I had reason to visit the International Monetary Fund website recently. Based on its content, the IMF is an organization overflowing with ego. Dominating the homepage was IMF chief Christine Lagarde with a very large picture of herself. In imperious language we are told that Lagarde “welcomes the pledge by the G-20 group of advanced and emerging economies to step up efforts to boost growth and create jobs.”
This archaic, royalist, pre-modern language is so out of step with the world of social media. It is not exceptional. If you visit, for example, the Bangladesh page, you will read headings such as: “Press Release: Statement by IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara at the Conclusion of His Visit to Bangladesh.” IMF royalty.
You see, as far as the IMF is concerned the website, world and universe is all about them. It’s not about what the customer wants to do, but rather what amazing things the imperious officials of the IMF are doing. Rampant ego.
That’s the nature of large organizations, you will say. The further up the management chain the bigger the egos. True, this is the way organizations have been since the time of Rome and the Pharaohs. But what’s different today is how we view organizations. Many organizations may not have changed but people and society have.
We don’t trust organizations anymore. According to Pew research, in the 1950s more than 70 percent of US citizens trusted the government. By 2010, just over 20 percent did. In 2014, 72 percent of Americans said they trusted government less, with 51 percent saying they trusted big corporations less.
In 2013, Gallup found that trust in mass media was at an all-time low of 40 percent. In Europe, almost 60 percent of citizens trusted the European Union in 2007. By 2011, that had dropped to just above 30 percent. According to an Edelman trust survey in 2011, media is the least trusted entity in society, even below banks.
Why has there been such a massive collapse in trust? People have become more educated. They look to their peers more than they look to leaders. Organizations have massively abused the trust that people used to give them. Consider that between 1990 and 2010, CEO pay grew by 533 percent, according to Business Week, while ordinary worker pay grew by 32 percent.
Unfortunately, many in senior management seem to think that the organization is a kingdom there to serve them. Instead of the IMF focusing on its customers, it focuses on its bosses. The homepage becomes a homepage for Lagarde, with the other pages allocated out to the other princelings.
Web content says a lot about who you actually are and what you actually think. Customer-centric web content is focused on helping people do things. Trust-destroying organization-centric web content is focused on egos. Great web content is real, authentic. It’s gets straight to point. It does not seek to justify or pander.
The world has changed but many organizations are still stuck in a medieval mindset. Their egocentric websites are advertisements for why they don’t deserve to be trusted. Taming the ego is the first step in rebuilding trust.