Trust: a fundamental trait in relationship formation

Trust is the X factor.

This year's edition of the Trust Barometer, an Edelman annual survey of more than 33,000 respondents from around the world that investigates the state of trust and credibility in organisations, shows that over the course of the last year there has been an implosion of trust in the institutions of business, media, government and NGOs. In fact, trust is a key factor for the development and maintenance of happy, well-functioning relationships.

Trust Barometer CEO credibility plunged by 12 points, 63% of survey respondents continue saying that CEOs are somewhat or not at all credible. In organisations, low levels of trust lead to employee turnover, customer churn, slow speed of execution and increased costs for getting things done.

Since losing an employee can cost to a company 1.5 times more than their annual salary, we at LOA think that this is the time for managers to truly build, maintain and regain employees’ trust.


Trust: a fundamental trait in relationship formation

Trust is a complex, multidimensional construct, which relates to positive expectations under uncertainty conditions. What makes trust particularly difficult to define and understand is that it involves three components – I trust you to do X.

Trust is such a fundamental factor in our lives that it is believed to start a few years of a person’s life, through parents instilling children to trust them.

Essentially, when we feel higher levels of trust oxytocin is released by our brain a hormone that increases the bond between relationships and that is also involved in mediating maternal behaviour, mother-infant bonding and pair bonding. Oxytocin reduces the perceived mental risk of being betrayed, which, consequently, increases feelings of trust.


But why is trust so fragile?

We all know that it takes a lot of effort to build someone’s trust and just a few seconds to destroy it! But why is that?

Trust can be easily devastated because it is a construct that carries a strong emotional dimension. When we trust someone and that person betrays us in some way, we immediately experience strong feelings of anger, hurt, fear, and frustration which creates instability in the relationship and activates a mechanism of psychological security in order to avoid feeling the same emotions.

An article published on Forbes by Christine Comaford, states that the problem of regaining trust is essentially activated by four key emotions:


  1. A sense of injustice that leads to spending more time in a critter state, impacting performance, decision-making, collaboration, and overall peace and happiness
  2. A lack of hope, that is even more painful than injustice
  3. A lack of confidence, leads to procrastination, reluctance to take risks, and playing “small”
  4. However, in some situations, can activate a desire for change, where a person envisions a possible brighter future. Increasing this ambition for change can restore trust.


The ultimate 8 factors that lead to trust in the workplace

Paul J. Zak, professor of economics, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University, spent most time of his life understanding the promoters and inhibitors of releasing oxytocin in trust situations. He found that “compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout.”

In an article published this year at the Harvard Business Review, titled The Neuroscience of Trust, he identified the 8 factors that lead to increased levels of trust in organisations.


  1. Recognize excellence. "Recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it's tangible, unexpected, personal, and public."
  1. Provide a challenge. "When a manager assigns a team a difficult but achievable job, the moderate stress of the task releases neurochemicals, including oxytocin, that intensify people's focus and strengthen social connections". 
  1. Give people freedom. “Once employees have been trained, allow them, whenever possible, to manage people and execute projects in their own way. Autonomy also promotes innovation.” 
  1. Provide ample choice. “When companies trust employees to choose which projects they’ll work on, people focus their energies on what they care about most.”
  1. Be transparent. “Organizations that share their “flight plans” with employees reduce uncertainty about where they are headed and why”.
  1. Go beyond work. “Neuroscience experiments by my lab show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.” 
  1. Provide opportunities to grow. “High-trust workplaces help people develop personally as well as professionally. Numerous studies show that acquiring new work skills isn’t enough; if you’re not growing as a human being.” 
  1. Show vulnerability. “Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things.”


Vibe can help you build, maintain and regain trust

Our Vibe employee engagement survey measures 4 of the most important components that influence an employee’s psychological well-being and performance: Trust, Empowerment, Passion, and Stress.

Allowing you to measure your team’s trust levels Vibe provides you with instant feedback and the right advice to adopt the right behaviours that lead to higher business performance.

Additionally, Vibe allows you to understand the economic impact of the levels of trust in your company, being the only app available in the market that measures the impact of psychosocial factors on business performance.

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