The power of individuals

During the financial crisis of 2001 and 2008 we have assisted to a lot of bad guys who focused only on their personal results without caring at all about the possible consequences. The result of all these bad practices is clear nowadays to everybody – society has to pay the bill for that. Some magazines titles like “Can we ever trust wall street again?” are just illustrating the common thinking that all the people is having now in financial institutions and in big companies. Unfortunately there are plenty of examples in that direction.

But nowadays the traditional communication channels are changed. A reputation survey ( demonstrated that people believes that to evaluate a reputation of the company is extremely important if the company is “a company I can trust” (65%), just a little less than “high quality products” (69%), but definitely more than “delivers consistent financial returns to investors” (39%) and “widely admired leadership” (39%). So is more important to be trusted than the financial results or managerial leadership.
And the first primary source for evaluating the trust of a company is based on “conversation with company employees” more than “Live communication such as a CEO speech”.
Looking at institutions, people gives more trust to “people you meet for the first time” than in commercial enterprises or major banks.
This means that the trust of people to company and institutions is seriously compromised and to restore it will take a long time.
Then there is the web 2.0. Now there is the power of individuals. Every employee or customer or end user could blame a company for their behaviour. There are some “funny” stories like the United Airlines case that break the guitar of a singer which dedicated them a new song, or the Carrefour opening at Assago where a journalist behaviour against a kid caused big troubles to supermarket managers after the case exploded on internet and the word of mouth on Internet created serious problems of credibility to the company. There is a big series of examples of managers who have been forced to resign after public blame from the network that revealed some bad behaviour inside companies or after episodes of missing respect against some employees at work. Today everything is public.
Everybody in the company nowadays is important and can behave as a communicator or, if not respected, like a bomb who can create troubles to the company reputation. But in order to keep a good reputation for a company, managers have to be competent, concrete and trustable, they have to be aware of the stakeholders requirements, with dedication and motivation, putting the respect for the others at the first position of their priorities.

In the next post we will see how to cultivate trust or at least how to try to restore it.