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Asymmetry of Trust

Trust is a very asymmetrical affair. Though it can sometimes take a long time to acquire it, it can be destroyed with in one fell swoop! This is what makes the interaction with trust so challenging.

Trust can and must be earned. But how? It arises through the handling of expectations. At the level of personal trust someone is viewed as trustworthy, when he ‘more or less’ behaves according to the expectations that others project upon him. Here, ‘more or less’ is important, because when somebody acts one-hundred percent in accordance to what others expect, this is not regarded as trustworthy, but rather as adapted or obedient. Rather, this creates mistrust. As one needs several joint experiences to know, that the other party understands what is expected from him, and that he also wants to orientate himself accordingly, building trust requires time. In organisations, this is often trivialised, so that it doesn’t have to see the problem which lies within rapid and frequent personnel turnover. Nevertheless, every fluctuation in personnel weakens the effectiveness of teams in handling complex conditions.

Trust can be quickly destroyed, because one significant action is enough to signal to the social environment that, in certain events, one does, after all, only act in accordance with one’s own agenda. In addition, a breach of trust is a prominent phenomenon and usually imprints in the social memory. Therefore, the situation can often no longer be altered, and a change of the social system is unavoidable (dismissal, removal, separation, transfer, dissolving of the department, changing the external service provider…).