Trust everybody – but cut the cards

I make no apology for devoting a third consecutive post to the issue of trust. It’s important peeps – and it’s topical.

Deloitte’s fourth annual Ethics & Workplace Survey was published this week and surprise surprise, lack of trust and transparency are the dominant reasons why employees are on the hunt for a new job.

The headlines declare that one third of all Americans will seek a new job once the economy recovers, and just under a half (48%) say their primary motivation for doing so is a lack of trust in their employers. Forty-six percent say a lack of transparent communication from their leaders is the primary cause of their dissatisfaction at work.

Harry Stottle

Actually, this comes as something of a relief. I’ve barking about the importance of trust in the workplace for longer than I care to remember. The evidence I tend to cite is plain old common sense supplemented by centuries of academic study, starting BC with Harry Stottle’s Rhetoric, in which the great man himself explored the importance of trust in effective communication and persuasion. So it’s always nice to see some more up-to-date evidence.

My angle today is trust v. monitoring and my question is around the management of risk. Specifically, what is the best way to prevent secrets from leaking out of an organisation?

There is a huge industry devoted to developing, selling and maintaining surveillance and monitoring software and systems designed to prevent secrets from sneaking out of the corporate firewall. Now I’m not suggesting that investment in this area is a complete waste of money – what I am suggesting is that anyone who thinks you can prevent the leak of secrets simply by deploying tools is either delusional or has not thought about it hard enough.

The truth is there is no electronic or physical way of preventing organisational leakage. The best you can hope to do with such measures is to catch someone after the deed has been done. And then what? I guess you hold a public flogging to act as a deterrent to other would be offenders. Doesn’t sound particularly attractive to me; and the flogging story is even more likely to leak than the original one, which again does not feel like such a good idea.

Surely it is far better to create an environment where the original leak is far less likely to occur because the potential flogee feels trusted, valued, respected and dare I say loved? Instead of scuttling off to the media, disgruntled Joe feels less inclined to repay his employer’s trust with sabotage and subterfuge. He feels more inclined to trust his employer because his employer trusts him, and he feels able to talk about his frustrations internally without fear of being pilloried.

The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust. Yep – Abraham Lincoln new the score.

I know some you will read this and think I’m either being very naive or bit extreme. Just for the record, clearly there are other things that need to be in place beyond blind faith in humanity. You know; things like policies & procedures, awareness and education and maybe even a bit of random email monitoring if you must.

Trust everyone, but always cut the pack before dealing the cards.

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