Trust is the foundation of all human interactions, and the cornerstone upon which high-performing organizational cultures are built. The Organizational Trust Index™ was developed by the Breckenridge Institute® as a method for measuring the level of trust in an organization and the degree to which an organization’s culture is either motivated by trust or driven by fear. Managers have two choices. They can either consciously build organizational trust, or they can allow day-to-day issues, ineffective communication, and misperception to erode trust and develop a fear-based culture. The six perspectives of the Organizational Trust Index™ can help managers evaluate the level of trust in their organization, determine the degree to which their culture is either motivated by trust or driven by fear, and provide a step-by-step process for building a culture that is based on trust.
Trust is often thought of in terms of individual people and one-on-one relationships, for example we trust our co-workers, direct reports, or our boss. But organizational trust means that we trust the organizational structures, systems, and culture within which we work. Unlike trusting individuals, the interdependent actions and interactions of structures, systems, and culture can reach a level of combinatorial complexity where the “system” takes on a life of its own and almost no one can change it. As one manager remarked to a direct report’s request for more resources to better serve customers, “I know you’re disappointed in this decision Jane, but our system just doesn’t allow us to do what you want.” The degree to which managers or staff members either trust the structures, systems, and culture within which they work, or fear them, is a “window” into the underlying patterns of behavior, belief structure, and tacit assumptions of an organization’s culture. The Organizational Trust Index™ consists of six perspectives: Truth, Integrity, Power, Competency, Values, and Recognition.
Stop reading this article, and ask yourself the following question, “Can you really trust the organization you work in?” Now get more specific by reflecting on the six perspectives of the Organizational Trust Index™ as listed below.
- Truth: Does your organization have a deep commitment to establishing “organizational truth” (what’s really going on in the organization), so employees are free to present the unvarnished truth about organizational matters and question the reasoning, assumptions, and attitudes that motivate the organization’s decisions?
- Integrity: Does your organization have integrity (does it do what it says), does it practice “fair process” (is it fair and objective) and does it base its evaluations of people and issues on facts and quantitative data, not “politics” and personalities?
- Power: Do managers in your organization use their power fairly and effectively to achieve the organization’s purpose and goals and to positively influence people, not out of self-interest?
- Competency: Is your organization competent to overcome the challenges it faces and can leaders make decisions that will ensure the achievement of its strategic and tactical goals (does your organization knows what it’s doing)?
- Values: Does your organization have a well-defined set of core values that it communicates to all employees, does it authentically lives by those values (even in difficult situations), and are those values consistent with your own personal values?
- Recognition: Does your organization recognize (notice) the contributions that you make in the workplace and does it confirm your own views about your professional abilities? Do you have a future in this organization?
As a rule, managers and staff members in for-profit, non-profit and government organizations do not consciously ask these six questions, but they exist invisibly just below the surface of consciousness. What we believe about the six questions can be made visible by repetitively asking the question “why” in the face of organizational issues. For example, “Why do the managers consistently fail to share information, so the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, even though they know that it negatively affects the overall performance of the organization?” The answer might be that managers are territorial so they don’t share information easily. The next question might be, “But why are managers territorial and why do they fail to share information even when they know it’s in the best interest of the organization?” Is it because they want to retain their own power? Do they view others as being incompetent to get the job done? Do they have different core values than their coworkers? and so on. The underlying causes and motivations of ineffective organizational performance are often traceable to an interlocking set of beliefs, tacit assumptions, and patterns of human interaction that emerge from the six perspectives of the Organizational Trust Index™. The answers that groups of managers and staff members give to the six questions are indicative of their level of trust in the organization and the degree to which the culture is either motivated by trust or driven by fear.