When Trust Tears Apart
- June 20, 2016
- Posted by: Reena Saxena
- Category: Behavior Management
This is inspired by the story of Diamond, Sir Isaac Newton’s pet, who was unwittingly, instrumental in the destruction of several years of research work. Diamond knew nothing about the value of those papers, but would sure have understood and commiserated with his master’s distress after the incident. And that made Sir Isaac Newton absolve him with the words “Alas! you don’t know what you have done”.
The desire to relive the happier moments induces one to trust again, and in the process, overlook some lessons from the past. Re-opened doors can allow both the God and the Devil to enter, and in some unfortunate cases, the Devil strikes again. As they say . “Beware- The Devil was once an Angel”.
This moves the receiver from frustration to despair to scepticism to cynicism, with every repeat incidence of the experience. In some cases, the perpetrators do know what they have done, and derive a sadistic delight from it. In some other cases, there may be genuine repentance, but they have burnt bridges behind them.
FRAGILITY OF TRUST
What is it about trust that makes it so fragile ? We are willing to live again, love again, and walk again after a fall, but NEVER TRUST AGAIN ?
David Maister, in his book, “The Trusted Advisor”, discussed the following Trust Equation
The Self Orientation factor is crucial to the equation. The level of Trust dips, as soon as the level of the other person’s Self-interest rises. Acting in selflessness, in the larger interest, therefore, emerges as the principal ingredient of trust.
And total selflessness may only be a virtue of the saints.
THE ALGORITHM OF TRUST
Trust, as we know it, is a function of
- Past experience
- Image of a person
- The set of circumstances under which the two parties are reaching an agreement
- Susceptibility to external influence.
- Perception of the situation (Naivete, misplaced trust, unrealistic expectations or a time-relevance all fall under this ).
We build different levels of trust depending on these five factors, and build checks and balances to protect our own interest. The equations that emerge after both sides have done their mental mathematics, are the Power Equations in an organization, nation, family or society.
CONSEQUENCES OF A BREACH OF TRUST
This is different from a ‘breach of contract’, where the parties are legally bound, and it is possible to proceed legally against the offender. Breach of trust happens, when information is shared in good faith, expectations are built up based on perceived behaviour patterns, but the results are different from what was expected. This could be the trust between members of an organizational team, or the trust one places in the professional ethics of a coach, a therapist, a consultant or a banker.
The action of breach may be beyond the purview of law, or organizational rules and regulations, but has inflicted damage.
Tighten the rules and regulations, to prevent recurrence of the act. It may hamper smooth operations, cause avoidable delays and lose all relevance after some time. The people on the ground do not understand why the shackles were created in the first place.
Punish the offender with available means. This could result in a debarment, demotion, dismissal or divorce. The offender is often excluded from channels of communication.
Recover damages to the extent possible, by using methods, beyond the scope of organizational rules and procedures. This could result in people taking law in their hands.
Destruction of the organizational or national culture
Paranoia from the Past overtakes logic of the present moment. This thread affects the entire fabric of relationships, and gradually, creates a culture of distrust. Good Samaritans and Positive Pauls are quickly labelled as Fools. The Divide and Rule policies are framed by insecure and paranoid leaders, and this may have more to do with self-preservation and keeping the veil intact on unsavory secrets. But the culture of distrust has been created.
Individuals can develop fears and phobias that might need counselling or psychiatric intervention. It affects all other relationships in their lives.
A Breach of Trust is not always Unethical
It could be a “Breach of Trust” Vs. “ Breach of Principles” situation. The values of a person may clash with those of his colleagues, friends or family, and s/he chooses the former. Killing your own conscience or the voice of reason, to gain trust of wrongdoers may not be something, everyone can live with.
All said and done, the strife to maintain a balance between self-interest, organizational or societal interest and Trust will continue. It either takes an exceptional strong individual , or a psychopath to emerge unscathed from the situation.
The elasticity of a framework or mind-set, to return to its original state, scarred but smarter, is all that matters.