Dr. Yoram Solomon

Has trust disintegrated since the pandemic arrived? Or were there cracks in this foundation before the virus appeared? Misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations has thrown the public health infrastructure into chaos. Gaining trust is difficult. Regaining it is even harder. A recent headline in a Washington Post article succinctly captures the exhaustive toll that lack of trust has on people: “Flint (MI) has replaced over 10,000 lead pipes. Earning back trust is proving harder.”

Dr. Yoram Solomon—author of The Book of Trust, the series Can I Trust You?, and founder of the Innovation Culture Institute – discusses the role of trust in the workplace and in conversations and how we can build and protect it.

Trust is not what you think it is.

It is not universal. It is not absolute. It is not static. 

How is trust seen by employers? 

After working with multiple startups and larger companies with their innovation strategies, Dr. Solomon says he realized there was a deeper issue that prevented companies from practicing the strategies he suggested: Employers didn’t trust their employees. Without this trust, employees didn’t have the autonomy needed to complete their work and were too concerned to have constructive disagreements.

With this in mind, Dr. Solomon conducted a survey that asked 363 people what quality they found most desirable in others, such as bosses, spouses, friends, government officials, salespeople, and employees. Most people (62.2%) said trustworthiness was the most important quality in another person.  An exception to these results was that 47.5% of leaders said an employee’s “willingness to work hard” was the most important quality. Trustworthiness was #2 for leaders. Dr. Solomon said this further supports the key problem in many workplaces that many leaders still think like Henry Ford, 100 years ago, when he said the problem with my employees is that they come with a brain attached. 

By the way – the 5th most desirable quality for trust? Good looks!

Trust is Relevant

Dr. Solomon says our willingness to trust has generally decreased. One of the reasons for this is confirmation bias, which can now be found in government statements, news segments, and even scientific studies. He uses a recent news segment as an example: A local Texas news station claimed Covid-19 cases in Texas decreased by 64%, while just an hour later the Today show claims Texas cases have increased by 81%. How could this be true? Dr. Solomon found that the CDC released data showing Texas cases decreasing by 64% over the previous month but increasing by 81% over the previous week. Neither news segment provided the context for the numbers they offered and instead manipulated the numbers to fulfill their needs.

This manipulation leads us to distrust news anchors and government officials, but confirmation bias is also seen in scientific studies. To get the desired results, some researchers will use small sample sizes and won’t allow their results to be confirmed. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why many people have started distrusting scientists and the work they put forth, deciding instead to trust the research they independently perform.

The Building Blocks of Trust

Feedback is one of the most important components in a successful workplace, but not all feedback can be positive. Constructive conversations offer a chance for employees to improve their performances; however, Dr. Solomon found that these conversations can’t be had without trust.

Both our willingness to give and receive feedback increases when trust is present. When providing feedback, we are 106% more willing to give unfiltered negative feedback to a person we trust won’t take our comments personally and instead will see it as an opportunity to grow. Our receptivity to feedback increases by 76% when we trust the other person is giving the feedback to benefit us rather than as an attack. Without trust and emotional safety present in the workplace, employees will be more concerned with keeping their jobs than about the company’s growth and innovation.

Dr. Solomon says recognition of competence in the workplace is just one of the six main components to trust. Another component? A common enemy. If we believe we’re on the same side, as people did after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center, they will trust more easily. This trust is reciprocal, meaning one person trusting another will then convince the recipient to trust.

When approaching the concept of innovation strategies in the workplace, Dr. Solomon said he didn’t realize until his research into trust that his previous work was like constructing a building “starting on the second floor.” Without the foundation of trust, innovation and the company itself will remain stunted.


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Podcast Quotes

1. "We trust misinformation more than we trust people who have the credentials." (3:53)
2. "When you ask for advice—especially people close to you, especially people who care about you—would want to pull you more into their comfort zone than push you away from yours." (11:27)
3. "Of the top 5 qualities that are important for people to see in others. 62.1% of people believe trustworthiness is the most important characteristic. ” (12:15)
4. "Trust is 2 sided. It’s not trustworthiness that has diminished as much as our willingness to trust others. (16:45)
5. “Positive feedback makes you feel better; negative feedback makes you better.” (29:48)
6. “There are two days in history that the level of trust was the highest ever in the US. It was December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, and it was [September] 12, 2001, the day after 9/11.” (36:28)
7. “Trust and trustworthiness work the same way. If I trust you, and I show you that I trust you, you will behave in a trustworthy way because otherwise… you’re going to suffer from cognitive dissonance.” (41:32)


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