Perspectives, Issues, Research and Practice
Edited by Simon L. Albrecht
Chapter 13: The Role of Employee Trust in Understanding Employee Engagement
Benjamin Schneider, William H. Macey, Karen M. Barbera and Scott A. Young Introduction We base this chapter on the now demonstrated relationship between employee engagement and performance at the individual (Bakker et al., 2004), unit (Harter et al., 2002), and organizational (Schneider et al., 2009a) levels of analysis (see Bakker et al., 2008 for a review). Here, our focus is on trust as a specific and critical antecedent of engagement. While other situational job resources (for example, autonomy, supervisory coaching, performance feedback) and personal resources (for example, optimism, self-efficacy, self-esteem) have been shown to predict engagement (Bakker et al., 2008), we believe these fail to capture the psychological experiences employees have that most significantly impact their engagement. We present a conceptual model where the level of trust employees experience at work is a psychological antecedent of employee engagement, which we hypothesize results in them feeling safe to feel and be engaged. As Kahn (1990, p. 708) put it in his pathbreaking explication of engagement: “Psychological safety [is] feeling able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career. People [in the research effort] feel safe in situations in which they trusted that they would not suffer from their personal engagement”. In brief, we present a mediated model after Kahn (1990), shown schematically in Figure 13.1, in which employees’ experiences of fair work conditions, among other factors, lead them to trust their co-workers, supervisors and the system such that they feel safe enough to...
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