Public Trust: Easily Lost, Hard to Regain

Not surprisingly, trust in private business deteriorated during the Great Recession. “The financial meltdown caused public distrust toward the private sector and increased trust in nonprofits, academic institutions and government,” Professor Kim Elsbach told an audience during a panel discussion in Sacramento in March to frame the release of the “2010 Edelman Golden State Trust Barometer.” The event was hosted by the global public relations firm Edelman, whose annual surveys provide a snapshot of public sentiment.Elsbach said the public perceived the financial crisis as a lapse in integrity or a purposeful deceit for the personal gain of a few. “From the public’s perspective, this is unforgiveable,” Elsbach said. “Conversely, when a wrongful act occurs due to incompetence, the public is more likely to forgive with the expectation that that the wrong will be fixed.” In collaboration with Dean Steven Currall, Elsbach has written a chapter about understanding threats to the trustworthiness of leaders for an upcoming book, Restoring Trust: Challenges and Prospects (Oxford University).

In May, Elsbach joined a panel discussion on the state of leadership in education and future job training at “Lead Sacramento,” hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber. She discussed the Graduate School of Management’s diverse leadership training efforts, including in-class group projects and problem-solving exercises, business plan competitions, Challenge for Charity competitions and MBA Consulting Center projects.

Recently, Elsbach conducted a workshop for the Society for Women in Science on “Gender Differences in Communication.” Women, she said, often employ an apologetic voice, and men a more direct and curt voice. While the apologetic voice comes across as disorganized, women can construe the more direct, indifferent voice as a rejection.