When you trust someone or an organization, things flow quickly and easily.  Why? Because you know that if there is a problem, trustworthy people will make it right, respecting the spirit of the agreement and not hiding behind the “fine print”.  The opposite is true with low trust organizations: you spend a lot of time protecting yourself and negotiating safeguards. This wasted time and energy is called the “Trust Tax”.

We’ve all been burned at one time or another, hurt or felt ripped off. The natural human tendency is to build walls. Organizations institute protective policies and procedures; individuals vow that they will “never be hurt like that again”! Just as emotional walls and defenses that are built to keep an individual from suffering relationship pain also tend to be equally effective at keeping out love; so too can overly restrictive rules create red tape, bureaucracy and resentment that repel customers and hamstring team members, destroying much of the very value that they were instituted to protect.

The flip side of the Trust Tax is Naïve Trust, i.e. avoiding gullibility; as always balance is the challenge.  It is vital that we periodically step back and examine the hidden cost of our protective reflexes, deliberately seeking to increase our self-awareness, pro-actively looking for the impact of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” on ALL stakeholders. Frequently consequences may take an extended time to play out or surface in different parts of the organization or in relationships once removed i.e. your fight with your spouse may impact your children or you may carry the ripples of emotional discord to the office or the stress of the office home.

Trusting intelligently requires that we look for a correct combination of character and competence, both integrity and skill. Most of the time when we chastise ourselves for having extended trust, it is because one or the other was lacking. The wise response is not to cease trusting but to increase our capacity to sense character and evaluate competence!

Closing Quotes:

“Be careful not to bottleneck the many because of the few.”

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough”- Frank Crane; 1861–1928, Presbyterian minister, speaker, and columnist

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald; 1824-1905, Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy” Walter Anderson; 1903 – 1965, American painter, writer, and naturalist