By Vivienne Liu
Research & Development Specialist

While not much attention has been given to the topic of workplace trust, organisations that are practising a culture of trust have been reaping the benefits of doing so. Zak (2017) found that employees in organisations with a high culture of trust are not only more productive and energetic at work, but also better collaborators and more likely to stay longer. Moreover, companies on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, which includes trust as two thirds of its criteria, out performed companies on the S&P 500 by three times in their average annualised returns.

According to Peter Scholtes’s model, trust is a result of two conditions: only if I believe in your benevolence towards me AND that you possess the aptitude required to perform well, will I truly trust you to carry out certain tasks [Quadrant 1].


Without either of the beliefs, trust cannot BE achieved: 

If I believe you care about me, but I am not sure if you are competent, I will most likely be fond of you as a person. However, I might not trust you to carry out certain tasks because I’m not sure that you could deliver outcomes that are up to standard [Quadrant 2]. 

If I believe you are capable, but I am not sure if you will continue to back me up, I will most likely respect you for your abilities. Yet I might not trust you to carry out certain tasks, because I’m not sure that you would not purposely do things to sabotage me [Quadrant 4]. 

In the worst case scenario, if I question both your benevolence towards me and your aptitude, I will most likely be distrustful towards you [Quadrant 3]. 

Based on Scholtes’s model, organisations can foster a culture of trust by strengthening their employees’ belief in one another’s benevolence and aptitude. This may mean holding team building activities or rewarding team efforts to create a team spirit of benevolence and also investing in the development of relevant competencies. While the actual execution might look different across organisations, the principle remains the same: create an environment where employees can believe that others not only genuinely care about them and will back them up, but are also competent and capable to extend the help when needed. 


Covey, S. M. R. and Conant, D. R. (2016, July 18). The connection between employee trust and financial performance. 

Zak, P. J. (2017). The neuroscience of trust. Harvard Business Review, 95(1), 84-90. 

How are the people in your organisation developing and strengthening both their benevolence and their aptitude? If you’re willing for us to be a part of your organisation’s journey towards a culture of trust, let’s connect at connect@!