Five years of work has expanded my vocabulary to colossal depths. My all-time favorite is EOD (Pronounced E-O-D) which far outranks deeply profound phrases such as: “Approved”, “I need a date”, and “Don’t print this email. Save the earth” in green font because 70% of the earth is, you know, blue.
EOD means End of Day; and also the end of an abbreviation’s self-respect. Coming in a close second is a word thrown around workplaces a lot: Trust. Not Trust – the virtue, but trust – the corporate jargon. Definition: “I have no clue what I mean when I say trust, but it’s important to use the word frequently just to sound all hip and cool.”
“I trust you will send it to me by EOD.” See, that line sounds straight out of a Yo Yo Honey Singh song.
Let’s talk about Trust – the virtue at work.
Workplaces are inherently distrustful because there’s going to be at least one bonehead in a 100 people who will do something stupid and jeopardize the workplace. Hence the ‘better safe than sorry’ spiel. Over time, this need to be safe has moved from a healthy caution to a sickening paranoia. This paranoia is pervasive. The mistrust virus spreads. So, the ‘I-am-not-going-to-tell-you-a-few-things-and-I-am-going-to-be-sly-about -it-because-I-think-you-will-use-that-information-and-become-a-millionaire-and-go-on-to-rule-the-world’ becomes a tacit understanding. No one talks about this openly because the paradox about mistrust is that in order to talk about it, you need to, well, trust.
Instead, there are bean bags.
There’s this crumby idea about trust workplaces fall for: “in order to be trusted, you need to gain trust.” You can’t treat Trust like the pick-up line of a tyrant. Somewhere along the way, the idea of culture moved from away having virtues like Trust to going to work dressed like Charlie Harper. And this new idea of culture can be delusional. It turns workplaces into Nigerian scammers trying to sell you polystyrene balls in exchange for exactly half your life.
So you take that dream job dreaming about playing FIFA in a little more than your underwear. But, none of this makes sense if you can’t go to your boss, in the middle of the day, and say, “I am off to play FIFA,” or even better, “Hey Vivek, wanna play FIFA?”
At a time when firms are pulling their hair out over how to deal with millennials, it’s important to differentiate the superficial from the significant. What’s significant are the virtues that spread across the firm, virtues that will brand themselves through the people there, virtues that are more than jargon. And there’s no better place to start than Trust.
Trust creates fans. It mobilizes the workforce toward shared values. And more importantly, it’s a virtue to take back home. Of course, sometimes, people will break that trust. The solution is not to immediately ban everything and act like that nerdy kid in the exam who covers the paper with her entire torso. The revenge for broken trust is to trust again. Great cultures are built only when things break. If firms threw away everything that broke, there’ll be this culture-less void that will be filled with paranoia and business jargon.
At the EOD, you need to trust not because you need to build a culture, but because you need something to build a culture on.
I have had the opportunity to be a part of some incredible projects during my five years at work. This was because each of my bosses had enough trust on the 20-something me to work amidst people with almost thrice the experience and capability. It’s the one thing that kept me going for five years. If they had all waited for me to “gain” trust, I may have used their actual names here.