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What is Trust?

Hi all, Fabian from the think team, sharing my thoughts on trust. As someone who relies on trust, for the better or worse, I think it's such an interesting topic to discuss.

Cynthia covered it in her blog once [Culture] Definition of trust at workplace (, how there are two types of trust in a workplace - cognitive (skills) and affective (emotions). But let's break it down a bit more. What does trust even mean?

One of the most accepted definitions of trust originated from Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman (1995) as a result of their review, which is “the willingness to be vulnerable”. This sounded funny when I first heard it, I thought I was reading a romance novel for a second. But it really makes sense in any context. By trusting someone/something, you are putting yourself at risk by hoping that your expectation will be fulfilled. So why do we trust? do we even want to trust?

Ultimately, trust "reduces transaction costs". It makes things efficient. In a workplace, trusting your coworkers with a task means that you allow the task to be done autonomously. That no energy needs to be spent in following up or double-checking, because it will be done. But trust doesn't (and shouldn't) come from nowhere. As someone who got scammed in Paris by some fake deaf people, I learned that trust shouldn't be too instantaneous. I really thought I was helping someone, instead I lost a couple bucks :(.

Roue de Paris, 2017

This is why traceability and transparency became important - to build trust. I'll spare the discussion on blockchain as we have covered it many times. Instead, I want to talk about the transparent system in Blog | (Sustainability & Resilience) Gift-maker to the Earth. Basically, we don't need to ask or spend time chasing each other, because we can just see what others are doing. So this is in part, where trust occurs.

Personally, I would count cognitive trust as something a bit more 'formal'. I think it's really important to know if my coworkers are capable, but I quite like working in 'humane' spaces. To illustrate, there is a model for risk communication that mentions three variables that influence trust: how competent the source is (ability), how much they care about the target (benevolence), and how appropriate their principles are from the eyes of the target (integrity). It is concluded in many studies that we trust those who we believe share our motivations more.

Translating this into the workplace, I trust those where I see eye-to-eye. Especially when you are handing out tasks with real social meaning, I see the importance of intrinsic motivation to be present in the people I am working with. In, I like that I get to know the other giftmakers very well. Our meetings aren't always rigid. I especially enjoy blog-sharing sessions at the end-of-day meetings.

As you know, well all write a blog every week, which becomes the perfect medium for each of us to articulate our thoughts. In times like this where we can't physically meet, talking about our blogs in the meeting becomes the perfect way to get to know each other. Learning a thing or two about your peers, eventually also about life. Last week Tak showed us that he was actually drawing us in the middle of the meeting. So I did the same. I promise I'll improve.

Whether goodwill produces quality outcome is of course arguable. Maybe it also sounds silly to trust my peers because we like informal meetings. But I am here to say that a 'robotic' workplace may not be the way to go either. That if we get to know each other, we may build better group dynamics which is important to deliver outcomes collectively. But I am up for a debate on this one.

So despite being scammed a few times, I see the value in building trust. I just hope you wiser than I am in the process...

Thanks for reading this blog. There is really more to trust than what I wrote. In fact, I got 3 European Credits for a course on Trust, Crisis, and Risk perception. So I will continue this series next time!

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