Trust is dwindling!

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By: Mary Beth McEuen

Employee trust in senior management, direct supervisors and co-workers is dwindling! This is the headline of a recent Maritz Poll. It causes me to ask, why is it that after a decade of trying to engage employees, we are worse off then ever. Isn’t trust fundamental to employee engagement?

Thisline in the Maritz Poll write-up caught my eye … “only seven percent of employees strongly agree they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interest.”

That is astonishing, isn’t it? I wonder how many customers believe that senior leaders of the companies they buy from have their best interest at heart? It begs the question, “What are the underlying business philosophies that are contributing to such dismal trust?”

I wonder if what James G. March, Emeritus Professor at Stanford,has to say about flawed business logic may provide some clues into the trust dilemma business is facing. In a nutshell, he says that business logic is, for the most part, grounded in consequential logic. Consequential logic says that choice is driven by expectations, incentives, and desires. People go through this rational approach when making a choice: 1.) What are my alternatives? 2.)What are the consequences that I expect will follow? 3.)How do I evaluate theconsequences from point of view of my desires? and 4.)How do I choose the alternativewhere theconsequences aremost aligned with my desires?

The problem with consequential logic is that it simply isn’t the full picture of what drives human behavior. Consequential logic excludes the ideas of humans as driven by identity, contribution, and human connection.

Perhaps this prevailing business philosophy around consequential logic underlies the dauntingerosion oftrust. What do you think? What are the business/humandynamics that must be addressed in order for trust to be built in a lasting way?

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