When Trust Fails: Exploring Consequence in the Landscape of Trust

I’ve been #WorkingOutLoud to map the Landscape of Trust. I’m using this term to describe the complex facets of behaviour and belief that build or erode this most valuable of commodities. At the end of this work I hope to have a workable diagnostic that lets us map hotspots and evolve the organisation accordingly. We may think it’s obvious what happens when trust fails, but the point of this question is to explore the consequences in more detail.

The Landscape of Trust - consequence

I asked the question, “If you lack trust in the organisation you work for, what is the primary consequence?

I had a good response to this question, with 498 people providing an answer. Of that group, 32% of people said they were ‘less likely to stay’, 27% said they were ‘less likely to engage’, a further 27% said they were ‘less committed to help’, and 14% said they are ‘less likely to share’.

For me, the most significant result is not the first: the fact that 32% are less likely to stay is almost less important than the remaining 68% of people who say that they are less likely to engage, help, or share, as all of these things sit at the heart of the Socially Dynamic organisation.

Trust Survey Results

An earlier question reported that 54% of people have low or no trust in the organisation that they work for, so if we underline these results with that earlier result we start to be able to target significant percentages of our population who are effectively disengaged, not simply failing to help drive the business forward, but actively holding it back. Our challenge is to realise that this is often for very good reasons: that we as the organisation have created the circumstances in which people feel unable or unwilling to engage. The organisation has eroded trust and it’s down to the organisation to earn it back.

The number one question that organisations come to me with is “how do we get people to engage”, so significant the trust is part of the answer to this. In most of our work around the Social Age we are looking at how we encourage people to engage in communities, to engage in social learning, to engage in change. This reason if no other, we need to find a way to reach out this group. Almost as interesting is the 27% who are less committed to help: developing Social Capital is a core part of social leadership, helping others to be successful. It seems unlikely that we can develop Social Leadership if people are less committed to help. And ‘less likely to share’ is also significant, because sharing is a defining skill in the Social Age: curating appropriate content, shaping stories, and sharing them wisely.

The Socially Dynamic Organisation

One of the things I’ve avoided doing so far is to come up with any notion of the opposite of trust: I’m tempted to say that you either have trust or you don’t, it’s a matter of degree. If trust is eroded, you simply lack trust, is not necessarily replaced by anything else. It was significant that in one of the parallel earlier questions, where we asked whether people feel exploited or not, that 50% of people believed that their organisations sometimes or often exploited them, and 50% believed that the organisation usually or deeply values them. But I would not position exploitation as the opposite of trust, it may simply be that feeling exploited has a causal relationship to the erosion of trust, something I will try to explore further.

You may have noticed that in the write up to the last question I introduced the term “Landscape of trust” for the first time, really in response to the sense of exploration I had in breaking down the subjective term. It feels about right, and I’m going to try to build that out further, charting a landscape of trust and trying to understand the interrelationship between the different places on it, the trade routes if you like.

For example, if people feel exploited will they lose trust? If we can move the meter so that they feel less exploited, will that automatically build trust, or is it more complicated than that? We’ve already seen an interesting relationship emerge between trust, freedom, and reward. It may be that we need to come up with strategies that deal with all three, not simply focus on the one that is easiest to deal with. I’m also pleased to be able to break down some of the catch-all terms like ‘reward’ into more meaningful subsets that we can do something with, in that case how can we reward with reputation, opportunity, and building legacy.

I will continue to #WorkOutLoud developing these ideas, sketching out the landscape of trust, and sharing it as i go.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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12 Responses to When Trust Fails: Exploring Consequence in the Landscape of Trust

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  10. Reblogged this on Social Media Challenges and commented:
    Over the past six years, I have becoming fascinated with online communities and measurements. A huge number have failed, in large, as a result of gaming the new uncharted territory that is the internet. These reposts of Julian Stodd’s work are provocative and irresistible. I begin by offering some of his best blogs as a basis for discussion. The rest of the work to be done is still fuzzy, but increasingly beguiling. I appreciate your thoughts. I have not yet had the opportunity to speak with Julian. This is a new place to channel and share thoughts with friends.

  11. Pingback: When Trust Fails: Exploring Consequence in the Landscape of Trust | If it ain't broke...

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