Who can you trust?

Business Leader Post, October 13, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

At the risk of showing my age, it seems like people used to do business differently. Relationships used to matter more. One’s word was one’s bond. A handshake was something to count on.

The last five years of the economic downturn have had an impact on the issue of trust. People have lost faith in their advisors, their banks and others who they thought they could trust. The expression that has dominated the landscape has become “trust but verify.”

But there is another, more subtle component of the trust that we put in others. The experience of trusting   others can allow us to think that we are being taken care of by others. It is that expectation that gets us in trouble. It is reasonable to think that we can trust others to do their jobs, but it is unreasonable to think that others will take care of us. We are all driven by our own self-interests. As Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

At the end of the day, the only person who you can trust to take care of you is yourself. That is sometimes the hardest lesson for members of a family business to learn.  Working with your parent accelerates the complicated process of emotional growth from dependence to independence. The trust that we put into our parents/bosses slides into the expectation that our parents will continue to take care of us. The parents/bosses have an obligation to take care of the business first, and, in so doing, the adults/ children/employees may not feel taken care of/protected. 

Welcome to the “real world.” My message to parents/bosses is that your adult /children /employees can trust what you say, but your word does not include protecting them if they are not fulfilling their responsibilities to the business. They need to learn that the only person who they can trust to take care of them is themselves. Without that lesson, they will be lost.