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Winning at Working: 3 Essential Rules of Trust

Nan Russell -- In a complex, changing world with social media influence and 24/7 connectivity, it's easy for anyone to make trust mistakes. Knowing how, when, and whom to trust remains an essential skill for anyone who wants to be winning at working.

It's a toss-up world. Sometimes what we encounter is truthful, sometimes it's not; sometimes a picture is real, sometimes manipulated; sometimes a statement or "news" story is factual, sometimes "over-exaggerated," fabricated, or plagiarized. In this kind of world, trust can seem naïve, gullible, and foolhardy.

Of course, sometimes it is. Not everyone is trustworthy. But, the reality is all people never have been and never will be. From snake-oil salesmen to the seller of the Brooklyn Bridge, there have always been scammers, cheaters, and manipulators. Technology may have changed, but the challenge of knowing how, when, and whom to trust hasn't. It's still an essential skill for anyone who wants to be winning at working.

In a complex, changing world with social media influence and a 24/7 connectivity of people, it's easy for anyone -- even the trust-savvy and trust-skilled -- to make trust mistakes. However, some are easier to avoid than others.

Three Essential Winning at Working Trust Don'ts:

-- Don't allow the halo effect to extend your trust perimeter. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, a halo effect is: "The tendency of a favorable (or unfavorable) impression created by an individual in one area to influence one's judgment of him or her in another." You wouldn't allow your auto mechanic to do your root canal, so don't apply the equivalent elsewhere. Just because someone is successful or competent in their role doesn't mean they're trustworthy in other roles or areas. Be wary of giving trust-passes stemming from the halo effect.

-- Don't blanket trust or distrust, or extend or withhold trust, based on title, position, or role. Neighborhood priests and test-changing teachers offer headline examples against a trust blanketing approach. A person's role or status (or race, gender, religion, or community) doesn't determine trustworthiness. A person at the top of an organization isn't inherently more or less worthy of trust than someone in an entry position. All leaders, salespeople, construction workers, business owners, doctors, police officers, protestors, students, politicians, neighbors, or friends aren't the same -- i.e., all trustworthy or all not. Trust is about individuals, not groups. Be careful about the trust-blankets you throw.

-- Don't judge only what someone says; judge what they do against what they say. Actions, at least consistent ones, do speak louder than words. But those actions don't speak in a vacuum. Our words provide the backdrop for how our actions are measured. It's that alignment between words and actions that creates behavioral integrity, which is a foundation for trust. Don't give your trust to people whose words and actions are misaligned -- who say one thing and do another -- or those whose actions demonstrate a belief that their words apply only to others, not themselves. Pay attention to mismatched words and actions, including your own.

People mean different things when they use the word trust And the word itself is filled with emotional impact, past grievances, and potential risks. Still, the good news is that most people, most of the time are trustworthy. Avoid these mistakes and you'll find more often than not, that's your experience, too.

Courtesy of Nan Russell

Named a 100 Top Thought Leader in 2014 by Trust Across America, Nan Russell is a professional speaker, workplace consultant, and the author of four books including: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation and The Titleless Leader. Her work insights column, Winning at Working, appears in numerous publications and she’s a blogger for on the topic of workplace trust. Prior to moving to the Rocky Mountains to pursue a life-dream as a writer, her career took her from a minimum wage employee to Vice President of multibillion dollar QVC. She holds degrees from Stanford and the University of Michigan. For more information, visit, or contact Nan at

© 2017 Nan S. Russell

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