Overcoming Trust Deficit in a Virtual World

In a virtual talk by Karen Plum, (Director of Research & Development at AWA), she discussed the importance of trust and how it can be challenged when working apart from one another. Plum, who has spent several years investigating knowledge worker productivity, shared her findings and practical solutions derived from academic research.

Trust, according to Plum, encompasses reliability, truth, and ability. While trust is often viewed as an emotional concept, it also involves assessing whether individuals can be relied upon to act in the best interests of the team and organization. Plum highlighted two primary dimensions of trust: cognition-based trust and affect-based trust.

Cognition-based trust, originating from the logical brain, focuses on competence and expertise. It involves evaluating whether someone possesses the necessary qualifications and experience to be trusted in terms of their knowledge and skills. On the other hand, affect-based trust, originating from the heart, is built on emotional connections and personal experiences with individuals. Plum emphasized the importance of distinguishing between these two dimensions when making decisions and avoiding relying solely on gut reactions.

To delve deeper into the subject, Plum referred to the research conducted by academics over a span of 20 years. This comprehensive body of work, which has undergone peer review and boasts a robust methodology, provides valuable insights into team performance. Plum highlighted six key factors, including trust, that are strongly correlated with effective team performance.

Plum underscored trust as the foundation for these factors, emphasizing its pivotal role in fostering social cohesion and enabling effective collaboration. Trust is nurtured through informal interactions and activities, making it a crucial element in remote work scenarios. Plum urged individuals to recognize the significance of trust, both in terms of trusting others and being trustworthy themselves.

Moreover, Plum discussed the concept of propensity to trust, noting that people have varying levels of willingness to trust others. This propensity can be influenced by cultural factors, personal experiences, and personality traits. Recognizing these differences can help individuals understand their own predisposition and approach trust with more nuance and empathy.

Plum also acknowledged the challenges faced in remote work environments, where trust, social cohesion, and information sharing are susceptible to damage. Without the opportunity for face-to-face interactions and nonverbal cues, individuals must make a conscious effort to maintain trust. This involves increasing visibility, staying in regular contact, and considering how their behavior may be interpreted by others.

Plum concluded her talk with a call to action, encouraging individuals to take responsibility for trust. She stressed that trust is not a static attribute but something that can be rebuilt even after being broken. By fostering a culture of trust and encouraging others to do the same, individuals can contribute to the success and well-being of their teams and organizations.

In summary, Karen Plum’s insights shed light on the importance of trust in remote work environments. Trust, encompassing reliability, truth, and ability, plays a foundational role in team performance and effective collaboration. Plum emphasized the need to differentiate between cognition-based trust and affect-based trust and to avoid relying solely on gut reactions. Trust can be nurtured through informal interactions, and individuals must take proactive measures to sustain trust in remote work settings. By understanding their own propensity to trust and taking responsibility for building and maintaining trust, individuals can contribute to positive and productive work environments.

Watch the full video here https://youtu.be/H6kHewj_Qwg