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Trust: A Dimension of Organizational Culture

Trust can easily be measured by a simple text message. The trust you have placed in a person or in your company can be discovered with two little, electronic words, “Call me.” Your reaction to this phrase is directly based on how much trust you have with the sender. If you have the senders trust, and you trust them, you may choose to call them at your convenience. If you don’t trust the sender, questions start to form in your mind, worry sets in. What could this be about? Have I done something wrong? Can I just pretend I didn’t read this message? I’m Elise with Woodworth Enterprises and today our topic is about trust and its measurable effect on organizational culture. Trust is an easily overlooked element of a company culture, but without it there is no foundation to build an effective relationship, or business, upon. As such, it is one of the categories that we regularly assess.

Consider this story.

One of the branches of my family tree reaches back to the coal mines in Kentucky. I loved to listen to the stories my grandfather would tell. One in particular was of his father, he was a foreman and his job was to weigh the coal cars as they came up from the mine. The workers in the mine would place a numbered chit on each cart to identify who filled which cart. The workers were credited for how much coal they sent up. As the story goes, the company told my great grandfather to short the weights that were being brought up. He refused and they “encouraged” him with bribery and by threating his job. He stood firm that he would not steal from the workers. He quit his job and took to farming and trucking coal around the region.

Trust was not one of the coal company’s cultural focuses, and history, in general does not remember them fondly. Workers didn’t trust the company; the company didn’t trust the workers. Times were, of course, much different than they are today. While we cannot change it, we can learn from the past. Without trust resentment, deception, and suspicion rule the day.

If I asked your employees if they could rely on people they work with, what would they say? If I asked them to describe their relationship with their organization, would you be comfortable with their response? How would they respond if I asked if they were trusted by their company?

People will be guarded, edgy, and disengage if trust is not the foundation of your culture. If turn-over rates are higher than reasonable; if your team isn’t collaborating effectively, sharing ideas, or simply having conversations; or if tension levels are higher than they should be, it could be a matter of trust. If these are characteristics you recognize on your team or in your company, spending time assessing the cause of this problem is critical. If your company is trustworthy, if your employees are trustworthy, then there should be a healthy foundation for business and relationships to flourish.

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