Trust, zero trust, mistrust

Thoughts May 05, 2020

Edit: Previously mistrust is worded as anti-trust didn't convey the meaning of context appropriately. As per feedback, mistrust conveys it better.

I've often wondered who I'd rather work with. People who trust, or people who have had zero trust?
I've made quite a few career switches, sometimes left within two months of joining. I don't regret any decision whatsoever.

While comprehending thoughts, it occurred to me that there's a mistrust* variation too.
Collating my thoughts, I categorised into three sets.
Just for my love of mountains, I've added analogies too ;)


This is like a mountain Expedition.

Trust people and enable them to do their best.
Expectations are communicated,
No constant pressure.
Creative liberty is assured.
Ownership is granted (not imposed).
Innovation happens naturally.

A vision is shared, and everyone can contribute to finding their path in a maze. If someone hits a dead-end, others revive them to a different route. The maze might lead to new places never visited by anyone else.

This is a place where people implement new elements always, take ownership naturally, and there's no need for management to check up. It's close to the ideal place where everyone is empowered enough to take and lead things. There's a lot of room for ideas.
You may put your thoughts in a doc, collect feedback and ask people "hey, what do you think of this?"

The focus of people is primarily on exploring and giving room for more opportunities.

Zero Trust

Well marked mountain trail to follow, and there's a mountaineering guide continually checking where you're.

Trust but verify.
Pre-defined expectations bound creative thoughts.
People are conditionally enabled.
Ownership is imposed.
The thin line between responsibility and burden is often invisible.
There's a constant verification, often at a higher frequency.

A vision and a path are shared. Everyone is expected to follow the trail. No one is expected to sidestep or be curious about what might be there on the left. The end is clearly visible, and the path is well marked.

Synonymous to 'Jira' trust. The kind of place where everyone is given a set of tasks and put time limits have a Jira board/similar to track the progress. In an attempt to build overall visibility, people end up pressurised to meet deadlines. There could be daily stand-ups to build trust. This is the most common set of companies I know of.

The focus of people boils down to a competitive environment, limited by the creativity of management (or whoever is deciding the set of tasks).


A previously explored mountain with multiple possible routes. Which route to take, is often questioned and the journey goes significantly longer as everyone wants it their way.

There's negative trust in people, and people are forced to gain trust. - -
People are disabled.
There's not much room for creativity here.
Ownership is an enforced burden.
There's a constant debate environment, bounded by pre-assumptive mistrust.

A vision is shared, and the maze is shared. Before taking every turn, there's a debate on why left and why not the right side. Every intuitive call is questioned, and the explorer in people is dead.

There's a why and a how. While why is pretty commonly heard in a zero-trust set, how is constantly debated in a mistrust environment, with the nature of measuring the depth, before taking a dive.
A constant how enforces creativity bounds, and limits thought process to perceptions. It makes the environment severely competitive, question their own abilities at times.

(edited): I might have underplayed merits of mistrust.
Mistrust org emphasises on quality to a greater extent.
There's constant feedback/criticism/iteration.
This would slow the releases or features. But quality is expected to be top-notch.

If people are unfit in this org, they'd feel restricted more than other types.

The focus of people goes to investing time in how do I prove myself.


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