Dynamics of trust in the employment relationship

  • Stefano Battaglia

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Trust is a topic that has long been of interest to organisational scholars. Over the past two decades, numerous studies have scrutinized the antecedents, processes, and outcomes of trust within organisations (i.e. intra-organisational trust) sharpening our understanding of its complexity and describing all the benefits that trust can confer. However, most intra-organisational trust researchers have arguably developed an over-optimistic vision on the possibilities of building trust relationships. This seems in fact to clash with the outcomes of recent surveys and employee engagement measures, which have recorded a significant trust deficit with levels of trust at historic low within Western organisations. Within the literature, such declining levels of trust are often considered as the consequence of deficits in people management skills and practices, while failing to acknowledge the existence of wider structural issues within the employment relationship. This thesis argues that, in order to better understand the current declining levels of trust, trust researchers need to take a sociological and critical turn and move beyond the micro-foundations and the psychological reductionism characterizing most of the intra-organisational trust literature. It proposes a multi-level study, which captures the essence of how micro- and macro-levels forces simultaneously influence the development of trust at both the interpersonal and the organisational level. To bridge the micro-macro gap, specific attention has been given to the role of the Human Resource function, which sits at the heart of the employment relationship.The findings demonstrate that the development of intra-organizational trust is influenced by the specificities of the job role, by interpersonal dynamics, as well as by numerous other organizational factors. They also reveal a fractured and dysfunctional situation for Human Resource professionals. Paradoxically, despite being normatively committed to trust-building models of employment relations, HR staff are instead largely not trusted as they find themselves squeezed between their conflicting roles of ‘strategic partner’ and ‘employee champion’. The thesis provides new evidence to the recent crisis of trust faced by the Human Resource profession, as well as it demonstrates that trust is inherently context-dependent and that trust relationships are inevitably embedded in the structural context of the employment relationship.
Date of Award1 Oct 2013
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorPauline Anderson (Supervisor) & (Supervisor)

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