Bankers’ highly risky behaviour has brought the financial crisis; the MPs’ expenses scandal has reduced trust in their financial probity; journalists’ phone-hacking and their close relations with the police have undermined trust in those groups; and even the clergy has not escaped censure with the reported cases of child abuse.

Trust is not static, and can change over a short period of time.  It can take decades to build and yet can be lost in seconds.  A good example is the jeweller Gerald Ratner, whose widely publicised speech to the Institute of Directors conference a few years ago completely lost the trust of his customers and ruined his reputation and his business, which had taken decades to build.  Indeed, many academics believe that trust is the most important factor underpinning reputation, another topic gaining interest and which is now being widely researched.

The generic components of trust are:

  • Devotes energy to supporting me rather than to serving her/his own interests
  • Deals sympathetically with other people’s personal problems
  • Makes me feel that s/he is genuinely interested in my needs
  • Helps me to deal with problems by providing wise guidance/feedback
  • Demonstrates competence by decisions s/he makes
  • Succeeds as a result of his/her ability
  • Always keeps promises, no matter how inconvenient they might turn out to be
  • Is conscientious about his/her duties
  • Appears to believe that honesty is the best policy in all cases
  • Prefers to think things through very carefully before acting
  • Likes to take time to consider all the available options before coming to a decision
  • Presents his/her decisions in a way that indicates risks have been considered carefully

There are few formal measures or tests to validate trustworthiness, but these elements can form the basis of competency based questions if you want to evaluate trust.

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