Components of Trust
Trust is a word that always has been and continues to be at the very basis of human communication. We trust that when we drink water from the faucet it is not laced with arsenic. We trust that our institutions will reflect the dialogue they expound. National publications frequently list trust as one of the key components that employers and employees are looking for in each other. Our front-page headlines question trust in our political representatives, our major corporations, and our religious organizations. Why this questioning of an age-old idea?
Fragility of Trust
Here’s an example about the fragility of trust. You have worked for the same company for fifteen years. One payday your boss comes to you and says, “We have a computer problem and cannot pay you this period. (You get paid every two weeks.) Do you look for another job? No way. Two weeks later your boss says, “The problem was more significant than we thought, and a high level computer specialist is being flown in so I cannot pay you this period.” Do you find another job? No. Two weeks later the boss comes again stating, “I don’t know what to say except that another expert is coming, and I still cannot pay you.” Do you look through the want ads? The overwhelming majority of participants say, “yes.” Here is the ratio—fifteen years: six weeks. So what? Today, with a small amount of failure, a long relationship can be fractured.
Part of the problem may be how we establish trust. If another person is a Brother, Saudi, or Egyptian is that person one to trust? How about a fellow mosque or social club member—do we trust him or her more? The point is that for the most part we do not know how to define trust, or the components and priorities of it. Am I trying to make this feeling or emotion of trust too scientific or objective? No. I am trying to make the components of it clear, so that when someone or some organization is establishing trust, there is some parameter to examine. How are we to reestablish a broken trust if the components are not known? Does every thinking person know what a trust standard is? I think the answer is no. The standards are as different as snowflakes. Let’s say an employer and employee have a relationship that they believe is based on trust. Things go along fine for some period then the employer finds out that the employee has lied to her about a work-related issue. She decides to fire the employee. The employee says whoa—I thought we were on the two out of three standard. How easy is it to have the wrong standard of trust? If you never have established what trust is, or what its components are, it is easy to say, “It is over,” whether it be with an individual, a company, or a country.
Where do we start? Recognize that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a melting-pot country. People with different cultural mores move here for a variety of reasons, so developing trust can be difficult. Let’s examine the factors/components of trust. First is reliability. Whether it is the corner greasy spoon or the white linen place, what both restaurants strive for is reliability. Reliability is something you can count on, and it has two components. The first component of reliability is consistency—being able to deliver a repeatable product time after time. This also means developing a consistent attitude, consistent rules, and possibly a consistent way of resolving problems. Consistency is where your actions and words are those that can be predicted into the future. The second component of reliability is accountability. It is “the buck stops here” attitude. When an entity is accountable they are willing to take the responsibility for their actions and to make the necessary corrections. Too often in our society we look to blame or to shift responsibility to someone else at the first sign of trouble without looking in the mirror to our own responsibility. We have become experts at ignoring our own participation. Trust develops when both sides say I/we will make it right or do our best to try. Sometimes accountability merely requires the acknowledgment of the infraction and an apology. At other times accountability requires significant compensation. Accountability is important because trust at some time may be broken; without accountability, the possibility of restoring trust is probably lost. The second major component of trust is truthfulness. In order for trust to develop and become the foundation of any relationship, truthfulness needs to be the mortar that hold