Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Dimensionality of Trust: An Analysis of the Relations between Propensity, Trustworthiness and Trust

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Dimensionality of Trust: An Analysis of the Relations between Propensity, Trustworthiness and Trust

Article excerpt

Introduction

The ability to establish, nurture and restore trust is vital to leadership success in the new global economy (Covey, 2006; Green 2012; Salamon & Robinson, 2008). The modern workplace has undergone some dramatic changes that, in effect, have reduced reliance on traditional bases of power such as derived from formal positions of authority. Drivers of change such as globalisation, diversity and technological innovations brought about an increased emphasis on the interaction and self-directedness of employees, as well as more flexible work structures that are difficult to exercise control over (Green, 2012; Grey & Garsten, 2001). Changes affect macro, meso and micro systemic levels of organisations and tend to create an increased reliance on complex matrix systems of authority to resolve multiple and often competing demands for limited resources (Greyvenstein & Cilliers, 2010). Leadership not only demands the ability to empower both leaders and followers to function effectively within a matrix system, but also implies awareness of multiple leadership roles, the ability to move between different types and styles of leadership and advanced skills to manage complex interpersonal relationships (Greyvenstein & Cilliers, 2010). Ultimately, changes in the workplace environment have led to an increased reliance on trust as a mechanism to coordinate and control interdependent activities, for in such a dynamic and fast-changing environment it is impossible to contract everything (Gambetta, 2008; Sydow, 2008; Tichy & Bennis, 2007).

An overwhelming body of research has established that trust indeed contributes significantly to leader effectiveness (Bachraim & Hime 2007; Douglas & Zivnuska, 2008; Wasti, Tan, Brower & Önder, 2007). Employee decisions to trust a direct leader are furthermore highly influenced by the character, words and actions of the leader (Costigan et al., 2007; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002; Tan & Lim, 2009). In fact, research has shown that the seniority of the position of a trusted party influences the relative importance attached to characteristics: the more senior the position, the more influential the consideration of characteristics becomes in the decision to trust (Burke, Simms, Lazzara & Salas, 2007). It is therefore important that leaders should put in a concerted effort to build and improve trust relationships with their followers (Burke et al., 2007).

The ability to inspire trust is, however, not an easy task to accomplish. In fact, the incapability to enthuse trust is often listed as one of the most important reasons why leaders fail (Burke, 2006; Pienaar, 2009). The 2011-2012 Kenexa High Performance Institute WorkTrends report (Kenexa, 2012) established that only 48% of all employees who participated in this worldwide survey trusted their leaders, whilst 28% actively distrusted their leaders and 24% were undecided. South African-based research showed varied findings. Previous research on general followership's experiences of organisational leadership revealed that followers have a negative leadership view and also highlighted other themes including an idealisation of the past and blaming of the present, obsession with race and gender and a constantly changing identity (Greyvenstein & Cilliers, 2010). Regarding an analysis of trust relationships specifically, Bachraim and Hime (2007) found that workplace trust is moderately high, with the highest levels of trust being in supervisors. In contrast, research by Esterhuizen and Martins (2008) points to the existence of a significant trust gap between employees in general and their employers. In yet another study, Steinman and Martins (2009) attempted to identify the 10 key problem areas that impede team functioning in South African organisations, and found a lack of trust in superiors, higher authority and colleagues to be amongst the most important reasons for poor performance. Furthermore, Van der Ohe and Martins (2010) found significant differences in the levels of organisational trust between government participants and other sectors. …

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