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Trustworthiness: Be True to Those Around

Welcome to the 4th and final blog post on Trustworthiness. This week we are going to dive into the third characteristic of trustworthiness – Be True. We are continuing to leverage the 2002 research study published in Business Ethics on the ethical benefits of trust-based partnering. In this post we are identifying steps you should take to show you are true as well as red flags you should pay attention to indicating a partner might not be true. Lastly, we will consider a BlindSpot of which to be aware so you don’t undermine your own reputation accidently.

Be True

  • Demonstrate reliability as a partner by keeping promises, no matter how small or trivial 
  • Fairly share benefits or gains 
  • Do not impose unreasonable demands 

These actions to show trueness are applicable to your different stakeholder partners: your employees, your customers, your vendors, your shareholders and other stakeholders. They are referred to below simply as partner. It might be your human resources team that applies these actions to your employees, your marketing team that applies them to your customers, your procurement team that applies them to your vendors and your leadership team that applies these to your shareholders. Or, if you are a small organization, you might have to balance your time between the various stakeholders, as I’m sure you are used to doing. 


How you can show you are True:

  • Set realistic commitments you can meet and then meet them. Whether it is when a call will take place, a shipment will be delivered, a date you commit to your employees to share an update on a situation (even if the update is, we’re still working on it) – make the commitment to your partners and meet the commitment 
  • If times are good – share fairly with your partners. A windfall of customers and resulting long hours subsequent to a big payout may warrant a bonus for employees or vendors. 
  • Be willing to negotiate with partners, listen to their concerns and be firm with what you need so together you can come to a decision or commitment that benefits both of you
  • Partners work for mutual advantage and seek to ensure that the relationship produces benefits for all parties 

When dealing with another company – pay attention to these Red Flags indicating the partner you are working with might not be True:

  • You are told a commitment cannot be kept just a few days before the due date – or not told at all and a commitment is missed. Slippage happens, trustworthy partners are fast to communicate risk and work to renegotiate dates
  • Demands are made without your ability to provide input or negotiate your business needs
  • Extra efforts on the part of your company are not acknowledged or rewarded
  • Other partners seem out to maximize their own benefit and gains while not considering or advocating for yours


Lastly, we should consider and be mindful of possible BlindSpots.  BlindSpots are psychological tendencies that blind us to ethical decision making and ethical action. BlindSpots can get in the way of our commitment to do the right thing. They are a part of everyone’s psychology. Our minds do a lot of work to make our daily lives easier, sometimes oversimplifying, overgeneralizing, or just plain overlooking things. Occasionally, this threatens our commitment to ethics. In aiming to be true, be cautious of the BlindSpot often known as Overconfidence Bias.

In Overconfidence Bias, we become overconfident in our processes, systems or even ourselves.

At the start of our Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, business became very unusual, very fast. One large online retailer attempted, at first, to do business as usual confident that the processes, systems and way of working over the years could stand up to anything.  Let’s be honest, I don’t think anybody’s continuity planning was up for the task for handling Covid-19. Unfortunately, as the pandemic unfolded some employees were not given time off when presenting as sick, communication issues resulted in inconsistent application of rules, and as demand for products (especially essential products) skyrocketed - employees were finally in a position to begin demanding a change to working conditions. They picketed, they organized, and they demanded better conditions. To be fair – the company is quickly expanding to offer employees raises and hiring more help to ensure demands on employees become more realistic, the windfall of revenue is being shared back with the staff and commitments to customers being renegotiated so customers know when to expect goods and employees and vendors have some breathing time in fulfilling the orders. Could the company have been prepared for something like this? I don’t know. What I do know is little problems have been brewing over the last year that the company has had a hard time resolving. There were indications that the processes and systems weren’t holding up through the growing reliance on online shopping. Was the company seen as being reliable, fair and realistic with their expectations on their staff coming up to this pandemic? Or did they feel like they had the upper hand? Were they overconfident?  

Thank you for reading through our Blogs on Trustworthiness where we presented the three components of trustworthiness: Be Truthful, Be Transparent and Be True.

To tell us your experiences around trustworthiness or to discuss a situation you are facing, please reach out to the Business Ethics Alliance at


Source of helpful information leveraged in this post:

Wood, G., McDermott, P., & Swan, W. (2002). The ethical benefits of trust-based partnering: the example of the construction industry. Business Ethics: A European Review, 11(1), 4–13.

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