Absurdly Driven usually looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
It was all going so well.
Over the past few years, business leaders became more and more fascinating.
Perhaps they'd hired themselves more wily PR types. Perhaps they exploited a market gap that has suddenly opened wide.
Yet, if you'd asked people just a few months ago which were the most trusted institutions, you'd have had the response: businesses. But of course.
Indeed, PR company Edelman asked that question -- and others -- only in January. It discovered that people were becoming disenchanted with capitalism and its increasing inequalities.
Yet businesses themselves were seen as beacons of hope, rather than of despair.
Some businesses had, after all, stepped in to social issues when government seemed to be flailing.
Then the coronavirus hit.
Edelman just revealed the results of its latest so-called Trust Barometer Survey and it describes a very different world, one with very different emotions coursing through it.
After more than 13,000 people in 11 countries were interviewed, what emerged was a something of a reversal.
Despite a four-point increase in trust in business and several high-profile actions taken by companies and CEOs to help those in need, there is marked disappointment in how the private sector has performed during the crisis.
It seems that now people are seeing governments -- especially, in some countries, local governments -- as the most trusted entities. By contrast, says Edelman:
Half of people believe business is doing poorly, mediocre or completely failing at putting people before profits; only 43 percent believe that companies are protecting their employees sufficiently from Covid-19, and 46 percent do not believe business is helping smaller suppliers and business customers stay afloat.
Please forgive me for mentioning Elon Musk at this point. It's just that his forays into the limelight haven't always been helpful of late.
As The Verge neatly summarized, Tesla's CEO has offered pithy observations that haven't been entirely helpful and some might regard as reckless.
He's advanced studies suggesting doctors are deliberately inflating coronavirus numbers for profit. Then there was the comparison of the virus to the flu and the ululation that the panic around it was, oh, "dumb."
It's more than unfortunate that, at a time people are looking for reassurance, the likes of Musk -- I mention him specifically because he seems to court attention -- are offering something akin to arrogance.
There's been far less evidence of his looking after his own workforce, instead of making vast -- and, to some eyes, vacuous -- pronouncements.
This is a true moment of reckoning for business leadership. Edelman explains:
Fewer than one in three respondents (29 percent) believe CEOs are doing an outstanding job responding to demands on them placed by the pandemic as compared to scientists (53 percent) and government leaders (45 percent).
CEOs actually come last in this category. Yes, even journalists are now viewed more positively.
When people look at airlines getting vast bailout help and still intending to fire employees, when they look at large companies applying for -- and getting -- PPP loans intended for small businesses, they're appalled.
This is a time when long memories are being created. Behaviors now will affect emotions for perhaps years to come.
The most valuable commodity a company can now have is trust.
It seems many need to do a lot of work to regain it.