Don’t let blind trust destroy you

By Younas Chaudhary

Younas in Pakistan in the seventies
Younas in Pakistan in the seventies

In the 1950s, my father, an Air Force employee, was forced to quit his job in the city and move to a remote village in Pakistan to take care of his father’s land and eight siblings. My grandfather had passed away and gifted his land to my father and his eight siblings so that they could make a living by farming. My father was the eldest male, and his three male siblings were young at that time, and they urged him to move to the village to become the village chief and take care of the family land.

My father trusted his siblings blindly. But soon, each brother started complaining that his land was less useful compared with my father’s land, and other small issues began mounting into big complaints.

Eventually, my uncles tried to convince him to buy a farm tractor so that they could all fertilize their family lands, but this project failed. Thereafter, the siblings started fighting, and eventually a fist fight broke out among them in a mosque. My father ended up being forced out of the village by his brothers, at my grandmother’s urging, and he took his family out of the village to settle in a nearby city.

Trusting someone blindly involves risk. Early lessons in life, like watching my father’s experience, taught me to carefully assess people before trusting them, especially in the context of business deals. Similarly, I later understood the value of trust in the work environment. For instance, I now habitually leave my office doors unlocked, creating an environment of trust, where employees do not feel that they are being alienated or think that I am doing something strange behind closed doors.

Over the past 40 years in business, I can recollect only two instances where I lost trust in my employees. In the first instance, I hired an accountant who stayed with my company for several years and become a CPA license holder while working for me. I trusted her, but once she achieved a dominant position, she started violating my trust. Soon, my bank started finding irregularities that ran into thousands of dollars. The bank informed me about it, but I initially could not believe that the person whom I had trusted blindly could violate my trust and steal my money. The bank found out, however, that my CPA had been stealing money from my business and placing it into her personal account. She got caught, was convicted, and ended up spending time in jail.

The second incident happened over a decade ago, when I trusted a young employee blindly based on knowing his family, his education, and his smooth talking. His job was to manage part of our oilfield operations, but soon he started selling our company’s equipment to vendors without our knowledge and made well over a million dollars in a short period. Unfortunately for him, one of the vendors who had helped him steal equipment did not got paid by him, so he called my office. We then realized that he had been stealing and selling our spare field equipment—in clear violation of our trust. We lodged a police case, and he was convicted.  The judge was about to sentence him to prison for several decades, but I intervened due to his young age and older living parents and personally wrote to the judge seeking probation for him instead of a jail time, and the judge accepted that request.

Trust is a subjective assessment, and as time goes on, you will get a good sense of trustworthiness based on your experience of hiring individuals from different backgrounds. I myself hire people based on their background, education, talent, straightforwardness, and dedication; and I dislike second-guessing people’s moral values even though fellow employees or others may have different opinions on them. “Since I don’t know it, I don’t want to know it,” is my logic, and that helps me remain as impartial as possible.

Ultimately, you have to have compassion and blind faith for others if you want to trust people. You need to let go of your suspicions as a manager.

During my early days in Houston, I used to visit a friend at his home who owned a grocery store. We would sit and chat, and every five minutes he would get up and go to a nearby room and return after few minutes. So, after a while, I asked him casually why he kept repeating the same action, and he smiled and said to me that he had a camera in the next room that would monitor a cashier at his grocery store, because he always feared that the cashier would steal from the store. I asked my friend why he was so suspicious of his employee, and I told him to let it go instead of wasting his time and effort.

I believe little things in life and certain behaviors help people develop trust in others in a short time. Trust is a human tendency that cannot be created alone; it requires two people, and then hopefully others, to trust each other.

Trust is a great multiplier and is like an oak tree that grows with time from a simple plant into a large, stout tree with many branches. Each branch represents people whom we have trusted in our lifetimes, and they are all deep-rooted to a strong solid tree and work together in harmony.

Tips on earning trust:

  1. Be straightforward, be authentic, be yourself.
  2. Admit your mistakes, accept them, and correct them.  
  3. If you promise something, deliver it timely.
  4. Remember that building trust takes time, consistency, and efforts.
  5. Provide constructive feedback and be positive at work and at home.
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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decision.