Credit: Ryoji Iwata / Unsplash
Pick any economic metric and you’ll find a story of a booming economy. Weekly jobless claims? At their lowest level since 1969 (no, that’s not a typo). No one under the age of 35 has ever experienced a labor market remotely this hot in their lifetime. Stock indexes? At or near all-time highs, along with just about every other asset class (see: real estate). GDP growth is exceptionally strong. The single biggest constraint on the economy right now is supply. In other words, businesses are turning away clients because they can’t get a hold of goods, materials, or labor to meet demand. One can imagine worse problems than having too many customers.
A notable indicator at odds with the rest of the data is worker and consumer sentiment—how Americans feel about the economy. Despite being flush with cash and job opportunities, workers nevertheless think the economy is in terrible shape when asked in poll after poll after poll. It would be easy to chalk that up to inflation, which is on the rise and is something everyone hates. Another theory that’s gaining steam pins malaise on something that’s not usually measured by economists but probably should: trust, or more specifically, an erosion of trust.
Trust isn’t easily quantifiable, but it underpins just about every commercial transaction. When we show up to our jobs, we trust that we’ll receive a paycheck. When we pay our rent or mortgage, we trust we won’t end up on the street. When we buy a bag of potato chips, we trust that the bag does indeed contain edible potato chips. Trust is the grease to capitalism’s wheel, and it’s fallen off a cliff since the start of the pandemic.
It doesn’t take long to find out why. Managers: do you think your employees working remote perform as well or are as motivated as your employees who work in person? How much do you trust your peers who you’ve only met remotely versus those you work with in person? Even remote-work evangelists are betrayed by the recent success of the employee surveillance industry, which has grown by more 50% since March 2020. Trust levels may be difficult to quantify, but it’s not impossible.
If trust is grease, then suspicion is sand, slowing things down and, if untreated, grinding them to a halt. This is quantifiable: research has shown that a “15% bump in a nation’s belief that ‘most people can be trusted’ adds a full percentage point to annual GDP growth” and that “If trust is sufficiently low economic growth is unachievable.” Building trust is hard, but it’s worth the effort. Indeed, it’s imperative to all of our livelihoods.
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Featuring at least as many OSHA violations.
This vignette is courtesy of Chris Jackson on Twitter, and just to be clear.... no, these are not Harbinger installers. Read his replies if you want to see even more OSHA violations.
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