Worker Performance and Trust

What does trust look like to you?

Is it a a cliché?

Does it sound old, tired, and worn out?

What images or meanings does the word trust invoke and hold for you?

In Lying (1993), Sissela Bok tells us “Whatever matters to human beings, trust is the atmosphere in which it thrives”; meaning trust must be the underpinning for whatever you’re looking to accomplish.

Bok’s notion on trust is especially true in the field of law enforcement.  The actions taken by law enforcement officials have a profound ability to impact the emotional, financial, and stability of families and individual lives for a long time.

Research tells us working in an organization built on trust and respect creates high performing, ethical, and fair-minded employees.  Therefore, it’s crucial for law enforcement employees to work in a climate built on trust since their authority can have a weighty influence over others.

Unfortunately, there are times law enforcement administrators and co-workers alike treat the word and concept of trust as something weak, squishy, abstract, meaningless, vague, or disadvantageous.  In these situations, trust is mistakenly equated with relinquishing authority or control.

However, quite the opposite is true.

In science, and with serious people, trust is essential.  It is the bedrock of relationships between individuals and groups.  It sets the foundation from which we build a robust and productive exchange in associations, even in the dealings between employer / employee and supervisor / subordinate.  Here is how:

In its true sense, the concept of trust can be described as confidence, belief, certainty, predictability, conviction, bravery, reliability, and passion.  These are hardly attributes of weakness that expose us to loss of authority.  Trust does not mean you are a push-over, that challenges are ignored, that actions are taken for the sake of being liked.  Nor does it mean hand-holding, or turning a blind-eye to improper resistance, opposition, or rule violations.  Being trusted means having earned the confidence of others in your relationships with them through fairness, whole heartedness, ethical and honest behaviors.

Trust is built through steady, firm, fair, impartial and predictable responses.

In the workplace, workers prefer to work for an administrator they trust, not because the administrator is a push-over, but because they know what to expect – even if the outcome is not their personally preferred result.  Workers want to feel confidence, certainty, and predictability that as things go well they will benefit from recognition, rewards, or just fair treatment.  They also want to know that if performance falls below expectations that consequences, accountability, responsibility, and corrective measures are clear and predictable.  In other words, workers want to trust their administrators.  They want to know, believe, and accept as true that the actions of their administrator (even in finding fault) will be predicable, reliable, fair, impartial and balanced.

So, let’s start to build robust and productive relationships in the workplace.  Set the expectations, let workers know they’re accountable, and apply consequences or rewards with consistency and fairness.  Relationships will be strengthened, performance will improve and people will trust you.   Also, the public we serve will appreciate the quality law enforcement officials you help shape.