In boss we trust

Justine Toh reflects on some intriguing findings from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, and what they reveal about community and belonging.

Who do you trust? 74% of Australians say: their employer.

We’re cynical about CEOs in general: in Australia, they enjoy the same amount of trust as government leaders (43%). But when it comes to “my CEO” there’s a trust bump (61%) – a trend that’s also reflected globally.

We also have high trust in our co-workers (71%) so maybe there’s a natural bias towards trusting people we see regularly. (We also highly trust scientists – 73% – but assuming we’re not all colleagues they might be the exception).

We couldn’t fit these intriguing findings from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer into our most recent Life & Faith episode about the collapse of trust in Western countries. The Barometer has been going for 22 years, surveying some 36,000 respondents in 28 countries. Aside from some upswings in global trust in government during the pandemic, distrust is increasingly our default option. (You’ll have to listen to our episode to learn more!)

Given how dire the trust stakes are these days, it’s positive that we still trust those we work with. But the figures also suggest that belonging bumps up trust. Knowing and understanding people enough to work with them (and feeling known and understood yourself) helps foster trust – even if there’s no natural affinity between you. No one handpicks their colleagues.

No surprises there, sure. But I wonder: is the workplace one of the only remaining places where that reliably happens?

If so, then maybe it signals a hollowing out of the non-job parts of our lives – a gap that community groups, civil associations, even churches, might otherwise have plugged.

We seem to lack opportunities to mix with each other – especially those substantial enough to nurture a sense of belonging. Until we address that, I fear trust will remain in short supply.