More random thoughts and snippets on organisational trust ahead of next week’s Melcrum SCM Summit in London.
“Trust is a fragile plant which may not endure inspection of its roots, even when they were, before the inspection, quite strong” Baier
What exactly is trust?
Decades ago Douglas McGregor wrote on the importance of trust in The Professional Manager: “Trust means I know that you will not – deliberately or accidentally, consciously or unconsciously – take unfair advantage of me. It means I can put my situation at the moment, my status and self-esteem in the group, our relationship, my job, my career and even my life in your hands with complete confidence.”
Galford & Drapeau, writing in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago, suggest there are three types of trust:
- Personal trust – the trust employees have in their own managers and close work colleagues
- Strategic trust – the trust employees have in the people running the show to make the right decisions
- Organisational trust - the trust employees have in the organisation itself
A few years ago the consultancy Mercer conducted some research on the organisational impact of trust. They found that 62% of employees who are kept informed about changes affecting the organisation trust their management team, compared to just 9% of employees who say they are not kept informed about changes.
Edelman’s most recent Trust Barometer found that nearly two in three informed publics—62% of 25-to-64-year-olds surveyed in 20 countries—say they trust corporations less now than they did a year ago. More worrying still was the scale of the decline over 12 months. Trust in US-based business—at 38% down from 58% last year—is the lowest in the Barometer’s tracking history among informed publics ages 35 to 64— even lower than in the wake of Enron and the dot-com bust.
Trust is about predictable behaviour – an expectation that one’s interests will be protected, having confidence in the reliability and integrity of others, and believing that people have a moral compass and will act with fairness, integrity and honesty.
Hosmer (1995) suggests that trust-based relationships are characterised by five dimensions:
- trust is generally expressed as optimistic expectation
- trust will generally occur under conditions of vulnerability
- trust is generally associated with willing cooperation
- trust will be difficult to enforce should a breakdown occur
- trust is supplemented by an expectation that the trusted is morally bound to protect rights and behave in a way that is good for society.
In his entitled book Trust, Jack R Gibb highlights a number of situations in which distrust is likely to occur:
- where the organisation’s leaders are feared
- where employees are placed under excessive pressure
- where sales and corporate performance is poor
- when the organisation is faced with an emergency or crisis
- where there are poor labour relations (step up Royal Mail)
- where the vision and direction of the organisation is unclear
- where there is cultural unrest
If you’re heading for the SCM Summit next week, I look forward to seeing you there!