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In today's world, trust is hard to come by. Backlash to authority and populist anger in the face of any public figure or business's wrongdoing is the norm. One international survey found that the average level of trust in business, media, government and NGO institutions is below 50%. Over 70% of survey respondents said government officials are not at all or only somewhat credible, and 63% said the same about CEOs.
Although the world's great decline in trust is a widely held and statistically-backed belief, Onora O'Neill disagrees with this stance. O'Neill is a philosopher and a crossbench member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament who believes that we are not losing trust, we are incorrectly measuring and creating it.
Many companies today misunderstand trust and suffer because of it, she says. When a workplace lacks trust, employees feel impotent and gradually lose efficiency. And when employers misunderstand how to properly foster trust with their employees, both parties become uncommunicative and negative towards one another. In her TED Talk, O'Neill explains how trust should be measured, created and fostered in both ordinary life and the workplace.
Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from her talk.
"Polls do not accurately measure trust, action does."
According to O'Neill, surveys and opinion polls do not measure trust but merely collect attitudes given in response to a specific question. These methods measure feelings, and trust is not based in feelings alone. In the workplace, for example, trust is formed when words and feelings inspire action, and when expectations are mutually understood, set and met.
Employees create trust when they act on and accomplish what employers expect of them— delivering assignments and taking care of responsibilities in a timely and efficient manner goes a long way in earning a manager's trust. On the flipside, when employers invest capital and time in employee development, that builds trust too, as does transparency between employees and employers about company news and decisions.
"More trust is not an intelligent aim in this life."
We don't need more trust. Instead, O'Neill believes what we actually need is more intelligently-placed trust. We need to analyze a person's strengths and weaknesses before determining how we should trust them.
O'Neill's idea of intelligent trust is a great learning for today's employers. If employers want to intelligently trust their employees, they must connect with them to locate personal motivations, strengths and weaknesses. This helps them place trust in their strengths, while staying in tune with possible weaknesses. Employees should similarly examine their employers for strengths and weaknesses to decide how much they should trust them and in what ways. In order to foster this mutual, intelligent trust, employers and employees should organize monthly meetings, scheduled check-ins and practice transparency regularly.
"Give people adequate, useful and simple evidence that you're trustworthy."
Because it's given by others, trust must be earned. So how can workers effectively do this? O'Neill recommends using vulnerability because when you allow yourself to be vulnerable to another party, it's evident that you have confidence in what you are doing and saying.
At work, by remaining authentic and refusing to hide their emotional truths, employers can create work environments where employees feel comfortable discussing their uncertainties and stressors. What's more, employers can use these open discussions to learn from employees about any difficulties at work. This information is crucial if an employer hopes to help an employee grow and develop, but it can only be accessed if an employee trusts their employer enough to tell them.
As citizens, humans, students or employers, we need to think much less about trust and the attitudes reflected in opinion polls and much more about being trustworthy and how we all give people adequate, useful and simple evidence for how we can be trusted.
Header photo: TED
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