Samir Sathe | 24 Aug, 2021
not trust our people to deliver their best", "I do not trust my
customers to pay us on time". Or "I do not trust our government to
make judicious use of our tax money".
leader grumbles that his boss never trusts him with any task, and the
operations leader complains about not trusting his suppliers consistently.
We have a
trust deficit in businesses, between the public and governments, between
countries, between any personal relationships with varying degrees.
responsible for generating an emotion of ‘trust’. This is a chemical that
increases bonding, love and trust. The absence of it increases anxiety and
distrust. Business leaders, employees, governments are suffering from the lowest
levels of oxytocin in their brains.
external situation often surges trust deficits. E.g. in COVID, the basic
assumptions of operating businesses turned upside down. It put to question the predictability
and reliability of conducting businesses, which spiked anxiety, which caused
trust deficit. Empirical evidence suggests that both of these emotions are significantly
The rate of
failures, closures of businesses, and struggle that entrepreneurs went through
has put into question their capabilities, eroding self-worth, leading to a
bigger crisis of self-doubt. Self-doubt is one of the most dangerous emotions
that destroys confidence, with one beginning to mistrust oneself. Today, a significant
proportion of micro and small entrepreneurs are suffering from it. Alas, there
is no measurement of the damage, and the real magnitude is unknown.
managers and employees alike often have a fear of failure. Fear of poor
performance or drive for excellence in cultures where high performance is
valued often results in micromanagement by managers and leaders, which signals
the emotion of mistrust among employees. This is compounded if the leaders are
narcissists and have a command and control style of operations. This trust
deficit could be catastrophic and mostly manifests in poor employee engagement
and retention, leading to talent flight and risk to business continuity.
mistrust. The unfortunate part is that the trust deficit often leads to
scrutiny. The rapid progress made by technology has enabled organisations to face
the subject of data-led decisions. The interest, investment and impact of this
subject has catapulted in the last ten years. While data-led decisions are
becoming the mantra of many organisations, and rightly so, the insistence on
data as verification for everything one needs to know has innocuously also
resulted in mistrust amongst managers, leaders and employees. One would notice
it in performance evaluation sessions between the managers and employees.
Employees need empowerment; managers need to verify the trust they have placed
in the employees, clearly damaging the trust and relationships.
situations like health, security, verification becomes important. However, in
any business, relationships matter. Trust dislikes verification. Verification
is needed to know whether the emotion of trust is translated into behaviours
and reality. Funnily, businesses insist that relationships and trust in
businesses are critical components to their success and, on the other hand,
make investments in systems that verify the same trust that damages the trust.
Deficit to Deposit
three principles that matter.
Firstly, the agreement between two
individuals that they are committed to transacting with each other if they
treat emotion of trust as the starting point unless proved otherwise. The
mistake most professionals may make is to start with the assumption of mistrust
unless proved otherwise. Of course, in critical situations, it is the opposite.
Secondly, a commitment to each other that
they would not transact if they do not agree to trust each other. I have seen
in most situations, two people transact and grumble about the mistrust between
them, spending enormous resources to prove trust. That’s does not make sense.
Thirdly, a demonstration of behaviour that
builds trust. It is not enough to carry the emotions in mind; it is important
to behave accordingly. If one is not authentic in one’s behaviours, these terms
remain intellectual, providing little help to enterprises.
Sathe is Executive Vice President, Wadhwani Advantage at Wadhwani Foundation