Trust in organisations: Back to the basics

Deddi Tedjakumara, Executive Director of the Prasetiya Mulya Executive Learning Institute, says it's time for organisations to focus on building trust.
By: | October 24, 2019

In the past few years, trust in organisations has again become an interesting topic to be conversed. In the 2019 Global Human Capital Trend reported by Deloitte, trust in leadership had become an essential agenda item for leaders who want their employees to have human experiences, and not just employee experiences.

Trust is defined as the willingness of a person to be vulnerable due to the behaviour of others. In organisations, trust can exist between leaders and followers, and vice versa, and also in interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal trust is positively correlated with commitment, task performance, and group satisfaction in many empirical findings. Trust also has a positive impact on organisational citizenship behaviour.

Is trust in the organisation something new? Obviously not. In the history of leadership, trust has actually been the foundation. Leadership would not exist if there was no trust from those who would later become followers. Alas, along with the greater scope and complexity of leadership, the process of building trust as a pillar of leadership is often perceived as too long, too expensive, and perhaps too painful.

The management system is seen as the mechanism to replace personal trust. We may often hear the statement: “don’t trust people, but trust the system”. There is nothing wrong with the system but building a system to protect trust, and developing a system to replace trust are two different things. With the rapid development of the management system, the role of trust in the organisation has dimmed.

The role of trust in leadership and organisations is felt to be more significant when the organization is confronting rapid changes and high uncertainty. Agility in organisations requires trust. Unfortunately, building trust is a long process since trust is not only cognitive-based but also affection-based.

Trust in an organisation can be inducted when the people in it have sufficient abilities to get the work done. Ability makes someone dare to entrust a job to others, even if the work or results will bring an impact on them. Trust begins to grow when consistency of work and its results take place. This type of trust is cognitive-based trust and usually occurs in an atmosphere of accountability.

This trust will not develop further without a personal relationship between the two parties. Reliability of the work and its results do not necessarily produce high quality relationships. These must be deliberately sought, and is not a process that happens naturally.

The leader’s job is to create a relational atmosphere, and not just an accountability environment. In this relational environment, a person becomes comfortable to be themselves. Authenticity is the most important stage in building deeper and stronger trust. Affection-based trust is a trust that is based on knowledge and acceptance of the authenticity of both parties, and not due to mere emotional situations. That is the reason why building trust is never an instant process.

Intense relationships based on authenticity will create healthy attachment. At this stage, a person has the courage to be vulnerable due to the behaviour of others – not only because of their adequate abilities, but because of they believe that the other party will make every effort so that they do not experience something bad.

Each party will give their best, not for their own interests, but for the interests of the other party. Each party is concerned about maintaining the trust that has been formed. This level of trust is needed when an organisation faces a volatile and ambiguous situation.

Ability, authenticity, and attachment will build a healthy trust in organisation. Those things are not something that can happened by themselves. This is where the role of the leader is crucial. They will need to put serious effort into ensuring trust is present across every level of their organisation.

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About the author





Deddi Tedjakumara is the Executive Director of Prasetiya Mulya Executive Learning Institute.