The 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity: Chapter 9 – Factor 6 – Trust

Here’s the 6th and final factor: Trust. I hope by now you are beginning to get an overall view of how all these factors link. Knowledge Worker Productivity is simple with the right ingredients and methods. I’ll be talking more about that in the next article.


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‘Trust: The firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of others. It is created by the expectation that the actions of other persons will be to ones benefit or at least not detrimental to him or her.’ 

In other words……. people need to feel that those around them will act in their interest, that the knowledge they contribute will be used responsibly and in their interests and that they can depend on the knowledge, advice, skills and abilities of their colleagues. So we are dealing with two distinctly different things: firstly competence and secondly the feeling that people will not act in ways that puts their own interests before ours or the teams.

Why is this important?

If you perceive that the knowledge or information shared by a colleague is not reliable (because of rumour, previous experience or your ‘gut feel’), you will not use their knowledge and therefore their value diminishes even though their knowledge, information or input might be sound. If you perceive that someone is going to use your information or knowledge for their own benefit over and above the team’s you will also stop giving your ideas, knowledge and co-operation willingly.

So you can probably see that Trust links to Social Cohesion insofar as if team members don’t trust each other social cohesion becomes difficult to achieve. Take this to a ‘team to team’ level, if one team doesn’t trust another, prejudice begins to creep in which may limit the amount of co-operation between teams. Similarly if people at operational and supervisory levels don’t trust senior leaders this too will detract from the level of commitment people have towards the organisation.

Trust is hard won and easily lost. But what gives rise to mistrust? People saying one thing and doing another. This is often true at senior level where leaders make statements like ‘there will be no redundancies’ and then three months later there are. At an individual team level people not doing what they say they will by a due date can lead to mistrust or people providing ‘duff’ information. I guess the worst scenario for a loss of trust is where an individual is seen to put his or her interests before those of the team.

So trust is pretty vital in Knowledge based business. But rarely do organisations, leaders or individuals manage the degree to which they are trusted which is pretty weird really when you consider the ramifications if there is a culture of mistrust.

So that’s the 6 factors. Taken together and used by inspirational leaders in all disciplines holistically, we think these 6 factors change everything about the way we organise, lead, design and invest…and in the next article we’ll look at these all together and try to join the dots.

In the meantime, try drawing a ‘Boston box’ with competence on one axis and reliability on the other. Then think about where you would put your team mates against those two axes. Also think about what you can do to increase the degree to which you are trusted by your colleagues.

For more information about knowledge worker productivity or how to build tryst, you can contact a workplace consultant on +44 207 743 7110. Alternatively you can email with your inquiry. Advanced Workplace Associates are based in London, United Kingdom but now work internationally across the United States of America, Asia and Europe.

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