A Matter of Trust

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been a major influence on our lives for two years now. There are a cavalcade of impacts upon various individuals, and the lucky have been able to avoid the most trying such as extended recovery, hospitalization, or death of someone close. However, everyone has been impacted in some manner. Unfortunately, a major lesson of the pandemic has been in the area of trust.
Some have lost faith in experts over the subject of vaccination. See The Future's so Bright (February 2021). I predicted that all of society would be vaccinated by October 2021. I was way wrong. It turns out that there are a fair number of people that will never be vaccinated voluntarily. Despite government efforts to force vaccination, it thus far appears many will never be vaccinated involuntarily either. I have spoken to a handful of the unwilling, and they are sincere in their disbelief in the vaccine. Doubt in science is not a pandemic-isolated phenomenon. Doubt in science is nothing new. Science and Doubt (July 2019).
The scientific community has not done itself any favors with the rapidly evolving postures regarding other pandemic responses. Masking is a good example. The Science of Consensus and Masks Again (June 2021); Tootsie Pops Make you Think (August 2021). What science and scientists have espoused regarding the the benefits of mask wearing since this pandemic arrived in 2020 has vacillated notably, as has other advice. When I teach credibility topics for testimony, I get many requests to define how one would demonstrate credibility. First on the list of "no nos" is inconsistency.
A recent Microsoft News headline therefore caught my eye: Who do Americans Trust on the Virus. As I read the story, Billy Joel ran through my head singing '"cause it's always been a matter of trust," Matter of Trust, The Bridge (1986). That line really captures it all because most of us lack the scientific acumen to evaluate the threats and challenges of SARS and COVID-19. We are dependent upon others, and it has "always been a matter of trust." Our current challenge is that those experts have recently demonstrated a propensity to mislead us, through lack of information, miscommunication, and unfortunately perhaps intentional misrepresentation for a variety of motivations, good and bad.
Last fall, I suggested that Bill Nye the Science Guy might be the last expert people are willing to trust. Departures from the FDA (October 2021). I recently noted that sentiment in a conversation with a group of physicians and received general agreement. There is a great deal of distrust in the so called experts that are called upon to explain the challenges and implications of COVID-19 to us. While that is lamentable, in fairness, many of them contributed personally and publicly to that doubt and distrust in which we find ourselves. Through their statements and inconsistency, they have impacted our ability to trust them.
So, who do Americans trust? One generality cited by the article is that "Americans seem more likely to trust people they know directly or people with whom they have direct contact." There is perhaps no surprise in that. It is likely easier in today's world of Internet information and shifting documentation to trust someone that you know, or at least feel you know.
The article notes that America is a highly divided population today. It refers to the country as subject to "partisan divides." However, it noted that "the group that ranked most highly in the poll" for trust was "their employer." There was also significant trust regarding the virus implications "in what their local school said," although that was more notable "among parents." Both schools and employers fall in that "direct contact" group,
Others did not fair so well. Only "44 percent of those surveyed said they trusted the CDC." That is our main scientific bulwark against disease and death. It is often the "go to" source for data, studies, and clarity. Its credibility is a dead heat with "43 percent (saying) they did not trust the agency." The article proceeds to delineate responses in more detail based upon respondent perspective.
While the article concedes that some degree of partisanship my influence the outcome. It also noted that critics may be troubled by the fact that "the CDC's guidance has changed at times since March 2020." There is that inconsistency element once again.
This has serious implications for the employer. The employer occupies a place of rare trust and faith in this crisis. It is imperative that responsibility is recognized and understood. The workplace presents a variety of potential perils, including safety, hygiene, and stability. Employers likewise face a variety of challenges, including recruiting, retention, and maintaining operations. It is a time of significant stress and challenge. But, the employer must remember that the workplace is seen as a place of trust.
Employees must be listened to and considered. Data and news must be considered and comprehended. The emotional component of the worker must be considered and respected. A recent report on Medium.com noted that employees are increasingly focused upon their own mental health, even at the cost of promotion and career growth. The author there contends "it's clear that employees see their employment as more than just a job, and organizations that meet these increased expectations stand to benefit." Thus, the nature of the employment relationship might be construed as complicated and symbiotic.
The Employer, who enjoys such a position of trust, must continue to communicate, commiserate, and cooperate so that the workforce is retained, motivated, and engaged. The trust as regards information regarding COVID is a great compliment, but must be earned consistently if the employer is to thrive and succeed in the midst of this challenge, and beyond. There is persistently a symbiosis in the employee/employer relationship. Those who recognize it seem to flourish.
Whether it is in listening, advising, policy-making, or otherwise, "it's always been a matter of trust." Employers should recognize they are trusted, relied upon, and appreciate what that recognition means, and strive to continually earn it as we move forward.
By Judge David Langham
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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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