Trust On Trial

When you look out at the world through the evening news, sometimes it seems like everything is turned upside down. Nothing seems to come out the way you'd expect, and the values we hold dear seem to be denied as much as they are affirmed.

Columns From: 2/1/1999 Modern Machine Shop, ,

When you look out at the world through the evening news, sometimes it seems like everything is turned upside down. Nothing seems to come out the way you'd expect, and the values we hold dear seem to be denied as much as they are affirmed.

Think about what we've seen just in the last year. Clinton is the one who gets caught, but the process takes down two Speakers of the House instead. McGwire and Sosa charm the nation with their extraordinarily civilized behavior, even though they simply behave in a manner that we once considered the norm for athletes—the now quaint-sounding term we used for it was sportsmanship. Jesse Ventura body-slams the two-party system in Minnesota, gets elected to a high office for which he is arguably unqualified, and the media absolutely love it. Big companies continue to lay off people in a good economy. And, at this writing, my Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team is ranked third in the nation with 15 wins and no defeats, suspensions or arrests.

Odd I should put it that way, about the Bearcats, that is. But that's really how I think of it. I want to be a believer in the team's success, but I don't want to be made a fool in the event that the program publicly comes up short on the integrity scale again.

So what does any of this have to do with metalworking? I think it's this: Many workers in many companies fight their own battles with cynicism on a daily basis. Sure, we'd all like to believe in our enterprise—that management is competent, principled and that it sincerely wants the best for its employees. But so much of the news we get conditions us to suspend judgement only at our own peril. We suspect there always has to be another angle, and too often events turn out to prove us right.

But let this not turn into a rant about disillusionment. If anything, I'm encouraged that so many of the shops I visit are so well focused on what's truly important. The BS levels are much lower across the board, the BSers in much shorter supply, and the trust levels much higher than they were 15 years ago. Moreover, our workers as well as our citizens should challenge anyone who's peddling easy answers to hard questions. We're all better off for that.

But we shouldn't take any of that goodwill for granted. With the audience getting tougher all the time, we have to continue to earn their trust every day. Forget that, and it will quickly slip away.

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