Consultant, self-employed
    Even more basic is that executives in particular need to tell the truth to their employees. They should not spout cliches such as "our staff is our most important asset" and then turn around and lay off 20% of their people or close two plants or outsource the call center. Change management consultants have been telling executives for years to tell staff what you know about the change, what you don't know, and that you will keep them informed as information becomes available. But very few organizations do any of that. You can't treat employees like cogs in a machine if you want the human beings who work for you to trust you and the organization.
    • JoannaL
    • Bus Sys Analyst
    My agreement is wholeheartedly with Karen Caswelch. I would also add that once hired, the evaluation process must include a requirement to manifest things like trust and integrity. My belief is that trust is the output of integrity and respect for the employee.

    A sample in the evaluation process may be something like this: "Over the last quarter, provide an example of something you've done that showed integrity/fostered trust/showed appreciation to your employees". Some of the open-ended interview questions ought to continue through the work life of employees.

    Allowing the manager to present actions showing trust/integrity/appreciation would allow for building upon those actions. That is, if actions fall short, suggestions for improvements will come from what was already done from the perspective of the manager -rather than some arbitrary requirement.

    As to reality: Alas, I also agree with #12Anonymous -my workplace is guided by fear, allowing for rude, ruthless and insecure personalities rising to levels of management. This environment fosters the gambit from outright dishonesty for fear of repercussions by both managers and employees, to mechanical adherence to processes with no hope of improvements.
    • Maree Stewart
    • Chief Executive Officer, Waikato Kindergarten Association
    have you read the old book - was it called 'Ragged Trousered Philanthropist'? basically stating employers and employees must come from different perspectives - so sustained trust is difficult. I believe the basis for company Trust is an employee perception that the management tries to work on a foundation of 'Fairness'. However what about managment trust in employees 'fairness' Are women more or less trusting than men? Are young people more or less trusting than older. What part od unions play? This is a fascinating area.
    • Jim Conlow
    I don't think this is as difficult as people make it.

    The largest causative issue with respect to followers trusting leaders is that a sufficient percentage of leaders make promises and then later they renege so that a majority of followers simply mistrust leaders from the start. Leaders often do not put their promises in writing. Or, leaders use ambiguity and weasel words in their promises (even in writing) - so much that is said by leaders can be interpreted in ways that leave the followers not believing. Too many times followers who do the hard work and achieve success for the leader do not get the reward they expect because, after the success, the leader interprets the ambiguous language in favor of themselves. There are dozens of stories addressing this theme that circulate through the culture. We cut our teethe on these stories. They become part of our unconscious way of making judgments. We become very good at detecting when a leader is not trustworthy. Followers start with suspicion.

    The simplest way to get this whole trust issue on track is to create win-win agreements that are clear, with no ambiguity, that define the rewards the follower will receive when clear goals are achieved. If the follower detects any way for the leader to wiggle out, then this will destroy trust. Once a good win-win agreement is in place, the follower(s) can trust the leaders in ways that go far beyond the language of the agreement. Hard work, ideas, and creativity will flow because the enthusiastic follower knows he/she will be rewarded.

    Leaders also need to understand that their followers are often very smart about these things. Many followers have seen it before. Once burned, twice shy.

    Also, for this to work, win-win must really create a win for the follower as defined by the follower. All too often, a leader defines the win for the follower but it is not really a win for the follower - the follower agrees because they need the job. As time goes on the leader cannot understand why he/she doesn't have an enthusiastic team.

    Clear win-win agreements = trust, motivation, cooperation, and enthusiasm.

    Anything else = mistrust (and all sorts of other problems)

    Why is this? Win-win is self-defining. It creates wins for the followers. What's great is that the leader can only win if the follower wins and the follower can only win if the leader wins.

    By definition, every other form of agreement between leader and follow creates a loss, or at best - no win. This results in lack of trust (and often creates losses for the leader).
    • Jackie Le Fevre
    • Director, Magma Effect
    Like other contributors I endorse Karens view No 8.

    Colleagues may be interested in ongoing work into Trust by the Institute for Leadership and Management in the UK - http://www.i-l-m.com/research-and-comment/10012.aspx

    Trust fascinates me. I have the priviledge of working in lots of different organisations and hearing from people at a whole variety of levels how they feel about things - and trust is essentially a "feeling" that then prompts certain behaviours. I believe there is a relationship between trust readiness if you like and the preception of personal security of an individual - people who feel "OK" about things have less to lose proportionally by trusting and running a risk that things might go wrong compared to people who definitely do not feel OK.

    There will be antecedents for trust like how many times have I been let down before/misjudged people or situations before that will affect how trusting I as a person feel I can be. This brings us to the point at which the person who is "manager" can do something about enabling trust. As other commentators have said it is about clear, complete, coherent communication in the first instance and then regular up dates as things inevitably change. I am a big believer in being totally open about what I don't know and what I can't control with a view to enabling others to form a pragmatic expectation of my performance. My candour is motivated by personal values around authenticity, congruence and sharing/listening - I am not, by contrast, motivated by values of achievement, status or image - which might propel me into "spinning" information or trying to paint a brighter picture than I could see.

    So Karen has it nailed - recruit and select on values - but I don't believe that there is a "right" set of values. If you know your manager is a prestige hungry bounty hunter who never pretends to be anything else and consistently deliver outcomes that align with that persona plus you chose to work in a target driven culture then there follows whole host of things that you will trust them on even though someone else might not.

    Trust is a choice at the end of the day.
    • Murat
    • Consultant, KPMG
    Dear Professor,

    Interesting topic indeed and a hard question to answer in a business world.

    However, this article lacks a key point which is defining trust for a managerial position, i.e. trust in competence and trust in personality. Whichever definition it takes and no matter what circumstances are, one, be it a manager or managed, should never let an occupational role to define his trust worthiness as long as he/she carries out best efforts to yield the right decisions.

    • Anonymous
    The author is very right that when some employees keeps expectations high and could not met then they get frustrated and not happy with the organization
    • Kamal Hossain
    • Lecturer of Business, London School of Commerce
    Excellent question Professor Heskett.
    I find similar conclusions about trust in organisations. Many employees i know working in reputed MNCs have low trust on their management. The number one reason for that is broken promises. Management boasts about their company and makes unwritten promises. Most of the times it happens through a conversation between the employee and a senior manager. A near future company growth is discussed and it directly or indirectly creates a promise in the mind of the employee. However, a benefit to the employee may not even be spoken, let alone written. But it is taken as an implication for growth of the employee like a promotion. When that does not materialise, the employee looses trust.
    My thoughts.
    • Prof. Subrata Chakraborty
    • Retired Professor, IIM, Lucknow, India
    Trust in any work organization is an outcome of numerous human interactions that take place everyday between and within various layers in an organizational hierarchy. Those interactions can not be assessed only by examining the spoken or written words/sentences. There is something much more than that, which may be called 'vibrations'. In any human intraction,verbal or non verbal, vibrations are produced; and all members in an organization act as transmitters and receivers of these vibrations. Thus, at the end of the day, it is the quality of such vibrations that determines the level of trust in an organization. Measuring and/or controlling the quality of these vibrations is never easy.
    Statistics has taught us the concepts of 'within' and 'between' variation and has also told us that between variation can be measured meaningfully only when within variations are small. I believe these ideas are useful in the context of this discussion of ours. Management, in various organizations, often creates high within variations among groups they manage. One reason could be that level of trust among managers themselves are low, which eventually gets transmitted through various vibrations as the managers compete with each other to climb to the next higher level.This tends to align people in different layers in a certain way.
    A new employee often begins with a reasonable amount of trust and believes that her/his fellow collegues as well those in upper layers of management are all reasonable and trustworthy people. After a while, changes her/his initial views as (s)he receives various vibrations, making her/his own judgement which creates the base.
    In most organizations the top tells the middle what to do with the bottom and if the middle simply parrots those, without transmitting the necessary beliefs and convictions, trust levels begin to go down. Once the trust level goes down it becomes much more difficult to bring it up as the downward pressure often remains stronger than the upward one.
    • Bruno Borghi
    • CEO, Akeirou
    In my experience, trust is NOT hard to achieve. Personnaly, I don't agree with the premise of the article, that trust is seldom because trust is hard to achieve. The question is: Why is trust so low in so many organizations ? Or, putting it the other way: Why is distrust so frequent in so many organizations ?

    1- Trust is not hard to achieve. Many comments of this article give good advice to how to build trust. Trust is first about feeling secure. The art of management is creating the conditions of employees feeling secure, while being motivated and dedicated. Feeling secure is not mainly about keeping their job, it is more about not impairing their dignity ever.
    The other conditions for achieving trust are corollary: as a manager, commiting and meeting their commitment, maintaining their own integrity without any exception, respect, true listening, aiming at win-win agreements, expressing gratitude.
    Trust requires reciprocity, and it is the secret receipe: you deeply trust your employees, they trust you as a manager.

    2- Why is distrust so frequent in so many organizations ?
    Because many high-level managers distrust their peers and their employees, and propagate distrust as a culture from the very top of the organization.
    Because narrowing the purpose of a company to maximizing the shareholder value is the first mark of disrespect towards employees: it is not a win-win agreement.
    Because many managers actually believe that trust is paramount.

    It strikes me that upper managements express so little gratitude towards employees. My hypothesis is that upper managers don't even feel grateful, that they have no idea why they should be grateful. Contempt is the seed of generalized distrust.

    Trust is more common in software companies using agile methodologies. It may be worth the look.
    • Hugh Quick
    • home UK, none
    In my opinion lack of trust between people is now more widespread than it used to be. I think that this is mostly due to the modern fashion of us all being 'economical with the truth' in our communications with other people.
    • Meenalochani Kumar
    • Senior Consultant, MindTree
    To me, "Trust is INVESTMENT OF TIME" .

    1. Everything around Trust involves the quantum of quality time an individual spends with another both personally or professionally.
    2. This time spent would have components of meaningful conversation, openness and involve the person with whom we seek to build trust.
    3. The most important component would focus on " What's in it for you?' rather than "What's in it for me" of a person seeking to establish/ build trust.

    Having worked with many teams in various organizations and on reflection, rarely do we meet people who display the above three basic requirements for building, establishing and retaining trust. If we so battle for time on operational/ task issues, then people and trust aligned to people will continue to remain elusive.
    • Peter Lee
    • Mg Consultant, RDS
    Top mgmt probably realise that trust is essential to sustainable success but as trust is messy as far as managing it directly is concerned they prefer to focus on more actionable short term targets.

    Work culture & trust, being essential to integrating the individual and the organisation & hence performance & success should be managed as KPIs.

    Suitable measures I'm sure has been developed but why has top mgmt ignored them so far - CEOs & Boards should be asked this question.
    • Uday Kagal
    • Proprietor, Innovation Social Consultants
    Certainly a most fundamental issue. The reason I think trust doesn't happen so easily is that Management is more focused on delivering results (themselves) rather than nurturing or supporting teams to deliver them. Moreover, there is a lack of "human-ness" and people go to/ come to work basically to transact the 'business' and just wish to get out at the earliest. There is little personal interaction at the workplace and trust cannot exist without this.
    • Rolf Van Dulst
    • Executive Manager
    If we lived in an economic and business environment that was stable and predictable developing trust between management and staff would indeed be as easy as the author suggests. Unfortunately that is not the case and leaders need to deal with a dynamic environment where their plans and intentions for the future may be overtaken by circumstances beyond their control. This is when the skill and value of leaders is tested and often found wanting, resulting in a destruction of trust between the managers and the managed. It's how you deal with these situations that matters, not trying to avoid them because Leaders will always face these situations, or else they aren't leaders.
    • Anonymous
    I think that the comments, and my personal experience, suggest that the basic issue is less complicated than:

    "Don't create expectations that can't be met; share knowledge; hire, recognize, and fire the right people; be consistent and predictable; and avoid large-scale layoffs as much as possible."

    It's "stop lying".

    The factors you mention are also important. But setting realistic expectations when no one believes what you say is impossible. Being transparent is impossible when people think you are a liar.

    And it will take years of change to alter the fact that large-scale layoffs are one of the first thing new management and new ownership is expected to do, while at the same time saying that they won't do it.

    How many euphemisms for "firing" have been created over the past few decades? This is a form of lying.

    This trick is hard because a single company's management can do very little to affect the fact that in American business as a whole, this has been done for decades. In fact, your company may become a target ripe for a take-over by someone who will put into effect large-scale layoffs to increase profitability if you don't do it yourself.

    So the difficulty is not found in what to do, the difficulty is making it happen.

    We live in a culture where you are expected to do whatever it takes to do whatever you need to do as quickly as possible. The ends justify the means, and you hope you will be already gone, or have a ready scapegoat to blame, if you are caught playing dirty. If you don't, someone else will. And then they will arrogantly proclaim their superiority over those who foolishly behaved ethically.

    Management are the people who performed in this capitalistic free-for-all more successfully than other people. They sacrificed many other things- family, friends, free time- to get where they are. Upper management did this even more successfully, and they are the ones who sacrificed the most to obtain their position of power.

    Since management has sacrificed so much to achieve their power, they will do much to keep it.

    This is why creating trust is hard. Lack of trustworthiness is a critical component of how managers get their positions and what they will do to keep them.
    • Anonymous
    When I mediated conflicts between managers and employees, a common complaint was, "yes, we have this agreement, but can I really trust that s/he will abide by it?" I used the Affect-Behavior-Cognition model to explain that consistent, changed behavior over time that abided by the terms of agreement would slowly begin to impact how the parties think and feel about each other(yes, I understand....not exactly how the theory was posed), and over time, trust between the two would develop. When I checked in with the parties at the 6-month and 12-month mark, this was always the case -- consistent, changed behavior that adhered to the terms of the agreement resulted in a report of increased trust between the parties. Now that I advise management in employee/labor relations situations, I use the same model to explain how trust can be slowly developed/restored over time. Never expect a quick change, and one inconsistent behavio
    r will likely reset the clock. From my experience, employees trust particular managers for particular reasons, but if you ask them to indicate levels of trust in management generally, the measure is always lower. Seems to be in keeping with the saying, "Organizations are structures, not people, and therefore should not be anthropomorphized -- organizations cannot demonstrate loyalty, only individuals can demonstrate loyalty." Substitute "management" for "organizations" and "trust" for "loyalty." Management is a structural concept, and not an individual.
    • Anonymous
    To gain trust, a company must extend trust toward its employees, just like with respect....it has to be given in order to receive it. Unfortunately, the American employee has been taken advantage of and shortchanged and betrayed all too often by their employer, and for far too many decades. That is not forgotten, even though the employee usually moves on to other companies to work for. They enter their new job with a level of mistrust that lingers from the previous employer. Then, if/when something happens at the new company that betrays the employee, then there is a new layer of mistrust piled on top of the previous layer. As time goes on, these layers of mistrust have built up so high that nothing can penitrate. The loyalty has been obliterated.
    American workers have become so jaded and cynical because of what has been done to them by corporate America.... like shipping jobs overseas, like cheating them out of their earned pensions, promising them something and not delivering on it, and so on and so on.
    American workers realized a very long time ago that Corporate America only thinks of its employees as "human capital" or "human commodities" and the Companies/Corporations they work for will always, always put profits above the interests of taking care of the employee.
    That is what happened at Enron. That is what happened at Tyco. That is what happened at Lehman Bros. That is what happened at Bain Capital. That is what happened at AIG. That is what happened with the Auto Industry, before it was saved by President Obama. That is what has happened with the Oil & Gas companies regarding the environment....they could care less how the environment is destroyed as long as they can rape the Earth of every last shred of oil or coal or natural gas to be had and make every last dollar that can be made from it, regardless the environmental or human cost. I could go on and on listing corporations and what they have done to their employees and to their customer base. It
    has eroded to a seriously low level of trust & respect.
    Will temporary gestures help build it back up? No. It will take far more than bandaides. It will take a serious overhaul by Corporations, of their overall attitudes towards their employees. Afterall, where would these Corporations be without their employees?
    • Ann Brown
    • Director, Providence Health Care
    Big question Jim. A couple of the challenges with trust are in the nature of the emotion itself. "I trust you" implies that I'm willing to make myself vulnerable to you. Hard to do that with a complex organization where consistency is difficult. As one person already said of the leadership/management team " If one of them acts in a manner that is inconsistent with the message that they try to project as a group, then trust is quickly lost". It only takes the perception (as in "the story I am making up about what I saw") that one representative of the group does not to walk the talk and behavioural dissonance will quickly kill any thoughts of trust in the collective.

    People trust individuals based on factors such as congruence of thought and action, perceptions of competency. Personal experience with individual and organizational trust has a major influence. When trust is broken (and that's so easy to do) and we are asked to trust again, in effect we are being asked to make the same decision to trust that proved wrong the first time. And - that experience could have been elsewhere or with a different person - "I know you said no lay offs but when I worked for XYZ they said that and I still lost my job".

    Each person has a different innate propensity to trust. They will also understand your information and actions through their own unique frame of reference. Hard to create belief in management trustworthiness when there are as manypossible possible interpretation of your message as there are people in your organization.

    The best an organization's management team can do is be transparent, share data, information and their thinking and decision making consistently, plus persistently continue open conversation and not expect to be perfect. (When things go wrong a sincere and immediate apology plus action goes a long way to build or deepen my trust whether it's with an individual or an organization.)

    Consistent and values aligned management practices are also critical. For example, hiring and firing based on clear expectations is one piece of creating that experience for everyone that the management is serious about the kind of behaviours valued in the organization.

    That demonstrates respect. As your first commentor said "From respect grows rapport, then communication, then trust, then cooperation".

    This is not a journey for the faint of heart or for those wanting a "quick win". The pay off though, in terms of engagement, performance, and sustainability can make it all worthwhile.
    • Bill S.
    • Director, Business Development, Perseus Books, LLC
    "Knowledge sharing would seem to foster trust as well." In my experience, transparency can breed trust. However, knowledge sharing only works when it's consistent and not just convenient (i.e., good news AND bad) and when it's shared with respect for every member of the employee team in mind. There is much lip service paid to "teamwork" in today's corporate culture; but in the "bad" corporate cultures I've encountered in my 25 years in management, "Teams" often break down into a series of management insider cliques, promoting an envious Us vs. Them environment that is truly difficult to overcome once engendered. Executive management has to set a tone of common purpose with cards fully on the table.
    • Narendar Singh
    • Professor, Vidya Business School
    The matter of trust between Management and employees lies only on one aspect ---- GREED. The employees always thinks that share offered to him is meager, while the management is taking the cake. Remember the employee includes all upto minimum mid mamangement.
    • Dennis Nelson
    • Quality Lead, SFS
    "It should be pretty simple...why do I find such a wide range" of accomplishment (in this case "trust") ...?

    What to do and how to do it often is very simple. Investing the whole person and the other needed resources (particularly time) for the accomplishment is the more difficult. Building a business, building trust, building any team or any other entity for business, sports, leisure or social engagement involves building the necessary culture. In every case it takes many of the attributes defined already: individual and collective commitment: training: total genuine and transparent communicaton; shared time together; learning and forgiveness from failures, and time, time, and more time. How to build a culture and the barriers to that accomplishment are contained in many of the other comments. Examples of successful cultures abound. The reason for the range of accomplished individuals, teams or other businesses and entities is the varying commitment of resources, primarily of the lead individual. The owner of an entity wanting trust as its main driver has to define the know, be
    and do of that trust culture. Every decision and other resource expenditure then has to be driven by the attributes of the trust culture desired. Every individual has to be fully trained in the know, be and do of the desired culture. The rewards system and every other system and process needs to be based on the desired culture... and so on and so on. It is simple. It is not hard. The range of accomplishment is not hard to understand. "I'd give my life to be an expert at that, like you are," one person said to another person. "I did," said the other person. When we individually and collectively are willing to give our lives to building a culture of trust within any entity, we are on the road to success. Short of that commitment, Jim will find us somewhere on the lower end of his range.
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • Principal Consultant, Planninga from Nanninga
    Putting my trust in someone else (boss, company) means that I am setting aside trust in myself. In this day and age, why should employees put their faith in the idea that relying on the company is better than relying on one's self? Governments have let them down (look at Europe), organized religion has let them down, and the list goes on. When someone says "Trust me," the response is "No way."

    If trust is unattainable, then what is the next best option? How about mutual self interest? If we can come up with a system whereby actions the company wants are also the actions which most reward employees...that may be the best we can do.
    • Taat Subekti
    • Chairman, Dharma Shanti Foundation
    In my opinion, trust is hard to achieve because there is lack of integrity shown by the management and/or corporation. Many top management thinks talk is free, and frequently ignore the consequence of what implication the talk may have to the employee(s). We must thinks that talk is not free. Talk is like buying something with credit card. You do not pay right away, but you definitely must pay when it's due. If you don't pay, you have to pay the fine. The longer you delay your payment, the bigger the fine. If you don't pay, you may be sued. So, we may have to teach the management and corporation that the talk is not free at all. Just like using credit card, we have to consistently and discipline in paying, at least the minimum due. Talk as the basis of trust, must be "paid" on time to build trust. And it's not difficult actually, as long as we have solid integrity and discipline in fulfilling our promise to pay.
    • David Physick
    • Consultant, Glowinkowski International
    When everything is discounted back to money as it now seems to be, it is hard for mutual human trust to flourish. We have all been too trusting of our leaders' promises, the organisations and institutions they manage. We now need to be far less tolerant of breach of promised trust. We need to complain more assertively and be more honest with ourselves about how we choose to do business with. If we don't follow through our disquiet with A or B or C and actually take away our business, we have allowed the situation to remain. In this sense, trust requires courage; it will create inconveniences for us; it demands personal investment of time and money when these faculties are in short supply . Professor Heskett's seminal work about the service-profit chain was entirely about trust. Throughout the chain's linkages, no one set out to gouge another. The justified feeding frenzy in the UK about banks is entirely due to the leaders
    in those organisations breaching the fundamental value of trust.
    • shadreck saili
    • UCT
    Interesting topic once more. The basic principles to build and maintain trust between management and employee are all well known by any management worth its sort. The greatest hindrance in my view is the unwillingness to adhere to the principles and best practices due to the Ego( any management team ,by in large, is influenced by the Ego of the strong member/s) necessitated by various factors such as greed,resistance to change, resistance to admit failures and weaknesses, resistance to work in diversity, fear of being exposed , not being frank with oneself.
    • Gregory Leiby
    Think of "trust" as a logical reaction to observed behavior.

    For the most part, people understand that management puts what is best for the company ahead of what is best for me.

    When employees observe management sacrificing the good of the company AND the good of their employees to meet their own ends...well, how should an employee react?
    • Anonymous
    Apart from Individual differences,numerous factors such as organisational structure,cultural aspect and type of business
    environment play key role in trust between individual and organisation. More the employee feel attached with organisations(homeliness) more the trust build along with conformity between individual and organisational goals.
    • Dan Wallace
    • Partner, Tailwind Discovery Group
    In my experience, building trust in an organization is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. The model I use and teach my clients is that there are three prerequisites for trust. For you to trust me, you must:

    1) Believe that I genuinely have the right interests at heart. In sales situations, "right interests" means "your best interests," i.e., if your interests and mine conflict, you are confident that I will place yours ahead of mine. In internal, leadership-related situations, the test is that you must believe that I have the long-term greater good of the organization at heart.

    2) You must believe that you can rely on me, for which the simple test is that you believe I WILL do what I say will do.

    3) You must believe in my competence, for which the test is that you are confident that I CAN do what I say I will do.

    With those prerequisites satisfied, trust can, and likely will, exist. Without them, it's impossible.

    That said, think about all the things a leader needs to do in order to create those conditions. (And please note my use of the word "leader" rather than "manager." Building trust is a leadership function.)

    - Create absolute clarity about why the organization exists and where it's going, so that people can form good judgments about what the greater good of the organization actually is;

    - Create an environment of openness, honesty and transparency, so that what needs to be said gets said in meetings rather than at the water cooler;

    - Treat people with respect and dignity at all times, so that the focus is always on the health of the business rather than personal issues or squabbles;

    - Make realistic commitments and hold him/herself accountable for delivering on them;

    - Obtain reasonable commitments from others, and hold them accountable for achieving those commitments. (NOTE: the leader MUST demonstrate his/her willingness to be accountable before asking it of others):

    - Be open and vulnerable with his/her people. This includes admitting when he/she has made mistakes or doesn't know the answer, being willing and able to ask for help, and demonstrating the humility involved in acknowledging that others often know more and make better judgments that the leader does. The leader's job is to harness those talents for the greater good of the organization, not restrict them.

    - Always approach his/her direct reports with the prevailing attitude that, "I trust that you know how to do your job. That's why you're here. My job is to make sure you have the resources you need and to help you stay coordinated with the rest of team. So get going, and let me know if you need my help."

    - Set the foregoing behaviors as expectations for the team, and hold people accountable for adhering to them.

    That's a lot of work. A full-time job. Again, it is a leadership job, not a management job.

    Two final comments: My thoughts on this are a reflection of the work I do every day helping leadership teams create the kind of environment described above. While there isn't much data on the direct link between trust and performance, it seems self-evident, and my experience has been that as trust increases, the conversations that need to be had occur sooner, take less time, and produce better results because no one wastes time on the distraction of politics and hidden agendas. They just solve their issues and problems and move on.

    Second, I am an enormously (!!!) proud graduate of HBS, but in the spirit of openness and honesty, I have to say that none of this was addressed when I was a student there. I hope that has changed. It seems to me that trust would be more prevalent if our best schools of leadership taught it.
    • Gregory Leiby
    I have always defined "trust" as: "A logical reaction to to the consistent actions of another."

    Framed this way, the question becomes "What are the consistent actions of management?"

    The reason "Management" gets tapped on this subject is they are in the leadership role. Those in a leadership position willing put themselves in a position where others look up to them.
    • Robert Downing
    • ? Doctor of Education Candidate, NA
    Dr. Heskett,

    I am writing in reference to your article "Why is trust so hard to achieve in management?"

    You mentioned that there is surprisingly little hard evidence to support some of the assumptions about trust as an essential condition for good performance. As I read the article, I realized that I may have some relatively new information on the topic.

    I'm in the process of completing my doctoral dissertation which focuses on predictors of tacit knowledge sharing. The research and compilation of data from my dissertation has been completed.

    Trust is one of the predictors of tacit knowledge sharing, along with perceived management commitment, social interaction and individual rewards.

    What was particularly interesting was that after I had completed my study, I was able to link my study to the Gallup Employee Engagement study. The "best friend" at work question is part of the Gallup survey as part of the Teamwork area. The linkage is not something I'd originally intended to examine. However three of the questions from my tacit KM survey (trust questions) support the validity of the "friend" question for Gallup.

    The three questions are directly below (the scoring is based on a seven point Likert Scale: seven is likely to share, one is not likely to share):

    1.You and Pat both work at your company. Both of you started work at the same time and have been friends ever since. Would you share with Pat?
    ?"Friend" Mean Score 6.7 (out of 7) on KM Sharing Survey
    ?Note: This is the highest mean score of all the survey questions.

    2.You and Pat both work at your company in completely different divisions and have never met each other. Would you share with Pat?
    ?"Don't Know each other" Mean Score 5.0 on KM Sharing Survey

    3.You and Pat both work at your company. Pat has a reputation for never helping anyone. Would you share with Pat?
    ?"Perhaps, Don't Like Them" Mean Score 4.5
    ?Note: This is the lowest score on KM Sharing Survey

    Clearly the results suggest that individuals are more likely to share information with their friends - Mean Score 6.7 (out of 7).

    Gallup states that there is a link between employee engagement and higher productivity. However, I've been unable to find any information from Gallup on "how" employee engagement results in higher productivity.

    The 2012 study by Connelly, Zweig, Webster and Trougakos found that slightly over 10% of "knowledge transfer events" involved hiding or hoarding knowledge. The impact of knowledge hiding or hoarding is likely to be significant in terms of productivity and profitability.
    I think my study has established that the missing "how" has to do with tacit knowledge sharing (at least in part). If knowledge sharing increases, then productivity and profitability are also likely to increase.

    I also agree with your statement that knowledge sharing would seem to foster trust as well. I think you may also make the case that trust fosters knowledge sharing.

    We tend to trust our friends and trust is necessary for knowledge sharing (and employee engagement). Social interaction (building friendships) is necessary to build trust. The actions that increase knowledge sharing are also likely to increase Employee Engagement.

    Robert E. Downing
    • Laurence Rohde
    • Pricing / Cost Analyst, CLI
    Great topic I have a few observations on this but as far as trust goes it has an affinity with ethics I believe most managers overlook. Some of the examples of the lack of trust comes from the impact of change. What I' trying to communicate is there seems to be a new mentality in management that I do not believe is very forward thinking. Instead of annual kick off meetings that have company participation and input. We now set direction in the back room this has a negative impact on the doers. When direction is not clear mistakes are made the inability to understand the task at hand becomes problematic when communication breaks down. Since strategies are being made in a silo it is hard to understand the "why we are doing this" and as clearly and simple as the why is to communicate, it is either management perception of your "need to know" the problem results in a lack of trust whether this lack of trust is real o
    r not becomes a underlying problem. If I don't understand why I'm doing a task I ask the question why and that is where the speculation begins and the trust barrier is created. I think American management has lost sight of TURE VALUE and replaced it with perceived value. This leads to a lack of respect for certain management individuals and replaces it with distrust. I do believe this does create another issue which is flushed out by the lack of trust the belief that there is a competency issue with management.
    • william glover
    • owner, glovercpa
    there is no loyalty from corps to people. Trust? lol
    • Janet L. Walsh
    • CEO, Birchtree Global, LLC
    The definition of trust by managers and employees has different connotations. Managers are entrusted with organizational assets and expected to act in the organization's best interests. Human capital is an asset to a business. Acting in the organizations best interests with respect to human capital may require a manager to follow a course of action that is not in a specific individual's best interest and not subject to advance notice or discussion.

    Examples would be terminating and individual, restructing jobs, eliminating training, or restricting resources which may be in the best interests of the organization but not to an individual.
    Individuals subject to these activities might argue from a personal perspective that these actions showed a lack of trust by management.

    As such there may be an inherent conflict in the employer/employee relationship specific to the management of firm assets.
    • Anonymous
    You fail to address the most fundamental problem involving trust - the individual relationship that a person has with those who have power over their economic security. If an employee feels that their boss does not understand their job, jumps to conclusions, sides with parties outside the organization to the detriment of the team, doesn't listen, or the like, that employee won't trust that manager. And if that employee has no perceived recourse to appeal or correct perceived unjust behavior, the employee won't trust the organization. Lack of trust begets more lack of trust - employees aren't likely to complain if they believe that HR or upper management will always side with whomever has the most organizational power.
    • J Thormohlen
    • HR Manager, Local government agency
    Trust - a pretty sloppy term. We all assume we will know it when we see it. Trouble is we do not have a shared definition or how it is exhibited in an organization. I advocate that organizations bring in experts to teach managers on this topic starting with a basic class on ethics. I suggested this 30 years ago in graduate school and my professor almost kicked me out of class.
    • Anonymous
    When employees are told they are getting very small or even no salary increases plus increased benefits costs, yet see senior leadership making millions of dollars in salary and stock options, how can there be trust?
    • Anonymous
    People trust those who exhibit trustworthy behavior. It is that simple. The people I trust share several key characterisitics: 1) Unselfishness 2) Straightforward in speech and action. No prevarication, does what he/she has committed to do. 3) Sets/has reasonable expectations 4) Invites open communication and demonstrates excellent listening skills 5) For managers, demonstrates or actively pursues expertise in area of responsibility. Unfortunately, people who exhibit these behaviors consistently are becoming more rare. I think this is due to the 'win at any cost' mentality that is fostered in many organizations today.
    • Charles Eweka
    • Business Manager, PHCN - Nigeria
    Trust is an important issue and I share the view that because the economic platform is uneven and unpredictable it becomes increasingly difficult for managers to be consistent in implementing strategic plans and hence distrust within the work force.
    • Linda Murphy
    • Adjunct Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
    Trust is built through accountability and consistency! Lots of companies loose sight of this in their business day to day activities. Their actions speak louder than their words especially when they are inconsistent with the mission and vision of the company!
    • Anonymous
    I disagree with you that "trust is engendered by the process of setting and meeting expectations." There are no expectations when your organization is intrenched with managment which hires not based solely upon qualifications but familiar relationships.
    • Anonymous
    You can't be judge and party at the same time. Ultimatelly, management would do what they are going to do. Period. The bottom line reign and ALL decisions will be driven by it. That has been the way since the Phoenicians used to ride...business is business and will always be.
    • Bob Lee
    • Head Instructor, Body Mind Systems Martial Arts Training Center
    Trust is a factor of relationships, not the least of which, with one's self.

    Human relationships with one another depend on the humans involved.

    Trust takes a long time to make and is easy to break. Trust can take years to cultivate to a very high level.

    If a person has a clue about relationships, where they stand within a relationship, what they are trying to accomplish with that relationship, and a true awareness of themselves and how their actions and words are perceived by others, they should see trust and success grow.

    Relationships start with one person at a time and those that have better skills with relationships can cultivate trust with more people.

    Kind regards,

    Bob Lee
    Head Instructor
    3rd Degree Black Belt
    • Gordon Carter
    • Partner, the Satori Group
    I am reminded of a piece of advice I frequently passed along to mangers at every level: "Don't expect employees to care about your needs if its clear that you don't care about their needs".

    The 'law of reciprocity' and the 'psychological contract' both reflect the importance of fairness in social exchange. Research suggests that employees personify the organizations they work for, and judge the quality of their relationship with the organization (as well as their relationship with their supervisors) primarily on how fairly they are treated.

    I would argue that an organizational culture based on the underlying VALUE of fairness would test positively on the measure of trust (and other performance measures).

    Most contributors on this subject have identified behaviors associated with fairness, but it is important to recognize that VALUES drive behaviors. Organizations working to improve trust might consider focusing on an internal fairness audit, rather than trying to prescribe fairer behaviors among those who do not VALUE them.

    I would also strongly agree with Karen Casweich's emphasis on values in the hiring process. Nurturing and maintaining a strong, healthy culture should be an executive's number one priority.
    • David Wittenberg
    • CEO, The Innovation Workgroup
    Trust is a parameter that varies from culture to culture.

    Americans, on average, tend to trust those individuals with whom they interact in the marketplace, although it bears noting that this trust is not necessarily extended to impersonal categories such as "management" or to professions or institutions.

    By contrast, in India, the default belief about those outside one's close circle is that others are not to be trusted. An excellent discussion of the business and societal consequences of Indians' distrustfulness can be found in Dr. Ragunathan's book, "Games Indians Play."

    Trust is earned or reinforced in two ways. In America, performance -- particularly in response to errors or defaults -- reinforces trust. Keeping one's word is especially important. In Asian cultures, the path to trust more often involves establishing friendship, kinship, or incumbency in a business relationship over a long period of time. Performance and keeping one's word are relatively less important.
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    Trust is a firm belief in the reliability or truth or strength of a person or thing. Trustworthy is one who is deserving of trust and can be fully relied upon.
    Before we proceed to examine work situations, we have to go into the reality of where we ourselves stand. If we self introspect objectively, we must be able to be confident of our own firm character and be convinced that we are trustworthy by standing by the truth, calling a spade a spade, being straightforward and always walking our talk. In short, we have to be role model for others.
    It is a fact that we get what we deserve. Creating trust and being trusted by others is not hard - in essence, our positive thoughts and approach play a great role in nurturing trust. Our whole tribe and family are bound to trust us if they experience acceptable traits in our expressed thoughts and actions.
    Coming to Management of our work situations, the leader is watched closely by others and is welcomed or shunned depending on his behavioral patterns. There are many examples of CEOs making/marring the same company by their helping/haughty managerial style.
    A good leader is alive to the importance of his image. He is conscious of what is happening around him and what people feel/talk about him inhouse/outside. Grapevine is also not ignored.If sincere, he will make amends as soon as something unusual is found out.
    Without trust, no entity can survive in the long run; some can meet their doom earlier too.
    • Anil
    • India
    I am firm believer that Trust is most important factor for making a great organization.

    Trust is earned thru a process which consist of a promise and the delivery. Full filling the promise as per expectation set and repeating this consistently brings trust for you.

    Trust is both ways - leader to the team mate and team mate to to the leader. It doesn't differentiate.
    • Prasanth Gowravajhala
    • Product Manager, BOSCH
    I have a small anology to share. Assume you walk on the same corridor everyday since your childhood. At age 30 or 40 you are so confident to walk on the same even blindfolded. The reason is that you trust the acquaintance. Assume if the tiles of the floor change randomly and you had to walk on it blindfolded, you wouldn't trust the acquaintance anymore.
    The gist is that trusting the management is not trusting the process but the personality. The moment there is a change in the management, everything collapses.

    This is one perspective I feel is a major influencing factor.
    • James
    • CTO, Kingsinsight.com
    My Father ran a business and told me that "whether you think you can trust people or not ... you will normally prove yourself correct".
    By that he meant that if you don't trust people you will check up on them and then tell them what to do and then they will do what you say and not what they believe is right ... which will undermine your shared trust when things go wrong. But if they think you are relying on them then they will try hard and if you back them on the assumption they tried to do the right thing with the information they had, then they will both trust you and start doing the right thing more and more often.

    That worked really well in his company and the first couple of companies I worked with. But later in my career I worked for larger companies found issues related to "attribution error" applied. We all know what we are doing and that we are trying hard to do the right thing (including most managers I have worked with). But we don't see the struggles others go through - just the impact on us. So we assume we did the right thing and that "they" did the wrong thing, causing us problems. But actually "they" and "we" usually did the best we could with what we knew ... and optimised our part of the world and not the whole world.

    So after many years and many scars I think my father was right. If you want someone to trust you, then try to understand what they see happening rather than what you are doing. You will often find that what they see is hard work on their end and seemingly random stupid things on your end. So if you can uncover and start to answer their questions or complaints they will start to trust you. But if you just do what you think is right without understanding their perspective, then people will not trust you because the evidence they act on is different to what you are doing and you will end up seeming inconsistent, out of touch or uncaring.
    • Deborah Nixon
    • President, Trust Learning Solutions
    You're right- trust isn't rocket science. But organizations are a collection of individuals, each with his or her own ambition, worldview, neurosis, intelligence, suspicions, self- interest... the list goes on. It's a wonder any organization or team ever accomplishes anything at all.

    I'm never surprised at the diversity of trust levels in an organization. After working in the trust space for 20 years, i've come to know that trust is contextual and ever-changing. Because you have trust today says nothing about whether you'll still have it next month. Everybody has a different measure of trust and a different criterion for a trust breach. It's a very individual construct, with some commonalities. the complexity is how we interpret the commonalities

    Trust is never fixed and nobody can ever assume they have it for good. Trust may be high in one part of an organization and low in another because an organization is a collection of sub-cultures. Trust will vary depending on the players and the issues.
    • Peter Bowie
    In my experience, relationships based on trust are very powerful in a business environment for the reasons enumerated in the article, and is not lost when people are kept informed and are even understanding when tough decisions need to be made in difficult circumstances.

    Unfortunately, many of the more "successful" people in business are quite self-centered and selfish and their behaviour eventually reflects those traits. Once others recognize their colleague/boss is in it "for himself" and, if needed, at their expense, trust disappears. Trust is developed slowly, lost quickly and difficult to regain.
    • Charles H. Green
    • CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates
    A rich and juicy topic, Jim, even more than usual. Trust has been my business for 14 years now; it's a rich subject.

    A few observations:

    1. "Trust" is the result of an asymmetric relationship between one who trusts, and one who is trusted. The one doing the trusting is the one taking the risk; the one being trusted doesn't. The asymmetry is around risk.

    Saying "trust in banking is down" is worse than useless, because it doesn't distinguish between a decline in trustworthiness and a decline in the propensity to trust. Those two conditions require very different policy answers. IMHO, we have a bit of both.

    2. Risk is critical to understanding trust. When Ronald Reagan said "trust but verify" he was blowing rhetorical smoke: if you have to verify, it's not trust. A trusting relationship is the result of a series of reciprocal gives and takes between two parties, trading roles of trustor and trustee back and forth.

    3. Trustworthiness is usefully analyzed as a composite of factors. I use the Trust Equation: trustworthiness as a function of (credibility + reliability + intimacy) divided by (self-orientation).

    My firm now has about 30,000 datapoints of people taking an online self-assessment using the Trust Equation: results include:
    a) women are more trustworthy than men, and b) the most powerful factor of the four is Intimacy (basically, how safe and secure people feel discussing issues with you). For a check on commonsense, all career surveys show the number one ranked profession for trustworthiness is nursing, the embodiment of "intimacy."

    4. Both trustworthiness and the propensity to trust are only partly character traits; they are also heavily influenced by cultural norms. They are "virtues," but social virtues, and ones which are observed more by some groups than by others (see Fukuyama's seminal work on trust in cultures), and under different conditions.

    5. From all the above, note that "trust" is about personal relationships; that is the basis for the answer to Jim's question, "why is trust so low?"

    It is because for several decades now we have behaved in ways that are inimical to trust.

    -We have taught competitive strategy, not collaborative strategy;
    -We have defined business as being about companies, not about people;
    -We have focused on incentives rather than on obligations as a model for motivating human behavior;
    -We have posited economic models of human behavior rather than broadly social ones;
    -We have worshipped quantitative analysis rather than "common sense" (witness your own hesitation, Jim, to conclude in your intro piece that trust is profitable absent data that "prove" it)
    -We have developed analytics that heavily focus on NPV, a concept that both reduces all goods to monetary equivalents, and that forces the temporal dimension of all things to time-now.

    In such a context, the reason for low trust is not hard to understand. We don't have trust because we don't have relationships, because we have valued data over feelings, and because we have not taken seriously the realms of human endeavor that can't be reduced to "cold" data. (Exhibit 1: the false-on-the-face-of-it truism that "if you can't measure it you can't manage it").

    In a nutshell, we have developed an ethos of business that is stripped of human relationships. It shows in our language: we have "human capital," "return-on-relationship," and "loyalty metrics."

    Trust? We don't have it because we haven't taught it, learned it, practiced it. It's not venal psychopaths who've caused it - we have all caused it, in our b-school curricula and in our daily management practices.
    We've just had a perfect example of the lack of trust and how it affects strategic planning at the University of Virginia. A few Board members insisted on firing the President because they feel that she wasn't moving quickly enough tp institute online learning--but they didn't bother to "socialize" their thinking, making sure that their concern was widely shared. Result, egg in the faces of the Board and restitution of the fires president.

    Strategic Planning, contrary to one of the non-members of that Board, Peter Kiernan, does NOT consist of stating a " diktat" to employees, but to use the process to gain buy-in and swift execution--after agreement is reached.

    I was Director-Strategic Planning in New York Telephone when the parent company announced that we should break our ogranization in a peripheral and a network configuration. Given the history of "Ma Bell", management went to extraordinary lengths to run seminars, engage employees in discussion, and explain why they took this step. By and large it went surprisingly smoothly, even if the strategy was externally flawed and quickly changed yet again.

    My point, and I believe Prof. Heskett as well as strategic planning executives agree, senior management has no alternative but to seek consensus. Think of Bill Agee and his disastrous decision to move Bendix from automotive to "sexier" and faster growing domains. His # 2 and # 3 quit, the strategy was imposed, and subsequently led to a forced merger with Allied Corporation. Pehr Gyllenhammer made the same mistake in the early 1980's in trying to diversify out of making cars and causing his subordinates to quit, only to lead to a failed merger with Renault a decade later in which he was forced to resign.

    Isn't it strange how we seem to learn nothing from history!
    • Anonymous
    I've worked in a number of different types of organizations - academic, government and corporate. Generally there is a lack of appreciation for the difficult job of 'managing' people. Even the term 'manager' is a loaded one, with too many employees equating management to mean manipulation. Transparency and open communication will help to build a certain level of trust, but there is that inherent distrust that employees have of management - it is always simmering under the surface I'm afraid. To be a manager, it's takes a certain kind of person to continue plugging away at achieving objectives and respecting your employees, while all the while knowing that a percentage of them will be unhappy with you for something (but never express it.) In one environment that I worked in, there was a decision (after bringing in consultants) to get rid of all supervisors and managers - everyone would work together in overlapping teams and there wo
    uld be no bosses. That didn't last very long. Someone has to drive the bus!
    • Anonymous
    I am a home office employee of a Fortune 10 company.

    One day, there was an unannounced meeting, 275 people were being relocated to a site over 1000 miles away, those not wanting to move had 30 days to find another job, else you were on the street.

    I am on a project, that will likely continue for another 3 years, yet the senior vp, delcared the project had to be done 3 years ago, as a result the year after the original deadlline was not met, everyone on the team got a below expectaions on their evaluation.

    Currenty 60% of my evaluation is based on meeting corporate sales and profit goals, but the company will not share with me what those numbers are. So I am held accountable for meeting mystery numbers. Nice.

    I could go on.

    Why should I trust these knuckleheads?
    • Dennis Hopwood
    • Director Human Resources, Whitman College
    A few years back, I published an article entitled, "Winning Back Their Hearts and Minds: Rebuilding Workforce Commitment" (www.bestthinking.com). In the article I posited 10 conditions that inspire and sustain fierce commitment from employees in tough (and good) times, an unspoken contract of what employees expect of their leaders.

    1. Passionate, principled, and unified leadership.

    2. Unrelenting honesty and candor: no excuses, no deception, no spin. An open environment where innovation, constructive dissent, and the contrarian view are valued as essential contributions by an approachable senior management.

    3. A collective sense of mission, manifested by a clear, consistent, and urgent direction. The conviction that all things are possible.

    4. The courage to make the tough decisions and provoke change when necessary. Ownership for personal and team accomplishments and failures. Accountability assigned appropriately. The absence of blame.

    5. A bias toward deliberate action and calculated risk taking. And a decisive fix or scrapping of programs that everyone knows aren't working.

    6. Zero tolerance for internal politics. Insistence on teamwork and the big picture. Consistent and fair treatment of all employees under all circumstances.

    7. A system of evaluation that ensures managerial judgment of performance is informed and reasonably objective. People held accountable for delivering results against explicit and measurable objectives.

    8. Consistent, demanding standards for everyone. Relentless people development through a culture of continuous improvement. Decisive action on marginal performers. The best people assigned to the most critical projects.

    9. Organization structure and processes as simple and streamlined as possible. Minimal rules. Removal of organizational barriers. An emphasis on judgment and what's right for the business.

    10. Unwavering protection of quality. The interests of the customer held sacred.

    Trust is the fundamental outcome when these conditions are pursued.
    • Ed Champion
    • owner, Champion Sales Services
    My own distrust of top management in the United States stems from compensation philosophy. The shareholder value concept and greed have resulted in lavish and unwarranted compensation of top managements. Somehow companies believe that these pay schemes attract high performing bosses and produce superior results despite actual results. Yet at the same time the philosophy for lower level people has been that pay is not a strong motivator. Lower level people are told that accomplishing goals and being part of a vibrant team are compensation enough. Many blame pay demands from unions as a drag on competitiveness.

    To earn respect US management must dedicate itself to higher ideals than venality.
    • hasan mohamuud
    • operation manager, Goob-joog media
    i think the mistrust between top managers and low level employee dependend on the behavior of the organization because of if the top level people become flexibl;e once it easy to trust each other,
    by the way while people follow the organisation police i think there is no mis trust, and the work going on smoothly
    • Joe Schmid
    • Managing Principal, Oak Leafconsulting, LLC
    Trust equates to 'knowing' - 'knowing' what a person is going to do. 'Knowing' is the outcome of 'constancy'. 'Constancy' is the product of the 'values' that a leader is willing to continually 'pay the price of ownership'; and never misses a payment through contradictory actions. Many of us have known 'despicable' people who we also trusted - we knew exactly how they were going to behave and react. Conversely we have known 'great' leaders who we would follow in pursuit of seemingly overwhelming challenges - because, we knew exactly how they were going to behave and react. Trust is sustained by never 'missing a payment' on a value. Miss a 'payment' and constancy is lost, people begin to question because they no longer 'know', and trust is gone. Any organization has a 'forgiving' window for a missed payment of about 24 hours - IF the transgression is owned up to by the person during that timeframe. If not, trust is lost. The
    transgressor will never be seen as a leader again - maybe at best, a serviceable manager.
    • Ravindra Edirisooriya
    • Accountant 07/13/12, Midwestern Small Business
    Professor Heskett has come up with an important question in management terms but the question of trust is universal from the trust in the Supreme Being (God, Brahma) to the trust between a mother and a child and everything in-between. Professor Heskett's data had shown that drivers of (achieving) trust in management are not in the information contained in the data set. Hence, Professor Heskett's question why trust is so hard to achieve (in management)?

    One has to start the analysis of this question with a good understanding of the meaning of "trust" and how "trust" is manifested. One could "trust" or "not trust" an individual, a group, the Supreme Being, an ideology, an action (based upon strategy, plan, forecast, prediction, probability, budget, data, commitment, presentation, style, idealism, epiphany, culture, appeal, advertising, rhetoric, speculation, special interest, self interest, commonsense, heuristics, creativity, knowledge, skills, history, art or science), an emotion (love, hate, anger, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, greed, benevolence, power, powerlessness) a belief, a system, a process or an institution (political, social or legal). An ideology is postulated by an individual (pioneer) or a like minded group of individuals. The object of "trust" or "not trust" is an individual, a group, a supreme being or a human/divine construct with or without a
    basis. "Trust" or "not trust" is a human condition between individuals, groups, an individual and a group, an individual/group and the Supreme Being. Hence, "trust" or "not trust" is a complex human construct which needs some simplifying assumptions in order to reveal the drivers of "trust" in the human psyche.

    First, assume that all humans belong to one of three social classes: ruling class, middle class and under class (Republicans do not trust this classification!). Second, assume there is little variability within each class and little social mobility between the classes. Ethical responsibility (lack of ethical responsibility) is an independent variable that may explain the variability in trust (not trust). Professor Heskett should use social class as one of the independent variables, use a large data set and use advanced statistical methods (simple/multiple logistic regression) to test his hypotheses.

    Adam Smith in his treatise The Theory of Moral Sentiments postulated that trust (not trust) has a price and breaking the trust (establishing trust) has a price to pay.
    • Juan Antonio Aguirre
    • Chair for Entrepreneurship, Universidad Latina Costa Rica
    The research we have conducted in the topics seem to indicate that in LA, has to do with blantant lies and unfullfil promises add corruption in many of LA societies and you have the ideal combination for total mistrust.
    Is a real problem in emerging firms, the problem of not keeping offering and promise made in search of support of one kind or another as firms evolve. Is a reak shame but is really not getting better.
    • Tom Dolembo
    • Founder, New North Institute
    Many startups are energized by renewed trust, respect and a common purpose. The empowerment of trust is often created by a recent experience of being treated very unfairly at at prior employer. Frequently these folks take the memory and knowhow with them to the startup, give it a shared mission, and make it work. When the second and third stage occurs, sellout and greed happens, structure returns, and old memories emerge, trust evaporates, and the cycle repeats.
    I'd say that lack of trust creates new opportunity for the folks who leave, can devastate the old company, and offers an object lesson for managers. I have found that once an employee or employee group is betrayed by management, they revert to their last bad experience, and that reaction can be an unexpectedly serious one. Workplace violence often has its roots, however misplaced, in sociopathic indifference and the victims are often innocent.
    • Anand Krishna
    • Consultant
    Trust needs to be built and then purposefully sustained. It is not a one-time process, and even one infraction can damage the trust that exists between individuals.

    Across organizations, honest communication is getting scarcer. This is either because people seek to avoid a confrontation by not saying what is true (admittedly, there is a cultural flavor to this trait) or for reasons of political expediency or weak personal value systems. Frequently, communication is non-committal. This provides either (or both) sides with an easy and convenient exit route if one is required. Not surprisingly, the absence of powerful signals of honest intent can dilute (or even preclude) trust.

    For all practical purposes and for most employees, "management" typically means their immediate supervisor; at best, it might mean the executive who occupies the next higher level above the supervisor. Most interactions occur within this set of people. If all of them don't subscribe to the same vision, they will act in ways that do not foster alignment. Such actions too can spawn a vicious spiral of trust deficit.

    Building trust must necessarily start with acknowledging the right of another to view any situation from a perspective that is different from one's own. Leadership is about aligning these perspectives through inspiration, personal passion for and commitment to the cause and most important, by walking the talk. It is this set of traits that most managers and leaders lack.
    • Hugh Quick
    • home, none
    The importance of trust goes far beyond corporate matters, it governs all human relationships. Perhaps keeping promises, being honest and forthright, helping and supporting friends; being trustworthy, might be a way to promote trust.
    • Bill Flynn
    • CEO, Paeon Partners
    It seems to me there are 2 things in short supply in most organizations. Good communication and trust. I respect people who are doing research in this field because I'm sure there is much we can learn. Now the BUT, I can't trust someone if I don't know they're telling me the truth. I also can't trust someone who tells me something in private or confidence, unless it's personal and not pertinent to the job we are doing together.
    I also can't trust an environment in which decisions are made by edict, without input by the people who actually must carry out the orders. That worked in the old army, but even they have discovered the whorl is changing and as their job changes, practice must change with it.
    The boss is no longer the smartest person in the room. Probably he/she never was. Often, that person was just more cunning. A trait which does not promote trust.
    Teams need to work as an organism to be trustworthy and productive. Not because it's easy because it's not. It's messy. But so is poor performance and bad team work. We hire people for their brains and not their brawn anymore. We need to engage their brains, let them make mistakes and learn from them. But not in a vacuum designed to punish failure.
    The is a process (and perhaps many more) that can facilitate this kind of situation, and it's not difficult to learn. But few are willing to try to implement it because it appears to threaten the power structure. It actually strengthens it, but it doesn't look like it.
    No matter what we do about this, trying to think about this as another management problem will not bring any powerful solutions. Rethinking the situation from a different perspective. Be unsure about what you think you know. Try something scary. Just don't bet the farm on it the first time. And continue to judge the results.
    • Rebecca
    • Project Manager
    Once again, you ask a probing question that forces us to contemplate the deep meanings behind the success and failure of organizations.

    You cannot earn and keep trust as a leader without integrity. I suggest that the problem with the levels of trust in organizations is strongly correlated to the integrity that lie within the leaders. If leaders demonstrate a lack of integrity, people will naturally become circumspect about everything the leader does or says. I have to trust that you will do the "right thing" no matter what. That is a matter of integrity. Integrity is not a prerequisite to be placed in a leadership position. You can motivate and rule without integrity; however, the people which you rule will not trust you.
    • Edward Stern
    • Builder of Expert Systems, Gov't and various NGO's
    In the Babylonian Talmud tractate Avot, Chapter 4, the Sage Ben Zoma says: "Who is an honorable man? One who honors others." In today's terms, we might say: "Who is worthy of respect? One who respects others." We trust people we respect. We respect people who respect others by treating them with decency and civility. (Lying to people does not show respect for them.)
    • Mike Beer
    • Professor Emeritus, HBS
    In my work with organizations I have found that when they invite honest, collective and public conversations (We gave developed a method for doing this castled the Strategic Fitness Process, HBR 2004) that provides them with feedback from lower levels about their organization's and their leadership effectiveness and they respond to this feedback with appropriate action trust increases dramatically. Why? By asking lower levels for feedback - by making themselves vulnerable - leaders who have employed this process have shown they are are humble. In effect they have humanized themselves and the organization.
    • Stephen Achilles
    • Director, ERS
    Thank you for an interesting article on a timely and important topic. I have two thoughts sparked by this article.
    1. Poor behavior by so many leaders has created a general culture of mistrust.
    2. Trust is a function of credibility and communication divided by risk. The reality ois that very few leaders are effective at communicating with their employees. As such it is difficult for their teams to trust them.
    • Marlis Krichewsky
    • researcher in management education, CIRPP - Paris
    Jones & George (1998) show that trust is also a question of culture(values, rituals, basic assumptions according to E.H. Schein). Excessive turnover and continuous change make trust difficult. There is little opportunity for longtime experience with the other stakeholders. So modern society tends to replace trust by excessive control (to compensate the lack of trust). But control tends to provoke counterstrategies... Trust-based relations are far better than tight control. Trust engenders trust if partners are interdependent.
    • Anonymous
    I know that in my company the management lies to us and leads us on all the time. You get burned once by that kind of treatment, you'll never trust them again.
    • Tolga Habali
    • Director, Connecting to Canada
    Trust in a work place can only be achieved under a Leader who; has a good character, is fair, competent and who provides a happy work environment.

    - Good character requires courage, moral values, self-confidence, good heart and love for people
    - Fairness creates respect for the Leader. Either the leadership is exercised by power or by love, fair Leaders are always respected
    - Competency makes it difficult to challenge the legitimacy of the Leadership position
    - Happy work environment enables more positive oriented team atmosphere

    Today's problem is mostly Leadership problem rather than trust. Insecure, unfair, incompetent people holding leadership positions who are afraid of loosing their seats, whose motivation is solely securing their personal income, who are not behind their words, who are favouring "yes men" all the time, cannot establish trust in the workplace.

    Tolga Habali
    • Paul Nicholas
    • Director, Soul-Chaplain Consultancy
    Trust is instinctual and thus easy to achieve; its roots lie with our hunter-gatherer origins. When we are true to our nature trust and integrity - its behavioural corollary - follow as night follows day. Leaders displaying integrity and generating trust tend to place group interests as paramount - and so are often described as both 'humble' and 'authentic'.
    An unfortunate and inevitable consequence of this is that trust is too rarely found outside the small teams or organizations where relationships are personal and emotion-based.
    Trust, integrity, authenticity, humility and concern for group are not styles, skills or attributes, nor are they immutable - they are facets of personality and can be changed by recognizing what we are and what we must become in order to be complete as leaders,
    • Mark Greasley
    • MD, Inom Limited
    Management are making decisions for the good of the whole organisation and should be considering the bigger picture. Decisions made like this are not always in the interests of all the individuals in that organisation.

    People don't trust management because management do not have their interests at heart, management have the interest of the organisation at heart and this is not the same thing. This is why people can trust an individual manager but distrust management as a whole.

    The other factor is that lower down an organisation, the less people know about why decisions are being made - this just compounds the issue.
    • Tony Smale
    • Principal Consultant, Forte Management & Marketing Consultants
    We could be considering this issue through a social capital lens. One of the key elements of social capital is trust. One of the key measures of trust is the sanctions that occur if the trust is violated. It seems possible that staff viewing their management do not observe sanctions when trust is violated while there are sanctions at their level of the organisation - ipso facto - trust cannot accumulate between management and staff. That last sentence is important to. Trust does not exist or not exist - it accumulates - layer upon layer, experience upon experience. Paradoxically it can be eroded layer by layer but more often lost because of one particular episode.
    • Yadeed Lobo
    Trust has to do with confidence in leaders. And a context of confidence is very hard to achieve especially with many middle managers and political agendas.

    The high level perspective is offered by Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her book "Confidence". Three things are needed. Accountability, collaboration and initiative. If an employee takes initiative and collaborates across the silos of a business enterprise and is accountable for the outcomes achieved ( good or bad) and if the senior leadership team is willing to allow her/him to make mistakes/ make profits and learn from them then this engenders trust.

    The coal face ( low level )perspective is that in many organisations, your immediate boss almost always will not be someone you can trust as you are competing for his position or he may perceive that you are.

    However, if your boss's boss is someone who firstly knows what you have done and appreciates what you have done and rewards you then you have made a deposit of trust ( like a 10 year income preferred security bond) with that organisation.If however, the opposite occurs, then it is time for you to make a withdrawal of your trust and go and find trust in another organisation.

    I think people or organisations trust leaders at any level who are authentic(Gandhi, Kennedy) and make decisions not based on ulterior motives such as nepotism or cronyism but on genuine performance.
    • G.P.Rao.
    • Founder Chairman., Spandan (Foundation for Human Values in Management and Society), India.
    Building trust is indeed not a rocket science. It is rather a soft art of (a) having faith in the basic goodness of others; (b) manifesting such faith through (i) one's saying and doing at interpersonal level and (ii) evolving work ethic and culture at institutional level ; and, facilitating reciprocity in others (employees, subordinates and all other stakeholders of the given organisation) towards the organisation and its leadership. Easy to say, but difficult to translate into action. there is however no other go.

    Building trust is thus human value; and like for any other human value, relationality and reciprocity constitute the prereqiuesites for its adhernece. When veiwed from the perspective of human values, trust building becomes an excercise essentially of self introspection, awareness and improvement. Shorn of predominance of 'strategic' management, which involves managing others, trust building relates to managing self, more than anything else.

    - G.P.Rao
    • Vasudev Das
    • Researcher, ISKCON
    Why Is Trust So Hard to Achieve in Management?
    There is a need for managers to develop the virtue of fallibilistic flexibility, inasmuch as one of the deficiencies of the human condition is that we are fallible. A manager who does not demonstrate some sense of fallibilistic flexibility makes it difficult for employees to trust management.
    More than few managers, impelled by endogenous lust and qualitative modes of material nature, not only disrespect employees but also even emotionally abuse them, and this makes it difficult to trust management. The three modes of material nature - goodness, passion, and ignorance - are always vying for supremacy and impelling Homo sapiens to act in varying ways (Prabhupada, 2011; Widolf, 2007). The sensory modalities and the mind are the repository of lust, which forces living beings to act even against their better judgment.
    Managers' inability to demonstrate practical caring thinking skills in their relationships with employees makes it hard for employees to repose trust in management. Two types of caring are discernible: selfless caring, and caring with the intent to lord over. Antithetically, managers who are skilled in caring thinking very easily gain support and trust from employees.
    Trust is reciprocal. If a manager wants employees to trust management, then that manager should practice to trust employees. However, more than a few managers do not trust their employees, and this makes it difficult for employees to trust their management.
    Egocentric bias of more than a few managers facilitates trust sag in management. Discernibly, no one is the repository of all information culture; therefore, as soon as a manager begins to act as if he/she is the personification of all knowledge, a sober employee would find it difficult to trust such management.
    Low self-control of managers is a major stumbling block to trust in management. The general theory of crime (Gottfredson & Hirchi, 1990) brings to bear that self-control is the main determining factor of all crimes and antisocial behavior. Managers with high self-control would facilitate trust in management. Rupa Goswami (Prabhupada, 2011) asseverates that a manager with high self-control would not only invoke support and trust from employees/followers, but also be able manage and lead the entire global village. It is not hard to find managers/leaders that disappointed their organizations due to low self-control. Trust and low self-control are mutually exclusive.
    The exploitative mindset of more than a few managers makes it very difficult for employees to trust management. According to applied Vedic science (Prabhupada, 2011), exploitation of natural and human resources is inherently imbued in living beings. However, if exploitation is very pronounced or glaring in a manager's dealing with employees, under the banner of high yields, achieving trust in management becomes difficult.

    Gottfredson, M.R. & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
    Prabhupada, ACBS (2011). Bhaktivedanta VedaBase. Los Angeles, CA: Book Trust International.
    Widolf, H.E. (2007). Australian Antarctic scientists: Consciousness and behavior. A dissertation submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy, University of Tasmania.

    Vasudev Das, a researcher on leadership and organizational change, serves in ISKCON.
    • Jane D. Brown
    • Consultant, Education
    I agree with your observations. I think one key ingredient to Trust of management is as simple as do as I do, not do as I say. Leadership that can be seen and witnessed as doing what they say they are doing has a huge impact on staff morale and achievement. I work independently in many different organizations and I think the greatest contributor to organizational harmony and trust is to have a leader that is true to his/her word.
    • Arnoud Hoek MSc in General Management
    • Consultant, Arnoud Hoek Consultancy (Netherlands) & Corpus Optima Europe
    Wow Jim, what a great responses. And you know what? Everybody is right!! Because the word trust has a different value for everybody.

    However my research showed that you can develop a relationship based on trust by being aware of four different constructs. Which are: the level of transparency, the level of knowledge sharing, the power balance and the risk profile.
    All four constructs most be valued on a long term scale. (You know what short term gains did with trust!)

    I wrote my master thesis on the role of trust.

    In Holland I give presentations to sales forces and management to understand the role of trust and how trust can be developed and nurtured.

    I also developed a tool to manage the expectations of your customers, suppliers and employees, which is one of the most important issues in developing and sustaining a trusted relationship.

    When you want to discuss further on this topic, feel free to contact me.

    Kindest regards,

    Arnoud Hoek MSc
    Arnoud Hoek Consultancy
    Corpus Optima Europe
    • Deborah Nixon
    • President, Trust Learning Solutions
    My research found that most people believe they are trusted so it wouldn't occur to them to think that this is something they need to think about. How many people do you know that can look at themselves and truly believe they are not trustworthy? It's always somebody else who has the trust problem- never us. The same applies to trusting organizations, which are an extension of an executive's view of him or herself. If they don't trust the organization, then they have to wonder what they are doing there. Too threatening to think about.

    All of the trust work assumes a level of awareness that recognizes the problem in ourselves and a willingness to do something about it. So whether it's trust, honesty, being a good person, being kind etc. It all starts with how vulnerable we are willing to make ourselves and whether we want to be accountable for our own actions. It requires us to get out of the blame game and to own our mistakes, problems and bad behaviour. Work on that- the trust piece will follow.
    • Phillip Gelman
    • Sales Manager, Money In The Till
    There was a time - before hired MBAs were involved - that owners of companies or managers had some feelings for their workers. As a general rule, most workers know that management will throw them to the wolves while raising their own compensation.
    Workers get fired for management's mistakes but managers get golden parachutes.
    There is no reason to trust a boss: workers are mere commodities to new management.
    • Drs. B.H.C. Vlake
    • Director, Lecturer MBA, TWL training and advice
    Trust is obtained mainly by nonverbal signals from the environment. The environment influence our behavior. Trust is based on feeling and influenced by perception. The answer of trust must be find in the perception of the nonverbale signals. This process influence the interpretation process of verbal communication in our social environment.
    "Don't create expectations that can't be met" is an verbal issue but the feedback is based on the fact that the nonverbale context is so important.
    You have to change your paradigm regarding to the communication system to see what actually happened during this process.
    • David Lindsay
    • Tutor/Lecturer, Napier Business School
    Trust is one of those words that attracts subjective views and comments, similar to Respect, and Belief .This raises the Culture issue and a brief survey of differing cultures will reveal differing interpretations of this word. In western organisations there does not really exist a culture of cold stark obedience- unless the organisation is authoritarian such as police/armed forces et al..which relies on trust in a dynamic team environment - more a culture of questioning based not only on further or higher education principles but on the culture of personality. I believe that research of western organisations would reveal a greater level of "trust" in organisations where there is charismatic leadership and flat level hierarchies rather than top-heavy leviathans which have not or could not re-structure due to their business model . It would also be interesting to research trust in a multi-cultural environment as the variou
    s strands of attitudes and beliefs might expose varying strengths of trust in management leading to a breakdown in traditional team roles and values and subsequently to a new perspective on explicit or implicit trust in "management" generally .
    • Anonymous
    The issue is mgmt is not practiced as a profession.It is not a professional skill.I guess that is the direction one need to take if mgmt need to be trusted.(e.g) You trust a doctor becos he/she is a professional.
    Also in today's global dynamics, "trust" is such a relative term especially in MNCs which typically comprise of work force from different cultures and from different ethnic back grounds so much so that it can be so differently perceived just by its definition alone by different people.
    What is open for one person might be a very restrictive conversation or sharing of information for another, and I think this also adds new dynamics to what and how much of "trust" really exists in the given scenario.....
    • Anonymous
    People assume they'll be sacrificed to the psychopathic corporation and its hand maidens.
    • Ravindra Edirisooriya
    • Accountant 07/30/12, Midwestern Small Business
    The point "... management having a belief that they (already) are trusted." is reasonable since management work on (outside) the production process while (non-management employees) workers work in (inside) the production process. The implied assumption by the management, their belief of being trusted by the workers is fundamental, to any production process. Hence, the conclusion "... there is no need to pursue the question" (of trust) need to be reconsidered.

    In many enterprises, management treats workers as dispensable especially when there is greater supply (of labor) than demand, like today. Workers have very little choice other than to accept management's decisions or expectations and endure the consequences. Workers' expectations or demands can be either reasonable or unreasonable from workers' or management's perspective. When management's decisions or expectations and workers' demands or expectations, LINE UP OR WITHIN RANGE, a beautiful "trust" develops between the management and the workers. I once worked for the largest (in USA) privately held (no burning desire to maximize short-term - quarterly - profits) building products company whose executive management did a reasonably good job of keeping workers employed during lean times (no furloughs) and contributing a reasonable pot for profit-sharing in good times. I must say the majority of workers "trusted" the company.

    Our free society needs both the management and the workers in its current production processes. Trust may be explained as a function of quality (reasonable or unreasonable) of demands, decisions, expectations, their communication and other variables already explained in this forum. Social class (like minds/fellows, I assume, tend to think alike) and ethical/moral responsibility of the management and workers can be added to this function as covariates.
    • Donald Shaw
    • President, Donald E. Shaw, P.E.
    Trust is a combination of character and knowledge. It seems that trust starts with honesty--honesty about what you know and don't know. Neither seems to be prevalent in our narcissistic age. It seems to me that it has a great deal to do with something said by Lao Tse many centuries ago; "He who has the Tao cannot speak it. He who speaks it does not have it." Susan Cain's book "Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Cannot Stop Talking says a lot since most of that talking is about the self. Just consult Facebook and its cousins if anyone is in doubt. Our culture seems to hold up dishonesty as the road to success then question why trust is so hard to obtain.
    • rick
    • President, Hbizdr
    Trust, and all its component "values" reflect both the culture where "trust" is being studied as well as what is rewarded getting repeated.

    If one wishes to analyze trust at its most basic, one should start at the top of the food chain- where "leadership" should reside, but often is absent.

    In the US, we should start with our government. In doing so, one would easily connect the dots between: (1) politicians -who defile trust at every opportunity- and their ongoing lack of trust from their constituents as depicted by their continued low approval numbers as they engage in outright fraud, abhorrent acts of sexual misconduct, constructing lies to cover up other lies, and being mere marionettes of big business donors. Hence we see behaviors that erode trust without those behaviors having consequences; (2) corporations whose greed and abject record of ethical behavior for employees rights and health on a global scale (all for "profitability") have all but eroded trust. Again, without consequences: "too big to fail"; (3) our academic institutions who have failed to maintain minimum standards for educating young, fertile minds whilst chasing down endeavors for funding that often seem antithetical to their mission of delivering top-notch education fo
    r ALL; and finally (4) the media who have (by turning to "entertainment" versus reporting news for ratings share) become complicit in the dumbing down of America.

    The definition of "trust" is now being dictated by the "haves" to the "have-nots" again, without consequences. What gets rewarded gets repeated!
    • Gagan
    • Specialist
    Trust is an association between the manager and his/her employee. If there are glitches in this association, trust use to break. If any manager want to be trustworthy in his/her subordinates then he must think by putting his feet in his subordinates shoes. Also, realistic expectations can help him judge others as no one is a "superman".