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About trust

Trust is something I paid great attention to over the years  – how trust forms, disappears and its relationship with conflict. I recently read DHH’s book “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” and I want to add a note, citing a paragraph that crystallizes all of these sides of trust – especially in a work context. It comes from page 81 – The Trust Battery

Ever been in a relationship where you’re endlessly annoyed by every little thing the other person does? In isolation, the irritating things are objectively annoying. But in those cases, it’s never really about those little things. There’s something else going on. 

The same thing happens at work. Someone says something, or acts in a certain way, and someone else blows up about it. From far, it looks like an overreaction. You can’t figure out what the big deal is. There’s something else going on. 

Here’s what’s going on: The trust battery is dead. 

Tobias Lutke, CEO of Shopify, coined the term. Here’s how he explained it in a New York Times interview: “Another concept we talk a lot is something called a trust battery.  It’s charged at 50% when people are first hired. And then, every time you work with someone at the company, the trust battery between the two of you, is either charged or discharged, based on things like wether you delivered on what you promise” […] 

The reality is that the trust battery is a summary of all the actions to date. If you want to recharge the battery, you have to do different things in the future. Only new actions and new attitudes count. 

Plus, it’s personal. Alice’s trust battery with Bob is different than Carol’s trust battery with Bob. Bob might be at 85% with Alice and only at 10% with Carol. Bob isn’t going to recharge the battery with Carol, just by acting differently with Alice. The work of recharging relationships is mostly one to one. That’s why two people who get along often can’t understand how someone else could have a problem with their good friend. 

A low trust battery is the core of many personal disputes at work. It powers stressful encounters and anxious moments. When the battery is drained, everything is wrong. A 10 percent charge equals a 90 percent chance the interaction will go south. 

Having good relationships at work takes, err, work. The kind that can only begin once you’re honest about where you’re starting from. The worst thing you can do is pretend that interpersonal feelings don’t matter. That work shouldn’t “just be about work”. That’s just ignorant. Humans are humans whether they’re at work or at home.