February 23, 2009

Trust in the Business World

Trust in the business world. In a word, fuggedaboudit. Or, to borrow from Tony Montana, "What, are you nuts?"

I've learned from my own experiences, from the experiences of co-workers and from simply reading articles that trust is not something you give away freely. You have to be slow and sparing when you give trust in the worlds of government, espionage, counterespionage, organized crime and big business. All of these have elements in common in their organizational structures and interactions.

Trust has to be earned, and it has to be earned slowly. I trust some members of my crew more than others. Some of them, I trust with my life. But guess what? I do not trust anyone one hundred percent! That is "thinking" with emotions, frankly. And in my businesses, you can't let emotions interfere.

"Can I trust anyone at all, Uncle Bob?"

It depends on how much you want to survive (literally or professionally). If you're not interested in friendship at the work place, you have to play rough. If you want to stay at the bottom and just get a paycheck, you can be more willing to trust people and take greater chances. If you get burned, I hope you learn from your mistakes. You have to learn who to trust in the first place. Then, you have to determine how much trust you can safely give.

When you're at the bottom of the feeding chain, you cannot believe someone higher up that says, "Speak freely, you can trust me". Yeah, sure, Cupcake. I made that mistake once. Once. Never again. The more "important" someone is, the more dangerous they are because they've probably sold their souls to the company; you can be thrown under the bus, as they say, along with your entire family, then your organs sold on the black market — if it'll make Joe Superior look good to his own superiors. You have to keep your guard up and your trap shut. Watch, listen and learn.

The immediate supervisor can probably be trusted more than the person one level up. If you get a good feeling and have good experiences, you can open up a little to them. Carefully. I know some people that I'm giving more trust to than I would normally give because I trust my inner voice and my experiences. Still playing it safe, though, but not quite as much as I normally would.

Also, you have to be on guard against co-workers. They'll steal your ideas or take credit for your successes, so make sure that you get the credit that's due before you open your mouth. That pal in the next cubicle may have sent you a sympathy card when your goldfish died, but can stab you in the back to get that promotion that you deserve. Watch, listen and learn.

Of course, if someone is in a different department or does not affect you directly, that gives you more leeway than otherwise. I mouth off to the guy in shipping and I know he won't rat me out to my superiors. What, you thought I ran the entire company myself? Nope. Just my own crew.

You can gauge your trust by giving a little and seeing what happens. If your trust is betrayed in a small thing, you know you can never trust that individual in something of importance. At least, not right away. If you feel that you can try again, feel free and let a little bit of trust go and see if it's justified. Then, back off and see if you can give a little more trust, a little more information.

The guys at the top? Don't even think about trusting them. Their souls have been sold, remember? If you're heard by them at all (perhaps like a gnat buzzing in their ears), you'll be either used and discarded, or forgotten.

So, play it safe in your business trust levels. Give and take. Act slowly. Know who to trust, and how much.

You can trust me, I can't hurt you.

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