Trying to Manage a Diverse Workforce? Earn Their Trust

There is a crisis of trust permeating society and businesses have no choice but to address it.

Trust issues show up in many forms. A scandal or product defect may cause customers to distrust a brand. People who feel overlooked or undercompensated in the workplace because of their skin color, gender or sexual orientation may come to distrust their employer. Citizen distrust in governments is an age-old problem. And without trust in each other, business leaders cannot successfully build an organization together.

“The good news is, trust can be cultivated and lost trust can be regained,” explains Shalene Gupta, co-author of “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It” (Public Affairs, July 2021) with Harvard Business School Professor Sandra J. Sucher. “But it is a deliberate process that must be activated with intention and a commitment to open conversations.”

Gupta – a research associate at Harvard Business School who previously worked as a reporter at Fortune and as a financial analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department – studies and writes about the intersection of technology, diversity, trust and the workplace. A Chinese-Indian American who studied and taught in Malaysia on a Fulbright scholarship, she has seen firsthand how a lack of trust can create a barrier to productivity, communication and innovation in the workplace, eroding both business and personal relationships. As a corporate advisor, author and journalist, she uses practical frameworks to teach leaders how they can build trust within their organizations and address behaviors and policies that may be inadvertently causing people to mistrust them or their company. And, she emphasizes, leaders must be willing to let people speak their minds.

According to Gupta, the only way for leaders to build or regain trust is to first acknowledge that it’s important, then give it a place in the decision-making process. She even recommends putting a person in charge of trust, someone tasked with deciding whether certain decisions may positively or negatively affect trust.

“Companies don’t put trust at the center of their decision making because they don’t know what that looks like and why it’s important,” says Gupta. “Yet it affects the bottom line and studies confirm that.”

In “The Power of Trust,” the co-authors examine the science behind trust and reveal how customers, employees, community members and investors decide whether an organization or a person can be trusted. They show that creating and sustaining trust does not come from “reputation building” and PR, but by being the “real deal,” creating products, services and technologies that work, having good intentions, treating people fairly, and taking responsibility for all the impacts an organization creates, whether intended or not. The in-depth stories they share, based on twenty years of research, shine a bright light on the business, economic and societal importance of trust.

“This is about figuring out what it takes for different stakeholders to trust your organization. It’s about bridging the gap between where you are and where you should be,” says Gupta. “Ultimately, trust is a license to operate.”

Praise for “The Power of Trust”

“You can’t buy it. You can’t sell it. You can’t even see it. But if you had more of it, your employees would work harder, and your customers would stay with you longer. Trust is one of the most valuable intangible assets that a company can have and this book will show you how to get more of it. Packed with wonderful stories and practical examples, this book is a great read. TRUST me!” — Erin Meyer, INSEAD, author of “The Culture Map” and coauthor of “No Rules Rules”

“The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found business is the most trusted institution. Business has a new mandate to lead as the world combats ongoing crises and widespread mistrust. Against this backdrop, “The Power of Trust” is a must-read. Both scholarly and practical, it draws on fields from ancient philosophy to modern management theory to analyze and deeply examine the core elements of business trust while taking a lively journey through real-world cases of trust won and lost (and won again). Professor Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta make a vital contribution to the trust conversation and provide a compelling call to action for CEOs to build trust by embracing a broader societal role.” — Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman

“Full of fresh insights brought to life by compelling examples, “The Power of Trust” is a rich and rewarding read. It’s also extremely timely. With more and more companies today pledging to balance the interests of all of their stakeholders, and not always put their shareholders first, Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta make clear that the driving question executives should be asking themselves every time they make a major decision is, ‘Will this enhance trust among those we claim to serve—or betray it?’” — Rick Wartzman, author of “The End of Loyalty”

“Unveils a new understanding of the business, economic, and societal importance of trust.” — Jeffery Weirens, Global Financial Advisory Leader, Deloitte

“With vibrant and compelling insights, Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta break important new ground about trust as a key foundation for both human relationships and business. Their illuminating and exciting exploration of what it takes to build trust, combined with vivid storytelling, make this page-turner a critical companion for any business leader.” Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO, Best Buy, and author of “The Heart of Business”

“Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta offer a comprehensive blueprint for companies and leaders who want to build or regain the trust of their stakeholders. Their work provides an insightful trust model that underpins moral leadership — looking at competence, motives, means, and impact. A brilliant resource for anyone who wants to truly understand what trust is, how it works, and what they can do to incorporate it into their leadership practice.” — Celia Moore, co-director, Centre for Responsible Leadership, Imperial College Business School

Marianne Kelly: