Three Ways Management Trust Reflects Improvements in Workplace Civility

Both coworker and management trust shape employees’ experience of worklife.

Our background research on CREW demonstrated that a dedicated effort to improve working relationships could improve workplace civility leading to improvements in employees’ experience of worklife and their productivity. The new information that I highlighted in my talk at the European Association of Organizational Health Psychology in Rome was that greater trust in management accompanied the improvement in civility.

This connection is not surprising, but establishing the relationship helps to strengthen the rationale for organizations to take action on workplace civility.

First, the parallel improvement in management trust and civility reflects a message from our interviews: employees perceive management as responsible for workplace incivility. Whenever they discussed ongoing incivility in their work environments, people expressed bewilderment and resentment towards management for permitting the situation to continue.

Second, as civility improved, people developed more positive attitudes towards management. The CREW initiative is a group process within the work unit, but it is one that has clear, explicit support from management. Management’s contribution is appreciated.

Third, the CREW process encourages people to take responsibility for their relationships. The improvement in management trust is not simply a function of the improved level of discourse, but of the greater ownership of their working relationships by employees. Certainly management plays a role in supporting a civil workplace, but the employees learn ways to respond more constructively to problems as they occur.

Great trust within a workplace provides a valuable resource for employees’ fulfillment at work and their potential to function as members of effective teams. By taking leadership in providing employees with the means to improve their working relationships, management gains credibility and confidence in employees.

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