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The Control of Trust

Wherever and whenever an organisation operates with trust, it (also) needs to control this trust. Otherwise trust becomes blind: wherever you invest trust, it would be risk-free to use it or to misuse it (imagine there were never any speed restrictions, doping tests, or tax controls…). For this reason, great significance is attached to the way that trust-risk is controlled and dealt with. Every possible form of this (random checks, rotating reviews, unannounced controls, social supervision, whistle-blowing, to name just a few) creates follow-up problems.

Unfortunately, many organisations do not engage explicitly and thoughtfully with what type of trust and what form of control are suited to the organisation, the process concerned and the participants. The latter is particularly significant, since individuals respond very differently to trust controls (constructively as well as destructively) and decisions, here, ought to be taken with care. Mostly, in working relationships, control is less about whether information and reports are correct (that would be too laborious), but more about whether the correspondent can be trusted. Therefore, breaches in trust are not a ‘private’ relationship problem in organisations, but an organisationally relevant phenomenon, which is almost always dysfunctional.