CONTRIBUTOR / Adam Waytz
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATIONS
KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT / Psychology
Part 1 / Measuring Trust: Through Competence – or Warmth? (0:00)
Research suggests that first impressions are critical in determining whether or not to trust someone, and that when a trust breach occurs, it can be difficult to restore. A cross-disciplinary perspective provides insight into how broken trust can be addressed.
Part 2 / Warmth vs. Competence in Gauging Trust (0:38)
We decide whether to trust another person almost immediately, and the decisive factor is their perceived warmth. But when businesses try to build trust, they typically focus on competence, which can be quantified. Warmth seems much less measurable, though organizations have become better at expressing it with indicators showing they are friendly to good causes.
BUMPER: Trust and First Impressions
I think what the research suggests is that first impressions go a long way and that people are making a decision about, “Do I trust this person? Do I trust this organization? Do I trust this brand?” relatively immediately.
And furthermore, trust is very difficult to restore once it is breached.
BUMPER: Warmth vs. Competence in Gauging Trust
So, the work of Susan Fisk and others has shown that warmth really predominates judgments of trustworthiness, more so than competence.
So, the first and the most important thing that people are basing their judgments of trust on are, “Do I feel that this is someone that’s benevolent? Is this a person or a company or a brand that’s kind, that’s good, that I would like to be friends with?”
The problem is, in the world of business, people tend to focus on conveying competence.
When they want to restore trust or when they want to gain people’s trust initially, businesses tend to focus on competence: letting people know that they’re intelligent, that they’re capable, that they have the ability to act on whatever their intentions are.
Consumers and people in the world and just people who are engaged in social life care about competence second. They care about warmth first. This is also important for leaders as well.
Amy Cuddy and colleagues wrote an article in Harvard Business Review that I like to refer to which is called “Connect, Then Lead.”
Often leaders think that they need to convey their competence to the organization above all else. But the most important thing is first to connect with subordinates and peers and other executives on this dimension of warmth.
I think why we focus so much on competence in the world of business is that competence is much easier to measure. We can see performance ratings; we can see sales numbers; we can see return on investment.
Competence is something that is very visible, so we tend to focus on what is visible and what’s quantifiable.
Warmth is something that feels a bit squishier, a bit more abstract, and even a bit less quantifiable, yet warmth is what people are really thinking about when they’re judging, “Do I trust this person? Do I trust this organization? Do I trust this brand?”
Now, some companies and some organizations have gotten much better at quantifying warmth or quantifying things like social responsibility: “How much is my organization engaged in fair practices towards its workers? Positive interactions with the community? Benevolent actions towards the environment?”
And we can start seeing the emergence of the corporate social responsibility scores. I think this is a step forward in organizations trying to capture warmth in a more quantifiable manner and then conveying that to potential consumers who really care about these dimensions.