How Organizations Can Rebuild Trust From The Bottom Up


By Deborah C. Michalowski, CPA
Process & Systems Finance Business Specialist at Intel Corporation
Chair of IMA’s Committee on Ethics

Trust in institutions and organizations is steadily declining.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in businesses in the U.S. dropped 10 percent in 2018 and less than half of all individuals trust institutions and organizations. This follows a downward trend over the past decade with trust in businesses slipping due to the unstable markets and self-inflicted wounds at many organizations.

A decade removed from the global financial crisis, and with the divisive conversations taking place in the U.S. and around the world today, this lack of trust is not surprising. However, individuals can help rebuild trust at all levels to help their organizations succeed. Since accounting and finance practices played a factor into why trust in organizations has waned, management accountants have an opportunity to be at the forefront and lead in regaining the public’s trust.

Members of IMA’s Committee on Ethics are hoping business leaders provide the tools to employees to gain back the trust of individuals. The consensus among committee members was that investing in employees and their career development is essential. Upper management should enhance all trainings and employees should ask for more ways to make themselves better. What’s more, employers must be transparent to gain trust with employees, customers, and stakeholders. Here’s what they had to say:

“As a manager, demonstrate that you can be counted on as a boss and colleague. Try to be a building block amid the uncertainty and be transparent with your employees. Be prepared to share the good news and the bad news,” said Susan E. Bos, CMA, CPA, CFE, Deputy Treasurer at Washtenaw County, Michigan.

“To create trust, you need to establish openness. People should feel that they can speak up without fear of retaliation,” said Dr. Curt Verschoor, CMA, CIA, CFE, CPA, ChFC, Chair and CEO of C.C. Verschoor & Associates and Chair-Emeritus of IMA’s Committee on Ethics.

“Organizations should have a mechanism for transparent information sharing,” said Cate Long, CMA, former Vice President, Professional Services, SAP Concur.

Building trust in an organization should be inclusive, involve all employees in the organization and ultimately, integrate their ideas. Management accountants can lead the way in creating an honest and accountable working environment and following through with what they say and promise. They can set the example to build trust among the entire organization’s stakeholders.

“It’s important to involve people in the process. Trust building should be inclusive and integrated with all employees in the organization,” said Jolene A. Lampton, Ph.D., CPA, CFE, CGMA, Associate Professor of Management/Accounting at Park University.

Furthermore, organizations can create a culture of trust with its transparency and by providing examples for others to follow suit.

“Everyone should set an example for others to emulate as anyone at any level can influence others,” said Prakash G. Rajan, CMA, CPA, CGMA, CA, Chief Audit Executive, Kraton Corporation.

Additionally, good behavior should be rewarded and publicized in hopes that others replicate what those individuals are doing.

“Companies need to reward the right behavior and make it known that they do so,” said Lesley Swain, CMA, CFO, Brace Companies.

Trust is a delicate emotion that needs to be built over time but can be lost in an instant. With management accountants taking the lead in rebuilding an organization’s trust, the business community can take the first step in moving forward.

“Management accountants can lead the way and set the example by doing what they say they will do,” said David Eichelberger, CPA, Lecturer, General Faculty, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia. “To do less only perpetuates the sad trend of declining trust.”

About the Author: Deborah Michalowski serves as Chair of IMA’s Committee on Ethics and is an Intel Corporation employee. The statements made in this article express the opinions of the authors and others identified in the article.  The statements are independent beliefs and opinions held by these individuals and/or the COE and do not reflect the opinions/beliefs of Intel Corporation.


  1. Nice article. Thanks to the Author Deborah Michalowski bringing her view as well as the valid comments of members of Ethics Committee on how organizations could rebuild trust from the bottom up. Long term association, openness, character building, sharing thoughts, accepting the truth and encouraging and rewarding employees being ethical could be the building blocks to rebuild trust in any organization.

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