Trust in the Workplace: The Key to Business Success


October 16, 2019 by Mark Hammerstrom

“In God we trust, all others pay cash.”

No doubt you have heard this phrase before.  I certainly have seen it in advertising, in retail shops; well, really all over during my lifetime. Apparently, its origination is unknown, but it was a common phrase bandied about in the last century and its use brought it to nearly the status of a proverbial pronouncement. I say nearly proverbial because try as I might I cannot find it in Proverbs, a place where it might fit in just fine.

It is even the title of a book by the author Jean Sheppard. You may remember Jean Sheppard as the creator of “A Christmas Story” the perennial holiday movie featuring Ralphie, his little brother Randy, his quirky family and friends, and multiple warnings to Ralphie not to put out his eye with the infamous Red Rider BB gun.

Sheppard’s story is very funny (at least to me and my family), and certainly casts this era through a big round lens, in the shade of rose, through which Ralphie sees his innocent world.  Trust is certainly a theme of the movie, trust placed and trust misplaced.   Lack of trust in the advice of his parents and teachers almost costs Ralphie his eye as it turns out. But then again in a figurative way does lack of trust not cost us all?

But I digress.

Trust is a central issue of our world today though, isn’t it?  Whether government, religion, the press, business, and even in personal relationships, it is increasingly hard to know who we can trust.  Fake news?  Shaping the narrative?  It does seem that while we are witness to, and participants in, the battles to win trust, every day that goes by seems to undermine many of our hard-held beliefs. 

And yet I find myself trusting those closest to me, and I believe that they trust me.  When there is a trustworthy relationship in place, doesn’t that feel just great?  When it is shattered, does that also, conversely, feel proportionality just as bad? 

So, what does trust have to do with business success? Well, just pick up the business news every day and it seems the ‘do whatever it takes and clean up the mess later’ finds another victim.  Would it not be best just to do things right in the first place and have customers and employees trust in what the business is up to? 

I know, rose colored glasses again, but there appears to be significant evidence that there is a huge benefit to companies considered to be trustworthy by their customers and employees.

Recently I came upon an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “The Neuroscience of Trust” by Paul Zak, (Harvard Business Review January–February 2017; read it here).  Zak is “is the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University.” So, he knows from which he speaks.

Zak, in his research, set out to find what was the key factor in driving workplace engagement.  Was it perks (as he says like “karaoke Fridays”)?  Other so called “golden handcuffs” that lock employees into long term commitment to an enterprise?

Surprisingly he found (my emphasis added): “…that building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference. Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”

So how did he determine this?  As the title of the article suggests, he actually engaged in a neurological study to see the effects trust has on us.  I won’t go into detail on his methodology here (the article is definitely worth the read), but he focused on the chemical in our make ups called oxytocin.  Apparently, research using animals had identified that this chemical was responsible for making animals more approachable, and his question became did it do the same in humans?  Taking it a bit further, is there a relationship between our own oxytocin levels and how it actually can cause us to trust?

His research showed that there in fact is a relationship there.  As he writes: “Oxytocin appeared to do just one thing—reduce the fear of trusting a stranger.”

Is this an endorsement to shoot everyone up with oxytocin so we trust more?  Of course not, but it did lead him to several conclusions about what things inhibit trust and what things encourage it.  For example, he notes that high stress inhibits oxytocin.  He went on to develop a framework of management behaviors that encourage oxytocin production, are measurable, and can be managed to improve performance.  They include the following:

  • Recognize excellence.
  • Induce “challenge stress.”
  • Give people discretion in how they do their work.
  • Enable job crafting.
  • Share information broadly.
  • Intentionally build relationships.
  • Facilitate whole-person growth.
  • Show vulnerability.

Does developing trust really work?

Zak writes: “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”

Further: “The effect of trust on self-reported work performance was powerful. Respondents whose companies were in the top quartile indicated they had 106% more energy and were 76% more engaged at work than respondents whose firms were in the bottom quartile. They also reported being 50% more productive—which is consistent with our objective measures of productivity from studies we have done with employees at work. Trust had a major impact on employee loyalty as well: Compared with employees at low-trust companies, 50% more of those working at high-trust organizations planned to stay with their employer over the next year, and 88% more said they would recommend their company to family and friends as a place to work.”

That is pretty powerful stuff. 

In summary, Zak says “Ultimately, you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.  It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.”

At United Credit Service trust between our leadership, our customers (clients and consumers alike) and employees is critical.  We do not take it lightly, and we structure our business to solidify and earn that trust every day. 

United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency that has been providing effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners in the Midwest since 1950. Visit our website at, call 877-723-2902, or check out our YouTube video.

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One thought on “Trust in the Workplace: The Key to Business Success

  1. Lisa Brammer says:

    Reblogged this on United Credit Service, Inc..

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