Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Low Trust in Decision-Making Authorities

Joel Brockner and Emily C. Bianchi

in Restoring Trust in Organizations and Leaders

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199756087
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949571 | DOI:
Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Low Trust in Decision-Making Authorities

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Employees typically respond negatively to decision-making authorities they do not trust, manifested in their being unwilling to support the authorities’ decisions, the authorities, and the organization as a whole. Moreover, low trust in decision-making authorities tends to be self-perpetuating and therefore difficult to overturn or reverse. We consider when and why employees may respond relatively positively to organizational authorities they do not trust, and thereby begin to break the vicious cycle of low trust. Drawing on recent research, we suggest that employees react relatively positively to untrusted decision-making authorities when the authorities deliver favorable outcomes that are accompanied by fair processes. Moreover, favorable outcomes and fair processes have multiplicative effects: both are necessary to elicit relatively positive reactions to untrusted authorities, whereas either one alone is less likely to do so. We speculate that favorable outcomes and fair processes signal the extent to which previously untrusted authorities are seen as motivated and able to behave in a more trust-engendering way. Theoretical implications for the trust literature are discussed, as are directions for future research.

Keywords: trust; fairness; justice; procedural justice; organizational commitment; decision making

Chapter.  7791 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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