Monday, 1 June 2015

Trust begets Trust

All of us talk about 'trust'and acknowledge that it is important, whether at work or at home.Yet merely making verbal statements such as "I trust you.I believe you." may not win the confidence of the listener that he or she is being trusted.Action speaks louder than words.If you say you trust somebody but send spies to keep an eye on that person, it affects not only the individual but serves as a signal to employees in general as to the management's approach to its employees in matters of trust.

In this connection, I would like to share my own experience with'trust' in the early years of my career.When we joined  Visvesvaraya Iron & steel Ltd (VISL)  as management trainees, the officers'mess patronised mainly by young bachelors was being run on a dividing system.Since a large number of us newly joined the mess, the earlier team wanted four of our representatives to take over its running.There was an experienced s mess supervisor by name Ramesh ( not his real name)  who had been running it for around seven years.The new team was only required to coordinate with him

However, as soon as the new team took over, they started out on a note of  suspicion about Ramesh, whom they thought was cheating on the provisions. They wanted to control the activities completely  and  show a reduction in the mess bill under the dividing system.As Ramesh was aware of their feelings towards him , he took a back seat and sought instructions on everything.When the team accompanied him for buying the monthly provisions, they wanted to buy a particular grade of rice which was cheaper, Ramesh indicated to them that normally 'older' rice is purchased but did not insist when they were keen to purchase the cheaper & 'newer' rice.

The result was that the entire population eating in  the mess turned  against the new team when they found that for the whole month they were stuck with eating 'sticky' kind of rice that was almost unpalatable.Ramesh cooly informed that he had advised for the 'older' rice but his advice was not heeded.At the end of the month the team resigned. They said that they did not intend to take the burden and criticism all by themselves and that all members should share the responsibility.Accordingly, it was suggested that  a new team take over every month and be responsible for the activities during the period..

Thus finally my turn also came to fulfill the responsibility. In my team while taking over, we discussed that it was futile to go in for a confrontation with Ramesh.Many activities had to happen when we were away at work. The best thing to do was to trust him and acknowledge his experience.So we told him"Ramesh Bhai, you know what our aim is - to give sumptuous food to the members while keeping the rates as low as possible.This is possible only by a very experienced person like you. We will be with you but give you a free hand to achieve our objectives and we completely trust you."

Our contribution was mainly on making some changes in the menu for injecting some novelty and accompanying Ramesh whenever required,We often reminded him thet we completely relied on his expertise to complete our term on a successful note with no complaints.At the end of the month, it so happened that not only did we get appreciation for innovative changes in the menu but the mess bill came down consideraly compared to the last  three months!

On the topic of trust another incident comes to my mind which is related in one of his  books by the celebrated Management author Moid siddiqui.He says that while working as GM (Personnel) in HMT Ltd at Bangalore, he once went on a bench mark visit to a small company.While visiting their canteen, he found a big box placed in a corner on which was written "Trust box," Mr siddiqui was surprised to see this and asked with curiosity as to "what is this?"

He was told that that in their canteen , although food items were priced, there was no coupon or other mechanism for collecting the money from the employees.The price list was displayed on a board. Each employee was expected to put the money towards price of the food stuff in to the box. Mr siddiqui says that a smile escaped his lips on hearing this.The officer accompanying him said "I know why you are smiling. You may be thinking that we would not be getting even half of the actual value. But the fact is we are getting more than the amount due. The reason for this is that most employees know that a few black sheep would be dropping less than the correct price in to the box and therefore to compensate for this they drop more than their due in to the box. It is a matter of living up to the trust that the management has reposed in them" Mr Siddiqui was very impressed with this experience.

Another experience of mine also bears out the fact that if we trust people and put them in a high pedestal, they tend to rise up to that expectations. Within a couple of years of my joining VISL, I was posted as the welfare officer in its Bhadigund Limestone Mines. Although junior in designation, the welfare officer is an important position in a mine and is for all practical purposes  the admin head. For young officers , a posting to this role is a good experience and trial by fire as they have to supervise people much older in age and be responsible for the smooth administration of the mine which employs large number of contract employees.

A few months into my role as a welfare officer, I received complaints that the head cook was  unauthorisedly issuing coffee & other snacks  at the mines canteen in exchange for money instead of coupons which is the administrative requirement, The allegation was that if the coupom value is fifty paise, he would accept twenty paise and issue the coffee which would go into his pocket.I, a 24 year old  was supposed to deal with the situation of disciplining a 57 year old employee, who was due to retire in a year. I felt it was not fair for me to speak harshly to a senior person.

One day , when no one was around I walked in to the kitchen and engaged him in casual small talk.I then mentioned about the complaint. I told him that I was too young in age to advice him on a matter which he knew better as to what is right or wrong. Further, since he had only an year to go, I wanted to see him retire with his head held high. I told him that I would not discuss this matter with him again and that I was confident that  he would overcome the matter. Later on I received feedback on how the head cook had changed his behaviour. Once during another casual conversation, he himself told me that he had pondered over what I had told him and that at this stage in his life and career, he did not want to get embroiled in 'petty' issues..

They say money begets money. My experiences tell me that trust begets trust! Treat our employees with trust and they will rise to level of our trust....The opposite could be more of a self fulfilling prophesy!


  1. Trust is important but verification is very important before reposing blind trust. One may risk loss and unpleasantness by trusting a wrong person.

  2. Thank you Abhijit for sharing your view point, It has its merits.Yet, trust does involve some amount of risk and we may have to take it to give 'trust'a chance...

  3. That trust begets trust, has been excellently reinforced in this well-written article with various real life anecdotes. Thanks for sharing your experiences Rajeev and thanks for this meaningful reminder to all of us that lot more can be achieved through trust than through arrogant superiority or wielding of power.

  4. Thank you Padmaja! Your remarks embody the gist of the article..