Five Misconceptions about Trust in Business: Part 2

In this blog series, we explore five of the most common misconceptions about trust that, while they are widely-held, are powerful inhibitors to creating real trust:

  1. Trust has to be earned
  2. Trust takes time to grow and is quickly lost
  3. Clients just want you to solve their problem
  4. Clients will trust you if you give good advice
  5. Having the right answer is critical


Trust takes a long time to build, and only a few moments to be destroyed. That has to be one of the greatest trust platitudes, and it is as wrong as it is commonly believed.

Trust takes a long time to build? Not necessarily, in fact frequently not.

Trust takes only a few moments to be destroyed? Even less true.

The Truth

Of course, platitudes don’t achieve that status out of thin air. There’s usually something to them, and of course there’s something here too.

Let’s start with the first part: trust takes time. As we explored in Part 1 of this blog, most of the time we start off even new relationships with at least a limited amount of trust. But there are two points to consider when examining how long trust takes to build: the trustworthiness of the person seeking to be trusted, and the propensity to trust of the person from whom we are seeking trust.

The Trust Equation breaks down trustworthiness into four discrete factors: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-orientation. Of these, Reliability is the only factor that requires the passage of time to be evaluated: you need to set an expectation, then follow through on it. And even then, it’s really more about the number and consistency of interactions than the amount of elapsed time.

The other element is what social scientists and trust academics call “generalized” trust—the propensity to believe well of the motives of strangers, and to be generally optimistic about the future. That one, it turns out, can take ages to turn around—negatively or positively. As Dr. Eric Uslaner points out, generalized trust is installed early, and usually remains stable throughout our lives.

So, does trust take time or not? The answer is, “it depends.” And what it depends on is the type of trust we’re talking about. Let’s break it down:

Now let’s look at the second part: trust is quickly lost. Most relationships, like most emotions, take roughly as long to get over as they took to develop. Marriages or friendships don’t end overnight. There may be a flash point, a straw that breaks the camel’s back. But we usually give people we trust the benefit of the doubt. We don’t dump them abruptly the first time things get difficult.

Most examples of “trust lost quickly” turn out to be either just the last drip in a long series of drips eroding trust, or a delusion about trust’s existence in the first place (you don’t “violate the trust” of a subscriber to your email list by sending them a worthless referral; the relationship you have with a name on your email list may be many things, but “trust-based” is probably a stretch).

Trust formed quickly can be lost quickly; trust formed at a shallow level can be lost at the same level. But trust formed deeply takes deeper violations, or a longer time, to be lost.

But, you might say, so what?  Why is that harmful? What’s the big deal?

The Harm

If you believe that trust takes a long time to build, then you likely believe that it also takes sustained effort, and that there are limited opportunities to build trust when you have limited time. You are inclined to focus only on those things that bring immediate gratification, like solving the problem or delivering the solution (Credibility and Reliability, which are shallow forms of trust). You are less likely to be vulnerable and take risks to connect at a human level, and less likely to set aside your own goals (Intimacy and Self-orientation, which create deeper personal trust).

If you believe that trust can be lost in a moment, then you likely believe you must be cautious and careful about protecting it. You are likely to think about trust as a precious resource to be guarded against being tarnished. You are inclined to institute rules and procedures to protect it and to give cautionary lectures about the risk of losing trust.

These beliefs are self-defeating. Why would you expend energy on something for which you are not likely to see results quickly, or at all? Or that you could lose in just a moment?

And they lead to precisely the kinds of behavior that result in trust lost.

Trust, at a personal level, is like love and hate: you tend to get back what you put out. You empower what you fear. Those afraid of getting burned are the most likely to get burned. Fear of trust not only doesn’t save trust – it actually causes low trust.

Trust is a Muscle

Thinking of trust as something that takes a long time to build makes you unwilling to invest in it, and thinking of trust as something you can lose in a minute makes you cautious and unlikely to take risks. But the absence of risk is what starves trust. There simply is no trust without risk – that’s why they call it trust.

If your people aren’t empowered, if they’re always afraid of being second-guessed or saying the wrong thing, then they will always operate from fear and never take a risk – and as a result, will never be trusted.

Trust is a muscle – it atrophies without use. And the repetition of the mantra “trust takes time to build and can be lost in a moment” just tells people not to use it.

Turns out the stupidest trust is the trust you never engaged in because you were unwilling. The smartest trust is the trust you create by taking a risk.

UP NEXT – Come back tomorrow to read about the third misconception: Clients just want you to solve their problem.


Trust-Based Resources to Maximize Your Team’s Potential:

Trust and Return to Office | Part I Reframing the Debate

Businessman return to work concept. Reopen economy after Coronavirus lockdown. Woman runs to work in office after removal of restrictions on Covid 19

As we navigate the uncertain waters of returning to the office in a post-pandemic world, one crucial element stands out as the cornerstone of a successful transition: trust. Trust is not only the foundation of healthy workplace relationships but also the linchpin that holds together the entire ecosystem of the modern office. In this blog series, we explore the pivotal role of trust in facilitating a smooth return to the office.

The return to office marks a pivotal moment for both employers and employees. After a prolonged period of remote work during the pandemic, employers have begun asking – or demanding – that employees return to the office. Employers have valid reasons for wanting workers back in the office and, while many employees are eager to return to the sense of normalcy they had pre-pandemic, others prefer the autonomy and flexibility to which they have become accustomed while working from home. As a result, the return-to-office conversation has become polarized, highlighting concerns about productivity and the balance between in-person and remote work arrangements.

In the first of this three-part blog series, I attempt reframe the current return to office debate, looking at employee perspectives on remote and in-office work, the employer motivation behind calling employees back to the office, and the societal impacts of returning to the workplace. The next two blogs in the series will address what employers and employees, respectively, can do to smooth the transition.

The Employee Perspective

The reluctance of some employees to return to the office can be attributed to various factors, ranging from control over work hours and location to a desire for greater autonomy. Here are some common reasons why employees may not want to return to the office:

  1. Productivity: Working from home helps workers efficiently drive personal performance and stay focused on completing individual tasks.
  2. Commute and work-life balance: Commuting to the office can be time-consuming and stressful. Remote work has allowed employees to reclaim some of the time they previously spent commuting, and they may be reluctant to give that up.
  3. Flexibility: Many employees have come to appreciate the flexibility that remote work provides. They have had the opportunity to tailor their work environment to their preferences, which can be challenging to replicate in an office setting.
  4. Childcare and family responsibilities: Remote work offers flexibility in managing childcare and family responsibilities, and a return to the office can pose significant economic and logistical challenges for family care.
  5. Psychological well-being: Remote work has provided many employees with a sense of control and reduced workplace stress. A return to the office may reintroduce stressors associated with the physical office environment, such as a noisy or distracting workspace.

At the same time, many workers look forward to the return to office to regain a sense of normalcy. A recent Gallup poll, identifies ongoing challenges related to remote work:

  1. Networking, relationship building, and professional development: In-person work settings facilitate organic networking and relationship building and present opportunities for professional growth and mentorship. Being in proximity to colleagues and superiors fosters learning and contributes to career advancement.
  2. Feeling less connected to the organization’s culture: Employees may miss the sense of belonging and connection to the company’s culture that the office environment fosters. The office often embodies the company’s values and mission, making it an important place for cultural immersion.
  3. Access to resources: while many workers have invested heavily in home offices, the workplace can provide resources that employees may not have at home, such as specialized tools, software, and a more reliable and faster internet connection.
  4. Disrupted work processes: For many, going to the office can provide a structured and professional work environment, which improves time management and can lead to increased motivation and a sense of purpose.

The Employer Perspective

While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote and flexible work arrangements, there are still several compelling reasons why employers are keen to have their employees back in the physical workplace:

  1. Customer service: The American Customer Satisfaction Index dropped 4 points between 2019 and 2022, falling to its lowest level in almost 20 years. While it is rebounding, lower customer satisfaction is related to how quickly and easily customers can reach providers for problem resolution, and the quality of customer service varies with remote work.
  2. Collaboration and innovation: Physical proximity can enhance spontaneous interactions and facilitate more effective collaboration among employees. Being in the same location allows for in-person meetings, brainstorming sessions, and face-to-face communication, which can lead to increased creativity and innovation.
  3. Supervision and management: In-office work allows for more direct supervision and management of employees. Employers can observe and provide guidance to ensure that work is being carried out efficiently and in accordance with company standards.
  4. Organizational culture and values: The physical office environment can help reinforce company culture and values. It provides a space for employees to immerse themselves in the company’s ethos and connect with its mission and values.
  5. Networking and relationship building: In-person interactions can facilitate networking and relationship-building opportunities, both within the organization and with external partners or clients. These connections can lead to new business opportunities and partnerships.
  6. Branding and image: A well-designed office space can enhance a company’s brand and image. It can leave a positive impression on clients, partners, and potential employees.

The Societal Perspective

The return to the office also has several societal benefits that extend beyond the individual organization. These advantages can positively impact communities, economies, and society as a whole. Here are some potential societal benefits of employees returning to the office:

  1. Economic stimulus and urban revitalization: When employees return to the office, they may contribute to increased economic activity in the surrounding communities. Office workers patronizing local businesses and public transportation services boost both private and public revenue. Commercial real estate benefits from the return to the office, as organizations invest in office space, renovations, and expansions.
  2. Volunteering and community engagement: The return to the office can encourage employees to participate in local volunteer and community engagement activities, furthering social responsibility and giving back to society.
  3. Public safety: Greater office presence in urban areas can enhance public safety, as more people are present to observe and report any safety concerns. This can contribute to the well-being of the community.

It’s important to note that the societal benefits of returning to the office may depend on the size and density of urban areas, the local economy, and various other factors.

Finding Common Ground

The pros and cons for returning to the office may at first may at first blush appear to be divisive. Looking more closely, however, there is a lot of common ground between what employers and employees want. Topping the list are increased productivity and collaboration, which fuel innovation and customer satisfaction. Employee engagement and connection to corporate culture are high on both audiences’ lists. Availability and utilization of corporate resources also shows up in both perspectives.

With so much common ground, how is it that the debate continues to be so polarized?

Reframing the Debate

The challenge with the return to office debate today isn’t a lack of common ground. Instead, it’s a lack of common understanding. Each side appears to be fully vested in their own perspective, to the extent that they appear to have missed how much they have in common with the other side. The debate has devolved from a conversation on how to achieve common goals to a series of demands for each side to get it’s own way, with employers threatening to fire workers who refuse to return to the office, and employees threatening to quit if they are forced to return.

Rather than debating which side is right, we should be asking what’s important in each perspective, and how can we leverage the common ground to find solutions that work for both employers and employees. Both sides need to exercise empathy, reflecting on what’s driving their desire to return to the office (or not) and understanding what’s important to the other side, and why.

As we embark on the journey back to the office, trust emerges as the linchpin that can make or break this transition. A culture built on trust fosters collaboration, innovation, and overall well-being. By prioritizing trust, organizations can not only successfully navigate the return to the office but also thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of work. Trust is not just a means to an end but an essential part of the destination itself—a more resilient, adaptable, and connected workplace.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at how employers can boost trust to smooth the transition during return to office.

I used AI to support researching and writing this blog series.

Trust-Based Resources to Maximize Your Team’s Potential:

Want to Retain Top Talent? Look to Your Corporate Culture

Magnet attracting chess pieces symbolizing attracting and retaining talentOne of the myriad things we learned from “The Great Resignation,” where employees across the nation voluntarily resigned from their jobs, is that people are no longer willing to stay in unfulfilling roles or work for employers that do not respect their values. A powerful component of the mass exodus from organizations of all sizes and industries is the effect corporate culture has on the workplace environment, productivity, and relationships.

Employers quickly realized what they already knew – the same thing we all know yet tend to forget until it is too late – that a positive workplace culture supports the well-being and success of employees and makes them feel valued and connected to their colleagues, making them more likely to stay and contribute their best work.

Corporate culture stems from the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral norms that influence everything from a company’s mission and vision to employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and a positive work environment.

When we forget this, the result is clear: a negative workplace culture leaves employees feeling demotivated and disengaged, ultimately leading to high turnover, which has a resonating impact on the company’s reputation, brand, and long-term growth.

Here, we discuss why trust is a foundational element that profoundly impacts corporate culture and how it plays a pivotal role in shaping an organization’s dynamics, behaviors, competitiveness, and overall strength and success.

Strong and Effective Leadership Sets the Tone for Corporate Culture

Influential leaders who lead by example and prioritize the well-being of their teams create an environment that employees want to be a part of. This fosters job satisfaction among employees and loyalty to the leaders by whom they are inspired and motivated.

When people feel valued, appreciated, and supported in their workplace, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less inclined to seek opportunities elsewhere, contributing to higher retention rates.

Trust Matters: Trust is critical in leadership that influences, inspires and promotes a culture where employees are more likely to follow the company’s vision and values. Leaders who build a culture of trust are those who consistently role-model trustworthy behavior and uncompromisingly promote principles that enable employees to be both trustworthy and trusting. This enhances reputation and brand image, which in turn helps retain employees and attract top talent who take pride in being associated with a respected and ethical organization.

Open Communication Leads to Employee Engagement and a Sense of Belonging

Effective communication is a cornerstone of a healthy corporate culture. Employees are more likely to stay in an organization where their opinions matter and they feel informed, that their voices are heard, and that their concerns are addressed.

A strong corporate culture creates a sense of belonging and community among employees who feel part of something bigger, developing connections with their colleagues and the organization crucial for retention. Open communication helps workers feel engaged and emotionally committed to their work and the organization, taking the initiative to go the extra mile, take ownership of their roles, and remain loyal to the company.

Trust Matters: Open and honest communication within an organization fosters trust. When employees trust their leaders and colleagues, they are more likely to share ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of negative repercussions.

Open communication goes both ways: leaders need to be transparent about what’s happening in the company and what they expect from employees, and actively solicit and listen to employee feedback. In return, employees need to share their input candidly and proactively.

A Positive Corporate Culture Promotes Work-Life Balance

Many organizations recognize that flexibility and work-life balance initiatives show respect for employees’ well-being and contribute to a positive corporate culture, but the reverse is also true: corporate culture contributes to work-life balance.  Employees who consistently feel forced to choose between work responsibilities and taking care of their families and personal needs usually end up feeling unsatisfied with both.

Trust Matters: Employees who feel they can focus fully on their professional responsibilities while at work, and fully on their private lives in their private time, are likelier to stay with their employer. Knowing that their organization cares about their well-being can lower stress when they’re away from work, whether they’re enjoying regular time off or dealing with family emergencies.

Effective Teamwork and Collaboration Encourage Innovation

Corporate cultures that intentionally build trust and promote collaboration provide opportunities for continuous improvement, creativity, and calculated risk-taking, creating a competitive advantage.

Trust Matters: Without trust, innovation initiatives will struggle as teams do not feel comfortable taking the necessary risks to drive change. This is especially crucial in situations with high uncertainty and vulnerability.

Intentionally-built trust makes it possible for teams to take action to achieve success while ideas are blossoming and in times of crisis where they can falter without embarrassment in front of their leader or colleagues. When employees believe their team will provide a safe environment for individual and combined risk-taking, they deliver results.

In a culture of trust, team members are motivated, collaborate more smoothly, leverage their strengths more effectively, and constructively resolve conflicts and disputes to reach mutually beneficial solutions, radically expanding confidence in each other, leadership, and the organization.

Investing in People Facilitates Adaptability and Growth

Companies that prioritize a healthy corporate culture invest in employee development. Employees who see opportunities for advancement and skill-building within the organization are more likely to stay and grow with the company than to seek external opportunities. They are also more likely to pivot, grow and embrace organizational change.

Trust Matters: Employees are more likely to embrace new strategies and directions when they trust that leadership is invested in their personal success.

Businesses Thrive When They Put People First

A culture that encourages long-term thinking and values employee retention as a strategic goal is more likely to build a sustainable and prosperous organization. Businesses who put their people first:

  • Retain experienced employees who contribute to institutional knowledge and continuous improvement;
  • Attract top, value-aligned talent who are engaged, innovative, productive, collaborative, and curious employees;
  • Are less likely to be seen as a “stepping stone” for employees toward their long-term goals;
  • Develop employees who are passionate about the organization, its purpose, and their role in its success;
  • Have lower turnover costs, including recruitment, training, and lost productivity during the transition;
  • See internal trust reflected in healthier client, vendor and partner relationships, increasing trust and loyalty from key external stakeholders.

Trust is a fundamental element underpinning a corporate culture’s character and dynamics. Organizations that prioritize building and maintaining trust among employees tend to have healthier, more positive, and more productive cultures, contributing to long-term success and sustainability and increasing trust with clients and partners.

Trust-Based Resources to Maximize Your Team’s Potential:




Selling Trust into the Sales Process (Episode 40) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates, and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

Jennifer from a Telecommunications company writes in and asks, “I know you’ve written about Trust-based Selling. My question is not to ask you to explain Trust-based Selling, but instead how to SELL the Trust-based Selling approach into my sales training team?  What’s the hook? The business case? How can I get them to consider it seriously?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: [email protected]

Podcast Interview: The Importance of Trust in Remote Leadership

Richard Hsu, Director of the Partner Practice Group, interviews Charles H. Green, on the HSU Untied Podcast, for a deep dive discussion into how leaders can refine their trust and communication skills in this new, virtual business world.

Learn how to connect with and read your team better, virtually. Understand how Intimacy and Self orientation are more important than ever.

Trust in the Job Hunting Process (Episode 37) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

A technology project manager writes in and asks, “I’ve been responding to postings in my field, I’ve got a solid resume, and I’m getting interviews, but – I’m not getting call-backs. In my interviews, I make sure to highlight the project management fits in my resume with the specific requirements they cite. But something isn’t working. Any advice?”

Looking for more advice on how to improve your interview skills?  Join our next webinar How to Influence a Skeptical Audience: 3 Simple Steps

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: [email protected]


Does Trust Differ From Salesperson to Sales Management? (Episode 36) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

Dr. Peter Johnson, Clinical Professor of Marketing at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business in New York. Dr. Johnson writes in to suggest we talk about the role of trust in a critical business transition –  from a salesperson to a sales manager.

Learn more about the basic tools of trust and professional relationships. Play the podcast episode above and register for our next webinar on February 25.


Navigating a Morally Compromising Situation (Episode 32) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

A customer service manager at a B2B SAS company is in a tricky situation: “I just started a role at a new company. The way they manage aspects of customer service feels a bit sleazy to me. It seems to be part of a larger culture. There is a lot I like about this company and my new job otherwise. How should I handle this situation?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: [email protected]

We post new episodes every other week.

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Should I Start Consulting Or Stay In-House? (Episode 28) Trust Matters, The Podcast

An experienced B2B, technology Product Leader asks, “Should I break out and become a SME Consultant, starting my own practice or should I continue working at bigger companies? What do I need to know about starting my own consulting business?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: [email protected]

We’ll be posting new episodes every other week.
Subscribe to get the latest 

Trust Matters, The Podcast: The Ghosting of Business Future (Episode 27)

The owner of a small tech consultancy talks about her recent experience being ghosted by a contractor she hired. She asks “What should I do about being ghosted?  How can I prevent this from happening again in the future?”

Want to learn more about how to handle ghosting in business? Read recent blog by Charles H. Green.

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues.

Email: [email protected]

We’ll be posting new episodes every other Tuesday.
Subscribe to get the latest