What's trust got to do with it? How trust helps foster a culture of compliance

Andrea Falcione (andrea@rethinkcomplianceco.com, linkedin.com/in/andrea-falcione/) is a principal and head of advisory services at Rethink Compliance.

Elizabeth Reisinger (elizabeth@rethinkcomplianceco.com, linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-reisinger/) is a senior content manager at Rethink Compliance.

In 1995, three economists designed an experiment to study trust.[1] While the nuances and controls of the experiment are complex, it was, in short, an investment scenario: a sender and a receiver had a pot of money that would only increase if they sent it back and forth. Both had the choice of how much or how little money to send—or if they would send any money at all.

Now called The Trust Game, this study has become one of the landmark investigations into how trust functions in human behavior. The scientists found that reciprocity plays a considerable role: if the sender risked much by sending lots of money to the recipient—thereby increasing the shared pot of money—the receiver typically did the same. But when the sender didn’t risk much—thus keeping the pool of money smaller—the receiver typically didn’t risk much either.

As compliance professionals, we know that people’s behavior and organizational culture function much like our sender and receiver. People tend to act in ways that increase their reward while mimicking the cultural norms around them, including levels of trust in leaders, their teams, and their organizational structures.

By assessing and increasing our organizations’ trust levels, we can help to create a culture of compliance.

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