To explore opinions about trust in the workplace.

Time Requirement

About 40 minutes. You can easily expand or contract the game to suit the available time.


  • Twenty or more trust cards with different factors (characteristics, behaviors, attitudes, habits, values, and beliefs) associated with trust in the workplace. Here are some examples (which are written on index cards):
    • People trust others who belong to the same culture.
    • Some organizations have a climate of trust.
    • People don't trust optimists.
    • People feel betrayed if you don't fulfill your promise.
  • Four blank index cards for each player.

Flow of the Game

In the following description, the phases of the game are printed in regular type, while sample segments from an imaginary play of the game are printed in italics.

Prepare a set of Trust Cards. Before the workshop, prepare a set of trust cards. Each card should contain one statement about factors that are associated with trust in the workplace. Come up with a variety of characteristics, behaviors, habits, attitudes, and beliefs associated with individuals and organizations. Prepare at least two trust cards for each anticipated player. If you cannot come up with a sufficient number of different trust cards, use duplicates.

Bob is conducting a workshop for managers. Twenty participants have signed up for the workshop, mostly mid-level managers from the organization. The day before the workshop, Bob prepares 40 trust cards. (The statements in these cards are reproduced after the description of the game.)

Getting Started. Start the game quickly. When the players are ready, say to them: “I'd like to begin right off with a group activity that will help us get to know each other. It will also allow us to discover what people think about factors that are associated with trust in the workplace.”

Bob catches everyone's attention and gives his introductory presentation. Players look like they are ready for action.

Card Writing by Players. Hand out four blank index cards to each player. Ask them to write a statement about some factor associated with trust in the workplace on each card. These statements need not reflect the personal views of the writer; they should represent commonly-held opinions. Give some sample statements to the group.

The workshop starts at 8:30 a.m., and Susan arrives 5 minutes late. She sees the others writing busily. Bob gives her four blank cards and asks her to write her statements about trust in the workplace. Susan thinks for a moment and comes up with the following:

  • Women generally distrust middle-aged male managers.
  • A single act of betrayal can damage your trust forever.
  • Trust everybody, but double-check the data.
  • You cannot trust others unless you trust yourself.

Distributing Cards. After about 3 minutes, collect trust cards from all players. Add your prepared cards to this pile. Mix the cards well and give three cards to each player. Ask players to study the statements and arrange them according to their personal preference from the most to the least credible.

Bob collects the cards from the players and adds his own collection. He mixes the cards and gives three to each player.

Susan studies the three cards she receives and arranges them in the following order:

  • People trust you more if you have a history of meeting your deadlines.
  • People don't trust “foreigners”.
  • If you don't walk the talk, nobody will trust you.

Exchanging Cards. Arrange the remaining trust cards on a large table at one side of the room. Tell the players that they may discard cards from their hand and pick up replacements. Players must work silently; they should not talk to each other during this phase of the game. At the end of the exchange period, each player should have three cards that may or may not include cards from the original set.

Susan takes her cards to the table and rummages there. She discards two of her cards and picks up the following:

  • High integrity produces high levels of trust.
  • You can trust competent people.

Susan is surprised to see another player eagerly picking up her discards!

Swapping Cards. Instruct players to exchange cards with each other to make their hands better reflect their personal opinions. In this phase, any player may exchange cards with any other player; every player must exchange at least one card.

When Bob announces the beginning of the exchange, Susan wanders around until Arthur stops her. Comparing cards, Susan sees one that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” She bargains with Arthur until he exchanges this card for her card about trusting competent people. Before Susan can find someone else to exchange cards with, Bob calls time to end this phase of the game.

Forming Teams. Ask players to compare their cards with each other and to form teams with people holding trust cards that they like. There is no limit to the number of players who may team up together, but a team may keep no more than three cards. It must discard all other cards, and the three cards it retains must meet with everyone's approval.

Susan goes around the room checking with others. She runs across Betty, who has excellent cards, and they decide to team up. The two set out to find other kindred souls. Tony wants to join them, and they agree, provided that he drops a card that says “Always trust experienced managers”. In a few more minutes, their team recruits two other players, including Arthur. They study the combined collection and reduce it to these three:

  • If you don't walk the talk, nobody will trust you.
  • High integrity produces high trust.
  • Don't hide important information from employees.

Preparing a Poster. Ask each team to prepare a graphic poster that reflects the three final cards. This poster should not include any text. After five minutes, ask each team to read its three cards, display its poster, and explain the symbolism.

After some discussion and debate, the team decides that Susan should be the artist and the others should give her ideas. The final poster shows a man with a large grin on his face, holding a knife behind his back. A thought balloon above this person's face shows a packet of dollar bills.

Present Awards. Identify winning teams in categories like these:

  • Internal consistency among the three final cards.
  • Clarity of the message in the poster.
  • Appropriateness of the illustrations.

Susan's poster received an award for the most appropriate illustration.

Trust Card Statements

  1. Don't talk too much.
  2. When you discover that you have made a mistake, admit it immediately.
  3. Acknowledge potential problems.
  4. Share your decisions with everyone else.
  5. Always speak the truth.
  6. Be consistent.
  7. Encourage people to discuss feelings and emotions.
  8. Understand what is important to the other person.
  9. Align your action and words.
  10. Complete your homework on time.
  11. Meet other people's expectations.
  12. Listen with empathy.
  13. Don't reveal confidential information to people who are not authorized to know it.
  14. Don't say “Yes” unless you mean it.
  15. Clean up your mess.
  16. Don't gossip.
  17. Respect other people's time.
  18. Maintain high levels of integrity.
  19. Keep your promises.
  20. Volunteer to take care of other people's problems.
  21. Give people the freedom to achieve the results you want.
  22. Listen actively.
  23. If you change your plans, be sure to inform everyone.
  24. Be predictable.
  25. Be prompt in replying to other people's messages.
  26. Respect everyone.
  27. Don't make cynical statements.
  28. Explain the reasons behind your decisions.
  29. Meet your deadlines.
  30. Do not flatter people.
  31. Handle conflicts using a problem-solving approach.
  32. Apologize when you hurt someone even when it is unintentional
  33. Don't misquote other people.
  34. Give credit where it is due.
  35. Pay attention to details.
  36. Don't hide the truth even if it is unpleasant.
  37. Announce your expectations in specific terms.
  38. Do not talk negatively about people behind their back.
  39. Disclose all relevant information.
  40. Be clear about your agreements.