Written by
Sarah Clark

Published
29 Mar 2017

How trusted are you?

29 Mar 2017 • by Sarah Clark

In today’s ever-changing world of work, in which you and your organisation are exposed to the phenomenon of social networking, plus the increasing use of artificial intelligence, the workplace is fast moving from ‘complicated to complex’.

You may be struggling to keep up with your job as it evolves (a robot may even be taking over your role) and, due to ‘social’, face increasing scrutiny and judgement from your peers. You may feel the pressure to have an ‘Instagram-worthy’ working environment. Added to this, the entrepreneurial generation is pushing you to think more innovatively.

Meanwhile, the impending Brexit, following a controversial campaign, and Donald Trump’s unexpected and surprising election as US president have shaken up our world, undermining trust in authority.

The underlying message is that people want change. To rebuild trust, leaders must throw out the old ‘rulebook’ and replace ‘command and control’ with collaboration, embracing vulnerability. The future of work is human – let’s transform uncertainty into greater unity.

Laura Harrison, director of people and strategy, CIPD

Research into ‘trust’ shows that the strongest underpinning requirement is ‘belief in competence’. That is, if you’re my boss or peer, and I believe you know what you’re doing, I’m more likely to trust you.

The unpopularity of leaders who appear to be promoted beyond their competence seems to bear this out. When you’re constantly questioning why someone did what they did, made the decisions they made, or pursued a particular course of action, the game is truly over. Trust has gone, and cynicism and self-interest is in its place.

This idea becomes challenging in a world that’s moving from complicated to complex. In a sense, we’re all incompetent in the face of this complexity; no one has all the answers. What does this mean for trust? Perhaps we need, collectively, to rethink our evidence for ‘competence’; show willingness to be vulnerable, share ‘our workings’ before final decisions, and let others in, lowering our expectations. We should start to see the human in our leaders and colleagues, and offer a helping hand.

It may be as simple as trusting others as a default, and accepting that it’s fault in the right direction if your trust is misplaced. I’m taking his approach this year, and so far so good.

Robert Phillips, co-founder, Jericho Chambers

We are living through an interregnum. The old world order is not quite dead, the new one not quite born. Trust and truth are high-profile victims of the interregnum and the fight for truth is likely to be the pre-eminent battleground of 2017.

The ‘future of work is human’, originated by the CIPD, has determined not to give up on humans as little more than ‘bad robots’. Diversity of thought is as important as diversity of gender, orientation or race. We shouldn’t fear embracing brave ideas – for example, banishing crass and competitive measurement systems and placing oracy alongside numeracy in the schoolroom.

This year needs to be activism and action. Now is the time to help negotiate a more optimistic future. By embracing and demonstrating vulnerability, greater trustworthiness is emerging.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, dean of the School of Management, University of Bath

People judge whether a leader or an organisation is trustworthy according to three main criteria: their ability and competence to do the job or fulfil their purpose; their benevolence and goodwill towards others and their integrity/moral compass; and finally, the extent to which they demonstrate trustworthiness.

My research, post 2008, shows that other management practices bolster trust in times of uncertainty, particularly honest and straightforward communication, delivered face to face, engendering a sense of higher purpose.