Clicky

Tuesday, November 21, 2020

Keeping (or Restoring) Trust

A study published via [email protected] has some important findings in the area of trust at work: one of the most abused and ignored areas of human interactions in recent years. Maurice E. Schweitzer, professor of operations and information management and a co-author of the report, characterizes how trust and trust violations influence people's behavior in the workplace like this:
Trust is the social glue that holds things together. It allows us to engage in social and commercial ventures. You can't contract everything. We develop relationships that are based on trusting that things will work out.
In the workplace, trust is an essential element between colleagues sharing a project, people trusting that the boss will arrange equitable rewards and recognize good work, or customers trusting that the product or service you supply will be there on time and match up to what you promised.

It makes little business sense to violate others’ trust, yet as the authors of the report say:
Trust is critical for organizations, effective management and efficient negotiations, yet trust violations are common. Trust violations can range from serious misdeeds that constitute fraud ... to more common forms of trust violations, such as the use of deception in negotiations.
The more that people feel they have been mislead deliberately, the longer it takes for them to rebuild any trust in that person.
Once trust was violated, the researchers found that a simple apology did very little to make things better. Perhaps we have all become too used to the kind of knee-jerk apology that has more to do with feeling sorry you have been caught than any genuine remorse at doing something dishonest. A promise to change behavior helped restore trust, especially initially, but a promise like that was not as effective when there had been deception of any kind. In fact, deception proved to be the worst aspect of having your trust abused. While people will, generally, forgive untrustworthy behavior—so long as it is not too common, and the person promises to reform in the future—untrustworthy action compounded by deception will so destroy a person’s reputation for honesty that it can be difficult to restore. The more that people feel they have been mislead deliberately, the longer it takes for them to rebuild any trust in that person.

I think the hardest aspect of dealing with deliberate deception is that is makes the person who has been deceived feel like a fool. Not only has their trust been violated (bad enough on its own), but the other person has shown the world how easily they can be taken in. In fact, the very act of deception means that you must assume the person who you are going to deceive isn’t bright enough to spot what you are doing.

Hamburger Management is full of manipulation and deception: acknowledging fine work, followed by lay-offs when they offer short-term profits; finding ways to downgrade payment and limit benefits, while those in more senior positions take home vast rewards from stock options; manipulating financial statements to give the appearance of success, when failure is the reality.
Is deliberate deception that common in organizations? I would say it is. Not always in the simple form of lying, cheating, or setting out to screw the other person in some negotiation—though all those are common enough. The commonest form of deliberate deception is manipulation: the boss who uses fake promises and insincere protestations of regard to manipulate people into working extra hours without pay, or digging him or her out of hole. The superior who invites ideas, then passes them off as his or her own to those higher up on the organization. The management that is full of fine words about honesty and ethical dealing, then uses them as a smokescreen to cover dubious business dealings that guarantee a profit. Hamburger Management is full of manipulation and deception: acknowledging fine work, followed by lay-offs when they offer short-term profits; finding ways to downgrade payment and limit benefits, while those in more senior positions take home vast rewards from stock options; manipulating financial statements to give the appearance of success, when failure is the reality.

Suppose you have been foolish enough to act in a dishonest way. Maybe you have even used some of the commoner forms of deception and manipulation, because you were taught that this is the way “strong” bosses behave. Is there any way to put it right?

The article that began this post makes these suggestions:
  • Give a clear apology

  • Show Genuine remorse

  • Offer to make the harm good

  • Own up to what your actions have made you (an idiot and a jerk)

  • Ask for forgiveness
I would add this: Learn from your mistake. Abusing trust and manipulating people is seductive precisely because it seems to offer quick returns with a good chance that you won’t be found out. In fact, other people are not nearly so stupid as serial deceivers wish to believe. You will probably be found out in time. When that happens, you will have destroyed something more precious than you imagine: your reputation for honest dealing. Once it is gone, it cannot be recovered quickly or easily. Everyone will hear about it and none will trust you as they once did. That goes for your bosses as well. While they may secretly congratulate you on “bringing home the bacon,” however you did it, you can be sure that they will have noted your actions and will take care in future that you have no opportunity to deceive them. After all, there’s nobody so distrusting of other people as a person who cheats.

Add to Technorati Favorites Stumble Upon Toolbar

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.