Social Capital

Social Capital

Reaching Out, Reaching In

Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis

This book showcases new innovative research in economics, politics, sociology, and management regarding the topic. Leading scholars from a variety of disciplines present ground-breaking new research exploring the still-undiscovered value of social capital. The book employs a self-consciously multi-disciplinary approach to address two objectives: reaching out and reaching in. Through theoretical and empirical scholarship, the authors explore the many contexts in which the phenomenon can have impact. In effect, social capital research reaches out to issues of economic well-being, civic participation, educational achievement, knowledge and norm formation, and competitive advantage. Further, the authors investigate the many connections between the core themes of social capital and the pillars on which it rests, including structural networks, cognition, relationships and trust. This book is fundamentally about bridging – bridging across disciplines, units of analysis, and themes.

Chapter 4: How’s the Job? Are Trust and Social Capital Neglected Workplace Investments?

John F. Helliwell, Haifang Huang and Robert D. Putnam

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, public management, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


John F. Helliwell, Haifang Huang and Robert D. Putnam1 This chapter investigates trust and social capital as potentially beneficial yet neglected investments in the workplace. We define social capital as networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups. We use subjective measures of life satisfaction to value the climate of trust in the workplace, set in the context of life as a whole. Using data from two separate Canadian surveys, and one large US survey, we find that the climate of trust in the workplace is strongly related to subjective well-being, even after allowing for individual personality differences. For example, results from one of the surveys suggest that moving one point on a ten-point scale of workplace trust affects life satisfaction about the same amount as a 40 per cent change in income. The size of these effects, often referred to as compensating differentials, suggests unrecognized opportunities for managers and employees to increase satisfaction and productivity by building better workplaces. Throughout the chapter, we examine the determinants of workplace trust and explore differences among subgroups of workers. We also consider why such large unrecognized opportunities for improving the quality of workplace social capital remain, and suggest some plausible investment strategies for capturing this potential. INTRODUCTION The chapter began with the recent finding that workplace trust and other measures of the quality of life on the job have strikingly high incomeequivalent values (Helliwell and Huang, 2005). These values are so great that...

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