This piece is reposted with permission from Nan’s blog.

Most of us weren’t surprised when Pew Research reported, “Only 22% percent of the public trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time.” We were unfazed when Gallup found, “Americans’ confidence in banks is at a historic low.” And we didn’t blink when a Maritz poll told us, “Only 10% of employees trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty.”

But teachers? Cheating?! When teachers in Atlanta falsified standardized test scores by erasing wrong answers and supplying correct ones, we were shocked. With upwards of 175 educators, including principals, involved in the falsifying of results, the question echoes again, “who can you trust?”

These troubling trends and heart-grabbing headlines affect our collective psyche, diminish our sense of well-being, and reinforce the impression that everyone from teachers to politicians are not worthy of our trust.

But, you and I aren’t going to rebuild broken trust in Washington, increase perceptions of the banking industry, or impact confidence in Atlanta teachers. Still, that shouldn’t stop us from replenishing the trust deficits in own businesses, work groups, and relationships. Start there. Don’t let what you can’t change affect what you can. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with self-trust. It’s hard to trust others if you don’t trust yourself. Lack of self-trust is a precursor to distrusting others. Can you count on yourself to deliver what you say you will? Can you trust your motives, intentions, impulses and judgment? The most important relationship you have is with yourself.
  • Keep perspective. No question you can find examples of untrustworthy people, broken promises, and trust-busting actions, but perspective helps. In a school system with nearly 48,000 students and a student-teacher ratio of 1:23, there are at least 2,100 teachers in Atlanta, and most are trustworthy. Don’t extrapolate what you read or hear to your workplace or community.
  • Check the mirror. When we denounce looters, but help ourselves to employer office supplies, we share in the accountability of dishonesty. When we buy a child’s ticket at a theme park when our child is past the age restriction, we model to our children it’s okay to “lie a little,” and we share in the accountability when they grow up and they do. But when our word or our handshake is as good as a contract with those we give it to, we share in the benefits of replenished trust.
  • Build a pocket of excellence. People work for people, not for companies. Forget the headlines. No one needs permission to create his or her own pocket of excellence founded on trusting relationships. Build trust in this skeptical era and improve your trust building odds through communication effectiveness.

You may not be able to change your boss’s behavior or the bosses above her, but you can influence the environment of those you work with and those who work for you.

As management guru, Peter Drucker so aptly reminded, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Want better headlines? Want to replenish the trust deficit? Start with what you can do.

  1. Wouldn’t a better way to restore trust be to fix our banking system and stop punishing teachers when they have classes of students that are not good at tests.

  2. filamthropy says:

    I believe that the quote for “The best way to predict the future…” should be attributed to Alan Kay.

  3. Mia says:

    Thank you for this. I needed this. Untrusting of the world around me because it betrays and disappoints too much. Felt out of control. Understanding that I can control me. & that is enough for starters.

  4. ian says:

    more than enough Mia

  5. Angie Griess says:

    At a time when trust seems to be at an all-time low, morals and ethics are respected only when convenient, and the next generation is figuratively selling out in the social media arena, your words are more powerful than you know. We have to at some point begin returning to a simpler time; the basics of all humanity are needed and are the best way to put us all back in check. Thank you for showing us how to start the ripple effect in our homes, workplaces, and communities. Spread the word! :)

  6. Jim Caley says:

    I like this. Change does start at home, or if you like from within. I don’t have any way to change all of you. To want that is going to make me frustrated and angry. If I can live by a code that brings me peace then I am reflecting what I want in the world. The solution is built into every problem, but it does not look like the problem. I need to BE in the solution, there is really nothing else for me to do. I believe that I will get back from the universe what I put out into it. Enjoy this moment, it is the only one we are ever going to get :)