“Liberty and freedom are conditions of individuals living and working together in social systems that are organized to provide for the trust and justice required for effective interpersonal dealing.

The achievement of liberty, freedom, trust and justice, therefore depends on the design of our social institutions.” – Elliott Jaques

I’ve been reworking the concept of Trust-Attracting and Trust-Repelling organizations in a series of workshops. Pausing while supporting through organization development to bring the organization and choices made by the people through a filter:

Will this decision attract or repel trust from the organization?

In my research within organizations and informal discussions, the idea of trust, felt-fairness, liberty, and being unencumbered to complete your work without some asshole (or manipulative procedure) constricting you are what most people want from their employer.

Trust Attracting Organization:
  • Organizations generate trust, truth, fairness, justice, friendliness, openness, mutual help, and regard – with creativity and good feelings.
Trust Repelling Organization:
  • Organizations that support the negative aspects of human nature – autocratic coercion, greed, malice, secrecy, and self-seeking – are inhibitors of imagination, innovation, and creative effort.
How can we create the conditions to attract trust within our organization?
  1. The comparison chart below has examples of where to look.
  2. Use the ‘trust-attracting or trust-repelling’ filter as you discuss organizational changes.
  3. Move slow and place more time, creating an environment for people to have high trust and thrive instead of filling positions with ‘high potentials’ and keeping the workplace systems and environment the same.
Trust Attracting Organizations

Process heavily influenced by trust and acceptance

Trust Repelling Organizations

Process heavily influenced by anxiety or fear.

o Equal and felt fairness between the capability to complete the work, current work, and compensation.


o Defined accountability & authority in lateral & teamwork working relationships

o Internal Mentoring & Development are used for career advancement & to help people use their full working capacity

o Employees well informed of the context of their work & future of the company

o Recognition is given appropriately

o Correct distance in knowledge, responsibility, and

competency between manager and employee. o Managers are seen as competent and held accountable for employees’ output. o Managers are involved in adding value and increasing the ability to make decisions and use employees’ judgment. o Defined accountabilities and structures of how work gets done, who has authority to do what, and what processes should be used to complete work. o The openness of information and what is happening within the organization. o Team working. People

working with individual accountability & Recognition for a shared purpose, working together with an accountable manager or project team leader

 o Unequal gap between the personal capability to complete work, current work, and compensation.


o Power bargaining over pay or phony bonus + incentive systems

o Excessive bureaucracy and top-heavy

management structure (too many levels within the organization) o Absent or non-existent relationship with managers and employees. o Employees often have no clear understanding of who’s their manager. o Employees often lack a clear understanding of what manager’s accountability. o Lack of honest sharing of information. o Instability in what is expected for great work and the path to achieving great work. o Excessive “Reverse Peter Principal” abuse. Tasks delegated too low in the hierarchy,

creating a scapegoat mentality of accountability.

o Employees in the dark about what is likely to happen & why they are doing what they are doing

o Under-recognition & Under-utilization of capability

o Empowerment as a phony gimmick

o Accountability without equal authority