Breaking Down Barriers of Distrust, Misinformation: The E&C Pulse

January 20, 2021
Ben DiPietro

We often talk about truth--seeking truth, acknowledging what is true--and why it’s so important to a strong organization, or a well-functioning country. 

The events of Jan. 6 reinforce the imperative for the necessity of truth, as the attack on the U.S. Capitol was based on people believing lies about the result of the U.S. election.

We wrote last week about the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, and how it showed widening gaps in trust, leaving business as the only institution seen as ethical and competent.

The chasm is blamed on differing economic realities-some people are making money from record stock prices, while millions more are out of work-and also on the wide gap between the types of information being consumed.

Edelman found that, among its respondents considered “informed,” they scored a 68 for overall trust, compared to 52 for the “mass population,” a gap of 16. In the U.S., the trust gap was 18; the gap between Biden voters and Trump voters was 19.

So, given the problems lies and misinformation are causing-we nearly had a coup occur because of them-what can the new administration do, what can business and civic organizations do, to rebuild trust and re-establish truth with people who don’t seem to have any trust and won’t accept any truth?

I asked former LRN Principled podcast guest Paul Zak, the esteemed author, neuroscientist and entrepreneur whose research focuses on trust, about how to rebuild trust when people aren’t digesting the same facts.

Zak cited data showing the number of people who trust the U.S. government has declined from 77% in 1964 to 17% now, which he said puts “enormous friction” on the government’s ability to get anything done.

“The Biden administration needs to increase transparency and clarity to build trust,” he said. 

It can achieve transparency by putting more of the government's work online so documents are viewable, as many states have done. Trust can be achieved by establishing both what they plan to do and importantly why. 

“This gives individuals the ability to see what is being done, and to hold politicians of both parties accountable,” said Zak.

From a neuroscience perspective, Zak was asked what needs to happen for people who have lost trust to regain it.

High levels of stress inhibit the ability to trust others, he said. The economy had never been stronger, and poverty had never been lower, before the pandemic-and almost a year later, the amount of stress has bubbled over.

“Getting back to work for those who have lost jobs, ending the often obsessive tracking of COVID infections and deaths, and good old socializing with friends and family will be a power salve to create the psychological safety needed to start to trust others and the government,” said Zak.   

So, while some people will stop believing these lies, millions of people won’t. What should society do? What do you do if you are an employer, and you have some of these people in your ranks, how do you engage them?

It’s not fair to point fingers at anyone, said Zak, adding we all need to engage with people we disagree with using compassion. 

“No one has access to the truth-even if we think we ourselves do!-so give others the gift of listening to them, really being present rather than dismissive, and bridges can be built with almost anyone,” he said. 

“The focus must be on ‘we’ who have a job to accomplish, ‘we’ who must live near each other, and ‘we’ are all Americans and believe in the American way of life. There is nothing more American than celebrating differences and then coming together to connect with others.”

                                                                                                        BEN DIPIETRO


The role of the audit committee is changing as it relates to how it works with management to assess and mitigate risks. 

The New York Mets baseball team fired its general manager just over one month after hiring him, after reports he sent lewd texts to a female reporter in 2016. The incident shows baseball is lagging in its diversity efforts.

The amount of disinformation on Twitter declined substantially in the week after the former U.S. president was banned from the service.

More British residents say they trust business in 2020 than did in 2019.

As the Biden administration assumes control of the government, how much will power shift from Wall Street to Washington?

New York's attorney general is suing the New York Police Department for its treatment of protesters upset by the murder of George Floyd.

Even though more Americans are working from home, the number of calls to whistleblower hotlines reached a record in 2020. A prominent whistleblower lawyer sued the SEC for changes it made to its whistleblower award program.

Greater female representation on bank boards resulted in those institutions paying fewer fines for misconduct.

How should social media platforms be held accountable for their role in spreading lies that resulted in the attack on the U.S. Capitol?

Many of the nation's law school deans signed a letter saying any attorneys who participated in the U.S. insurrection betrayed the values of the profession.

Even though they don't have people with deep knowledge of artificial intelligence, boards are moving ahead with AI initiatives.

About the Author

Ben DiPietro

Joined LRN in October 2018 after 30 years as a journalist, including seven years at The Wall Street Journal, including Risk & Compliance Journal and was a creator of the WSJ Crisis of the Week column. In 2015 was named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere Institute. Spent 14 years as a reporter in Hawaii, 11 with The Associated Press.

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