In small businesses, as in life, it is important to consider whether you can trust a person. The people around the business may be employees, clients, or vendors and each relationship is unique. And, as important as trust is, when it is violated there are repercussions, sometimes expensive ones. We have certainly had more than our share of situations in which people in whom we placed trust violated that trust. Too many to think about really. But, a business cannot operate without trust – that is a painful reality. Trust is a two way street, of course. Clients, employees, and vendors must be able to trust the business owners or bosses. But we have to trust each of these as well. Our promise is to be honest and open with all constituents and our expectation is for them to do the same. We all have to trust strangers on a daily basis – consider the pilots, drivers, store clerks, and delivery people who are part of our daily lives. Trust is a big part of providing customer service – but many times it seems that this aspect of customer service is forgotten. In a workplace and with clients or vendors, the expectations for performance are often spelled out in manuals, contracts, etc. These documents provide the ability to trust, but verify. Yet while it may be hard to trust anyone, we are faced with the reality that we have to do so. Trust makes the world go round, just hold on for the ride!
Trust is an interesting personality construct that varies greatly among people and depends on a person’s life experiences, particularly experiences early in life. In the same manner in which my spouse/business partner differ on many traits, we differ greatly in the degree to which we trust other people. My partner, who had a more idyllic childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood than I, is far more trusting of other people. In addition, my education and training as a social psychologist (including considerable time observing people through one way mirrors in research laboratories) has solidified the absence of trust I have in most people. My partner, therefore, is a person who accepts most people at face value, choosing to believe most people are deserving of his trust, and I, on the other hand, trust no one, instead requiring people to earn my trust. We have had a recent experience involving the theft of a considerable amount of money from our corporate bank account. Although the investigation is incomplete as of this writing, I am almost 100% certain of the culprit’s identity, as well as the fact that this highly untrustworthy person was improperly placed in a position of trust, allowing the complicit, unlawful act of thievery to be perpetrated against my company, my partner, and me. David mentions having to trust the airline pilot to fly the airplane safely; I do so primarily because I do not believe most commercial airline pilots have a death wish, such that they want to arrive safely, just like their passengers. However, when it comes to trusting the average person, including a new hire, I am very cautious indeed.