Beware: Trust Breach Can Result in Behaviour Changes

Beware: Trust Breach Can Result in Behaviour Changes

Mini Convoy Sting Operation

Mini Convoy Sting Operation
Image courtesy of The Garage Blog

I’m always prattling on about trust. It’s the key ingredient in any aspect of business. Today I’m going to tell you about an example of abused trust. The gist is, the Southern Ontario Mini Club organized a charity drive, and informed the cops as a courtesy, that they would be driving a caravan of about 30 Mini Coopers along a particular route. This way the cops would know where the convoy would be, and when. Along the way, the convoy ran into one officer “who told the organizers that there was only one other patrol for the rest of the route”.

That turned out to be a lie. A bit further ahead on the highway, the police were present in full force, and took the following actions:

  • set a speed trap right where the speed limit changed from 100 km/h to 90 km/h
  • pulled over the entire caravan, and cited three cars for going 121-123 km/h in a 90 km/h zone (incidentally, 120 km/h is pretty ordinary on Ontario highways – it’s the equivalent of 75 mph)
  • confiscated one driver’s radar detector (who granted, shouldn’t have had it)
  • alerted the local news crew about the sting so they could be there to film the action (hey why not, the Mini Club was kind enough to give them the heads up)
  • told the media they confiscated vehicles that were doing 50 km/h over the speed limit
  • told the media they called Children’s Aid on speeding drivers who had children with them (as 50 km/h over the speed limit is a criminal offence in Ontario)

Needless to say I was outraged when I read that; I grew up here in Ontario and am very familiar with the O.P.P. I’ll spare my readers my personal opinion of them and their illustrious commissioner. This was not a random roadside checkpoint…this was a fully organized sting operation with the media present. And the cops actually baited them early on into going faster than they might otherwise have done, by telling them there was only one other patrol for the rest of the route.

So, why is this relevant. Well, I thought it was a great example of trust abuse. And because it’s set outside of the workplace, it’s easier to relate to. We can read this story and feel something; we can easily put ourselves in the Mini drivers’ shoes. The Southern Ontario Mini Club just got massively bent over.

Increased OPP Enforcement
Image by Tweek via Flickr

As a consequence, what are the odds of the Southern Ontario Mini Club ever notifying the O.P.P. about their charity drives again (if they ever have another charity drive after this)? What are the odds of any organized caravan, charity or otherwise, notifying the O.P.P. about their drives again? What of the O.P.P.’s public relations department that exists to educate children and the public that the police are acting in the best interests of the community? How does this set them back?

This is what happens when trust is violated. Previously, the focus of the Mini Club was on safety, which is why they would notify the police in the first place. Now, and probably for a very long time, I will expect the focus of the Mini Club to be on the violation. Safety will likely become a secondary concern: for these types of events, with this kind of advance notification, the Ontario Provincial Police cannot be trusted (as they have clearly demonstrated). I really hope the short term sting was worth the long term losses.

When trust is broken, focus shifts from results to the breach.

As it is with the cops, it is with anyone in a leadership or authoritative capacity. If a specific behaviour is what you’re after, then the people around you need to trust you enough to provide that behaviour. And you need to keep that climate of trust. If you intend to breach it for a short term gain, you’d better be prepared for the long term consequences. You likely won’t get the positive behaviour you got before the breach, and quite frankly, you don’t deserve it.

Incidentally, the Southern Ontario Mini Club is “fully intending to continue their annual charity cruises, collecting donations for the OSPCA.” And I say good on them!

Feel free, by the way, to write the Ontario Provincial Police, or follow them on Twitter and share your unvarnished opinions of this action. I’m sure they’ll be super glad to hear from you.

And if you disagree with my post (and it’s harsh, disgruntled tone), feel free to slag me as well in the comments section below! 🙂

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I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
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  • Geoff,

    I wish you would write something that I could really disagree with, but I agree with you about trust. “It’s the key ingredient in any aspect of business.”

    In the workplace there needs to be an atmosphere of trust between co-workers, with supervisors and managers, and the culture within the organization. If there is no trust, the workforce tends to focus on covering their backsides instead of getting work done.

    Great post! Besides, is it really possible to drive the speed limit in a car that handles like a go-cart?

  • HAHA I'm a Mini driver myself (convertible no less WHEE!) and I can absolutely attest to the fact that sticking to the speed limit in one of those things is a challenge. LOL

    Trust really is a biggie. If I'm gonna preach one message on this blog over and over and over it's going to be about that.

    Cheers, Ty!

    PS: I'm such a Mini nerd I even got the Mini-branded umbrella holder for my car! In my defence how could I say no to that? ROFL

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