The Principle of Good Faith

Back when I wrote a series called Power Plays, one of the articles dealt with the practice of authority (read it here). I made the following points within that article:

  1. Authority is both delegated DOWNWARD and awarded UPWARD. You authorize someone for a particular job. They grant you authority to oversee and hold accountable.
  2. When a person accepts a subordinate role, they essentially delegate a portion of their personal AUTHORITY and AUTONOMY to their superior (that’s you). Subordinates do not act in a monarchy. They owe you for the responsibility and authority you have yielded to them.

Accepting the premise that power is not absolute and that the authority that we as leaders possess and wield derives from our position, our responsibility, and our character, we can say the same principle exists when it comes to our capacity to influence others, either positively (motivation) or negatively (demotivation or discouragement).

When someone comes to work for us or with us, there exists a slate of unspoken but nonetheless binding assumptions. Those assumptions are as old as civilization and never seem to vary. Those who work for us and with us grant to use a line of credit. They function within the principle of good faith. They hold the belief that their trust in us and their willingness to yield personal autonomy by granting us authority over them will be worthy of their trust and good faith.

So we can define good faith as honesty and veracity of word and intention. We mean what we say and we can be relied upon to back up what we say, follow through with what we promise, and fulfill our responsibilities to them. The opposite of that has two expressions.

First is duplicity, dishonest behavior meant to trick someone. I see this every time I look at job listings when would-be employers suggest one can make $50,000 a year while stuffing envelopes. The lie is so brazen, so bold I would think no one would be fooled, but apparently many people are.

Why? The principle of good faith. People want to grant others credit. They want to put a positive balance in the bank account of belief and relationship and will readily do so until…but I get ahead of myself. The “until” comes in a few paragraphs.

Second there is pretense, a claim of having a particular quality or ability or condition that really is not true. This usually manifests itself in pretending to be what one is not. Some people are quite schooled in this having been people of pretense all their lives. Other manifestations are the real nature of a business when the proclaimed and professed values do not hold up in real life. Non-profits are more susceptible for this, not because non-profit organizations are deceitful. No, not at all! But those who come to work in non-profits usually hold very high expectations, sometimes expectations that are next to impossible to meet.

The principle of good faith means that people come to work for and with us with little or no other assurance other than what we say or what an employment agreement may contain. Those potential workers grant to us a line of credit. They extend to us the benefit of the doubt. They are willing to invest time and talent for the promise of return and reward.

What should we do? Like applying for a loan, never prevaricate on the loan application. Never promise anything that is not true. Never play on a person’s assumptions. Explain, illustrate, define, and detail what is what. And maintain that line of credit by continuing to do so.

Next up, the principle of deposits – you gotta put something in before  you can take something out. Later this week.


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