You Have My Word ... Trust Me


By Eileen Feretic

If a person is dishonest in their personal life, can they be trusted to behave honorably in their professional life? This question is asked over and over again every time the press reveals the illegal or unethical behavior of businesspeople, politicians, average citizens and governments.

Bernie Madoff, to name just one crooked businessman, robbed thousands of people of their life savings so he and his family could live a luxurious lifestyle. Anthony Weiner, who is in the race to be the next New York City mayor, is involved in another sexting scandal, despite having to resign from Congress in 2011 for the same offense. (Unfortunately, he has plenty of company in the political arena.)

Daily, we read and see stories about "our neighbors" stealing from their company or local government. I live on Long Island, where hundreds of former employees of the Long Island Railroad (as well as their doctors) are being accused of defrauding the LIRR on disability claims totaling close to $1 billion dollars.

And the recent exposure of the National Security Agency’s PRISM project has many questioning whether they can trust the U.S. government. According to a new Voltage Security survey, 62 percent of senior-level IT and security respondents think the government "snoops on their corporate data, without their knowledge, while it resides in the cloud." And let's not forget the major tech vendors that cooperated in this spying venture. Can we trust them with our personal information?

We seem to have moved from the 20th century's "Who can't be trusted?" query to the 21st century's "Who can be trusted?" lament.

Can employees trust that their employers will treat them fairly and not lay them off five years short of retirement age? Can employers trust that employees will give them an honest day's work and not call in sick when they really aren't? Can co-workers trust one another to work as a team and not try to undermine the group's efforts for personal gain?

Can a company's customers have faith in the safety and value of its products and services? Can they trust that the company isn't out to cheat or trick them? (The mortgage industry comes to mind here.) Can consumers believe what businesses write in their Websites, press releases and advertising? Does "You have my word?" mean anything anymore?

In short, can we place our trust in our neighbors, colleagues, employers, workers, vendors and governments—all the people we deal with on a daily basis? If we can't, then the social fabric that enables individuals, businesses and nations to survive and prosper will fray and eventually rip apart.

Trust is the key to living our lives productively and running our businesses and governments successfully. However, that requires open, honest interactions.

Can we do that? What do you think?

Eileen Feretic is the Editor in Chief of Baseline. You can reach her at eferetic@quinstreet.com and follow her on Twitter at baselinemag or eferetic.