Low Trust = High Costs

by Vicki on April 9, 2010

I’ve just returned from what should have been a lovely afternoon grocery-shopping trip. The store wasn’t crowded, no long line-ups to pay, and we even bumped into a friend while we were there.

What made the trip less than optimal? A distinct lack of trust. Trust in labels, trust in health claims on the packaging, trust about how the food was grown and produced, really a lack of trust in the food in general – all of which have emerged since I started reading and thinking more about the food we eat (if you want to know what made me start thinking about food, please see Relating Through Food).

This experience led me to think about broader issues of trust within relationships and specifically what our valued contacts had to say during the PROVOKE Relationship Project about the importance of trust.

Respondents clearly stated throughout the conversations that trust is a hallmark of healthy relationships and lack of trust a clear indicator of relationship distress. We heard that when trust is lost in relationships, stakeholders question minute details, monitor behavior and reevaluate their choices (exactly what I did as I chose what to put in my cart). These behaviors distance the primary stakeholders, add costs, increase expected deliverables, slow adaptability and reduce flexibility.

Conversely, the presence of trust in relationships enables cooperation, promotes network relationships, reduces harmful conflict, decreases transaction costs, and facilitates the effective functioning of groups and effective responses to crises (Rousseau et al., 1998).

It is clear that broken trust has serious costs. So, do the work and invest in the relationships you have. The investment of time and effort to develop and maintain healthy trusting relationships will be much less than the cost of mending the outcomes of broken trust.

Rousseau, D., Sitkin, S., Burt, R., & Camerer, C. (1998). Not so different after all: A cross discipline view of trust. Academy of Management Review, 23, 405–421.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

sheila October 25, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Have you ever read P. Lencioni’s book, “The Five Disfunctions of a Team”…..it talks about trust being the foundation of functional teams. It can be assumed that trust can be the foundation of all meaningful relationships.

Vicki October 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for the reading suggestion Sheila!

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