The Consequences Of Global Decline In Organisational Trust

The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted

– Mahatma Gandhi

Trust means confidence, certainty and expectation.

When you trust people, you have confidence in them, their integrity and their abilities. When your distrust people, you are suspicious of them. You are suspicious of their agenda, their abilities, their integrity and their capabilities.

In today’s global economy, TRUST is king. Trust is the social underpinning of social behaviour and social reality. Society needs trust providing us with the certainty and confidence of the day-to-day interaction. Without trust, our lives would lead to paralysis of inaction and possible chaos.

You will not step into a plane if you do not trust that specific airline or the pilot’s ability to fly the aircraft safely. You would not drive a car if you had no trust that other drivers did not follow the road rules. You would not invest in an asset if you believed that investment could be lost at any time or you had no control of it. You would not trust a government if you knew that it was acting corrupt and mischievous. You would not trust an organisation if the culture were of toxic nature.

Low trust causes friction, whether it is caused by unethical behaviour or by ethical incompetence behaviour. Low trust is the highest cost in life and the organisation. Low trust creates hidden agendas, politics, conflicts, disagreements and defensive/offensive behaviour. Low trust slows everything, every decision, every communication and every relationship.

Example: A government employee status changed to “deceased”

What happened?  

A government employee changed the status of another employee on a database so that she appeared as “deceased” as a result of an online chat confrontation that got him kicked out of the forum.

The incident was detected when she tried to open a bank account and was informed that she was listed as deceased in the government database.

The insider was convicted, sentenced to one year of probation and fined.

High trust produces stronger relationships, develops loyalty, enhances reputation and yields better results.

In business, trust is like the human blood system, which feeds the necessary body with the oxygen it needs requires. These are often called collaboration, cooperation, empowerment, alliance, partnerships, exchange, and commerce in business. These blood vessels sustain the day-to-day quality-of-life relationships.

As such, trust impacts us 24 x 7 x 365 days a year.

Trust is the critical denominator to all our lives. Should it be removed, it will destroy the most influential leader, the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy and the deepest of love. On the other hand, if developed accordingly, it has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life.

Yet, we take TRUST for granted. It is the least understood, most neglected and most underestimated.

It’s a matter of trust…

Every day, your organisation processes business transactions, collect sensitive data and collaborate with partners. To make all this work, the modern enterprise depends on TRUST – trusting employees to not divulge company secrets, trusting partners to not leak customer information and trusting suppliers to protect sensitive data.

When insiders need access to sensitive information and critical systems to do their jobs and service customers, the organisation needs to establish and enforce a level of “faith” associated with that access.

Trusting stakeholders to use their access privileges appropriately and verifying that they do so can be the most critical and complex challenge of dealing with insider threats.

  • Do you trust your colleagues?
  • Do you trust senior management?
  • Do you trust your business partners?

The global deterioration of trust

Over the years, “trust” has become increasingly difficult to attain, starting with events such as the Enron, News Corp, Wells Fargo scandals exacerbated by the global financial crises and failures.

Not surprisingly, employee trust in management is declining across the globe.

There are three significant areas that weaken trust:

  1. Ethics. Ethics is the foundation to trust, but by itself is insufficient. You can’t have trust without ethics, but you can have ethics without trust.
  2. Stress. Stress has become a serious concern for individuals and organisations. Today, the workplace stress level is at an all-time high, and these implications are alarming.
  3. Disposition. The personality characteristics can contribute positively or negatively to the organisation’s welfare and goals. For example, the following diagram depicts a potential employee with a negative disposition that may cause an insider incident.

If you are a frontline employee and don’t believe senior management will do the right thing for you, you probably have no choice but to look after yourself first. When you put your agenda ahead of the organisation, any chance of the business achieving its vision of winning go right down the drain.

The negative consequences of lack of trust are too numerous to list here in the business world. However, the most devastating are trusted insiders committing harm to their organisation high-value assets.

The consequences of an insider committing harm can be substantial, including financial losses, operational impacts, damage to reputation and harm to individuals.

The actions of a single insider have caused damage to organisations ranging from a few lost staff hours to negative publicity and financial damages so extensive that organisations have been forced to lay off employees and even close operations.

Insider incidents have repercussions beyond the victim organisation, disrupting operations or services critical to a specific sector or creating serious risk to public safety and national security

Something to Think About…

If you thought building trust within is challenging, consider the following scenarios:

  • Collusion with outsiders – Insiders can be recruited by or work for outsiders, including organised crime and foreign organisations or governments.
  • Culture difference – Another level of complexity is added by the rapidity of globalisation, which brings people from all corners of the world closer together with different sets of values and cultures. The allowance for other cultures and therefore trusts within the organisation is difficult.
  • Mergers and acquisitions – Insiders from two different organisations with different cultures are forced to unify into a single structure and most often fight for the same role.
  • Foreign allegiances – Organisations operating in foreign countries must consider that insiders will have loyalties to that country.

The Universal Law of cause-effect states for every effect, there is a definite cause. So likewise, for every cause, there is a definite effect also known as “Karma” – the spiritual principle of cause and effect.

A security breach is a breach of trust.

It is the effect that an insider manifests as a direct result of a cause of action (or none), whether it be malicious or unintentional.

Organisations seeking to improve their business trust will need to engender organisation trust.

One thing for sure, critical challenges in our human social behaviour are to re-think how technology’s rapid progress will impact trust. This is especially true as we continue advancing in the realm of remote work and virtual life.