RECOGNIZING THE FRAGILITY OF TRUST AND ITS IMPORTANCE IN THE PARTNERING PROCESS - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 55, No. 3
Jeff Busch is a principal of Pinnell, Cusch Inc., and has been instrumental in developing its partnering program which promotes the use of ADR processes. He is an active panel member of the American Arbitration Association.
Nicole Hantusch is on a business exchange with Pinnell, Busch Inc., where she conducts research in the field of organizational development, focusing on partnering dynamics of construction projects.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Trust has always played an important role in the partnering process—as it has in all business relationships. In the following article, Jeff Busch and Nicole Hantusch break through the invisible barriers to trust, and show how partnering can become an easier process when healthy working relationships are able to flourish in a trusting environment.
Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, said: “Trust is good, but control is better.” Today, many people in the business world operate with the same attitude and miss the opportunities for success that are available when they dare to establish trust. Control and lack of trust characterize many personal and working relationships. What is it that makes it so difficult for us to trust other people nowadays?
Often the main perceived barrier to a successful construction project is the contract, which implies that the issue is money. Both parties remain unaware that trust is a more powerful barrier to a successful project than either the contract or the money involved. Experience has shown that if trust has been established, negotiations about the contract and money are fairer.
But trust is not just needed while negotiating a contract or the price for extra work, it is essential throughout the duration of the project for many reasons. For instance, trust is needed to perceive the intentions of the other party correctly, to exchange important information, or to have confidence in the other party’s ability to meet contract obligations. If trust is established between the owner and the contractor at the beginning of a project, respect, commitment, and accountability become part of their relationship.
However, building trust is not an easy task, especially in the construction industry, where the relationship between parties is often characterized by shifting risk, contract language, and adversarial perspectives.
What is Trust?
Trust plays an increasingly important role in the partnering process, and in all business relationships. There are many different definitions of trust, which do not contradict each other, but rather are focused on different aspects of trust. Doney, Cannon and Mullen1 make the effort to develop a single definition of trust. They define it as:
A willingness to rely on another party and to take action in circumstances where such action makes one vulnerable to the other party.
In their opinion this definition incorporates the notion of risk as a precondition of trust, and it includes both the belief and behavioral components of trust.
Other authors also suggest that a perceived risk is required for trust to influence one’s decisions and actions: