Academic journal article Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management

Work Engagement and Its Relationship with State and Trait Trust: A Conceptual Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management

Work Engagement and Its Relationship with State and Trait Trust: A Conceptual Analysis

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The main objective of this paper is to highlight the vital role that both state trust (trust in top management, trust in immediate supervisor and trust in co-workers) and trait trust or trust propensity play in the advancement of employee work engagement. This study posits that the relationship between trust and work engagement is mutually reinforcing and leads to an upward spiral effect. That is, high levels of state and trait trust boost work engagement, which in turn augments both forms of trust and so on. Additionally, the current paper also examines the interaction effects of state and trait trust on employees' work engagement.

Introduction

In the past, psychology has predominantly concentrated on the negative aspects of human behaviour such as malfunctioning, weakness and pathology (Schaufeli and Salanova, 2007). However, recently there has been a growing interest in positive psychology, which instead of focussing on human weaknesses, lays emphasis on human strengths, optimal functioning and well being (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). This trend towards positive psychology has led to the emergence of the concept of work engagement.

What is Work Engagement?

Work engagement is conceptualised as the positive antipode of workplace burnout (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004), a syndrome characterised by mental or physical exhaustion, cynicism and reduced professional efficacy (Maslach, Jackson and Leiter, 1996). In the literature, there are two approaches to work engagement. The first approach is advocated by Maslach and Leiter (1997). Maslach and Leiter (1997) argue that engagement is characterised by energy, involvement and efficacy - the direct opposites of the three dimensions of burnout. These researchers further contend that when individuals experience the feeling of burnout 'energy turns into exhaustion, involvement turns into cynicism and efficacy turns into ineffectiveness' (p. 24). According to this conceptualisation, engagement is measured by the reverse pattern of scores on the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS) dimensions (Maslach, Schaufeli, and Leiter, 2001). This means that low scores on exhaustion and cynicism and high scores on professional efficacy are indicators of engagement.

Some empirical support for this conceptualization of engagement is provided by case studies of two hospital units (Maslach and Leiter, 1997). The employees in one unit displayed a typical burnout profile (i.e. high scores on exhaustion and cynicism and low scores on efficacy) whereas employees in the other unit had an opposite profile of engagement (i.e. low scores on exhaustion and cynicism and high scores on professional efficacy).

The second approach to work engagement has been put forward by Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma and Bakker (2002). These researchers point out that Maslach and Lieter's (1997) conceptualisation of work engagement prohibits an examination of the relationship between burnout and engagement since both constructs are viewed as opposite poles of a continuum and are assessed with the same instrument (the MBI-GS). Schaufeli and his co-researchers (2002) argue that burnout and work engagement are two distinct albeit negatively correlated states of mind as opposed to being two opposite ends of a single continuum, and as a result they define work engagement in its own right as a 'positive, fulfilling work related state of mind that is characterised by vigour, dedication and absorption' (Schaufeli et. al., 2002, p. 74). Vigour reflects the readiness to devote effort in one's work, an exhibition of high levels of energy while working and the tendency to remain resolute in the face of task difficulty or failure. Dedication refers to a strong identification with one's work and encompasses feelings of enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, and challenge. The third dimension of engagement is absorption. Absorption is characterised by being completely immersed in one's work, in a manner that time appears to pass rapidly and one finds it difficult to disengage oneself from work. …

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