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The Center for Family & Community Well-Being

Organizational Trust at UofL

 Issues with trust tend to stem from one of three sources: rapid or frequent changes without perceived control, violations or betrayals of trust, and perceived injustices in the workplace. Restoration of trust in organizations follows a parallel process to that of restoration of trust in interpersonal relationships, which includes the following seven steps: 1) observe and acknowledge what has happened; 2) allow feelings to surface; 3) get support; 4) reframe the experience; 5) take responsibility; 6) forgive yourself and others; and 7) let go and move on (Reina & Reina, 2018). For step #1, there are specific strategies that include acknowledging the negative, communicating awareness of trust issues, assessing the health of the organization, and acknowledging feelings. For step #2, people must be given the opportunity to express concerns, issues and feelings in a constructive manner and be helped to verbalize feelings. For steps 3 through 5, leaders must step up to support employees needs for support and advocacy, reframe the experience by placing in context and recognizing mistakes and choices, and ultimately taking responsibility for leadership role in these issues. The latter includes taking responsibility moving forward by managing expectations and keeping promises. The last two steps of this process include the hard work of forgiveness and letting go through radical acceptance and ongoing support.

Organizational trust has been defined as positive expectations individuals have about the intent and behaviors of multiple organizational members based on organizational roles, relationships, experiences and interdependencies (Shockley-Zalaback et al, 2000). Organizational trust is often comprised of perceptions of competence, openness and honesty, concern for employees, reliability and identification. Trust is linked to employee job satisfaction and overall perceptions of organizational effectiveness in this and other studies. For example, Dahmardeh and colleagues (2019) found that organizational trust has a positive and significant effect on organizational commitment and participation.

 Trust and justice are interrelated variables in organizational health. Research on trust in organizations shows that it facilitates relationships, cooperation between individuals and organizations, organizational commitment, and employees’ motivation to innovate (Hubbell et al, 2007). Organizational justice, which refers to perceptions of the fairness of workplace outcomes or processes, is often considered an antecedent to managerial and organizational trust. Hubbell and colleagues found that procedural justice was the strongest predictor of both organizational and managerial trust, distributive justice only predicted managerial trust, and interactional justice did not predict either type of trust.

The Center for Family and Community Well-Being has a long history of research on issues of organizational culture and climate, including issues of trust, and the impact on organizational functioning and employee well-being and retention. This research stems from identified needs at the University of Louisville in the area of organizational trust. Listening sessions across campus have identified a wide range of issues of trust at many levels of the organization. However, a systematic and rigorous research approach to understand these issues of trust and related factors is needed. Hence, this mixed methods research study has been funded to gather this drive to provide a deeper understanding of needs and opportunities for growth.

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