Reaching Out, Reaching In
Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis
Chapter 4: How’s the Job? Are Trust and Social Capital Neglected Workplace Investments?
4. How’s the job? Are trust and social capital neglected workplace investments? 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...
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