Trust in me

Trust in me

The trust of family and intimate relationships – considered to be the “trust capital” in people’s lives – is critical in developing workplace respect and corporate trust that comes from shared values, writes NICOLA JENVEY

At this year’s Noshcon, University of Stellenbosch Business School director, Prof Piet Naudé, told delegates that employees had to realise that the way they perceived the world depended on their own thoughts and not the outside world, as the brain acts in compliance with the thoughts and behaviour that a person introduces.

“Trust is the positive assumption that a person or organisation will interact with me on a reliable and ethical basis. The moment you have to question that trust, it has already gone,” he said.

Naudé’s comments, delivered with his trademark humour and showmanship, come against the background that trust is a personal and organisational responsibility and that South Africa is “in serious need” of leaders they can trust.

A professor of ethics and the former vice-rector (academic) at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Naudé holds a master’s degree in philosophy and doctorate in theology. He is the past president of Business Ethics Network of Africa and the African representative on the International Society for Business, Ethics and Economics executive committee.

Naudé said words like “sunrise” and “sunset” remained in our language, despite science proving more accurate phrases are “watching the sun come into the earth’s view” or “dipping out of our view as the earth turns”.

Consequently, how more difficult would it be to change mindsets on racism, sexism and theological issues when the brain has been conditioned to act in a certain manner?

When displaying a photograph of a taxi, Naudé questioned the delegates on their associations. This raised quips covering “trouble”, “dangerous” and “public transport – help”.

Yet, this is a R40-billion annual industry; it transports 15-million citizens daily; drives 250 000 motor vehicles; accounts for 1 200 new purchases monthly; directly employs 600 000 people; and provides the heart of informal entrepreneurship via its ranks.

“We have negative approaches based on our information and blame everyone else. The way we think speaks to who we are and shapes our attitudes,” he said.

Considering the workplace, Naudé said the productivity of employees depends on what happens outside that environment. More specifically, organisations do not own their employees – only families own their members, and children thrive on quantity, not quality time, while companies tend to forget about individuals.

Once key trust levels are in place, it is possible to grow organisational team trust built on respect, irrespective of social power (not viewing low-level employees as machines oiling the system); treating it as the heart of good business that is mutually beneficial across the company.

“That respect is the ‘emotional capital’ – and the higher the surplus, the more likely it is that employees will support the company in troubled times. When employees are dismissed in good times, what support will they offer when management requests a pay cut or ‘restructuring’ in difficult times?” he questioned.

Referring specifically to president Jacob Zuma, Naudé concluded that no company – and by extension, country – can have sound leadership when the trust in that leadership has been questioned.

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