The Return on Trust - by Bernie White

Jan 27 2017

A great article in HBR this month (January/February 2017) on the Neuroscience of Trust. It was interesting to see Professor Paul J Zak identifying the underlying neuro-chemistry of trust and trust-worthiness, his eight behaviours for trust and the return on the investment in trust. Too often trust is seen as, soft and intangible - but Zak makes some powerful claims drawn from his research in the laboratory and in organisational practice.


Highlights for me, were:

1.      The 2016 global CEO survey by PWC, reported that 55% of CEO’s think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organisational growth.

2.      There is a trust neuro-chemical called oxytocin and the relationship between oxytocin and trust in universal across diverse cultures (including those living in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea!).

3.      Stress is an inhibitor of oxytocin and thereby reduces the propensity to trust and to be trustworthy.

4.      Recognition, autonomy, intentional relationship building, and transparency are powerful contributors to increased trust.

5.      High trust workplaces help people develop personally as well as professionally. And numerous studies show that if you are not growing as a human being, your overall performance will suffer.

6.      Showing vulnerability by asking for help stimulates oxytocin production in others, increasing their trust and cooperation.

7.      There is strong evidence that high trust environments lead to 40% less burnout, 50% higher productivity, 29% more satisfaction with life, 106% more energy at work and 76% more engagement.


It all added up to another reminder about how savvy it is to be deliberate about increasing your own trustworthiness and the developing your trust in others.