Trust and Consequences

By Cindy Vallance

I have been interested in the subject of trust for some time but have struggled to find the best way to discuss it. Who would come to a meeting to discuss trust? Yet trust is in short supply in nearly every strata of society and in nearly every organisation and institution.

Why is trust so important?

In the absence of trust, what do we get? Cynicism – especially towards change, low motivation and commitment, lack of confidence in the organisation, a reluctance to take risks, and an enormous cost in untapped potential and possibility.

It can actually be easier to trust than to distrust, since in practice no one can constantly monitor another’s behaviour. Trust therefore can act as a substitute for control. The trouble is that at this level trust is really no more than indifference.

However, there are many more positive and important reasons to consider the value of trust. In a group or team situation, the presence of trust will improve the group’s cohesion , errors and failures will be better tolerated and ideas, opportunities and problems will all be more readily shared.

Language is important and we all attach different meanings to the same words. Next time I will share some responses to the question below and will discuss some meanings of trust. In the meantime, think about your own response to this question or consider using the Comments section below and share your thoughts.

“When I trust someone, what I mean is … (fill in the blanks) …”

I would like to acknowledge that this series on trust is based very much on my own learning from Professor A.R. Elangovan, Associate Dean and Director, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada who generously shared his research interests on this topic when I was a student there and who truly walks the talk of what he teaches.

Reference:

Betrayal of Trust in Organizations, A. R. Elangovan and Debra L. Shapiro The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Jul., 1998), pp. 547-566 Published by: Academy of Management.

 

One thought on “Trust and Consequences”

  1. Cindy, you hit on a really important point here: ‘the presence of trust will improve the group’s cohesion , errors and failures will be better tolerated and ideas, opportunities and problems will all be more readily shared’. these are all fundamentals for establishing a place of work where we are ready to learn and improve both the activities we carry out and results that we achieve. This is what Peter Senge calls a ‘learning organisation’.

    There are many other aspects to Senge’s ideas, but from a practical point of view, people need to CHOOSE to behave in this way. As you specifically mention – trust is not just indifference and trust is not just the opposite of distrust. Building trust is an active choice: to be open to dissent, to encourage ideas, to seek solutions rather than apportion blame, to listen and understand, to accept that errors may not just be about the person who made them, to encourage innovation and experimentation.

    I look forward to your upcoming blogs!

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