Review: Trust & Control in HRM

Trust and Human Resource Management, edited by Rosalind Searle and Denise Skinner highlight trust as key to human resource management (HRM) from pre-entry to post-employment. The collection will be of great value to academics in the HR field and to practitioners interested in enhancing trust levels in their organizations.

Trust has long been associated with organizational effectiveness, efficiency and performance that can more easily grow in a climate of high motivation, innovation and cooperation. Policies and, more importantly, implementation can promote of reduce trust. This collection addresses all aspects of the HRM cycle: recruitment & selection, induction, training & development, employee relations, performance appraisal, change management, reward and exit, as well as the organization within the larger social context.

A growing emphasis on shareowner value, constant restructuring and outsourcing are but a few factors that push the burden of risk increasingly on employees. Managing these risks, while maintaining positive relations is key. As is found frequently, the attitude of those in power is critical.

Leadership styles that are autocratic, bureaucratic, secretive and suspicious lead to low trust, while those who exhibit empowering, consensual, accessible and innovative behaviors find themselves more immune to negative consequences when breaches in the psychological contract do occur. Will those who have control be willing to share it with their subordinates?

One group of researchers argue against the conventional wisdom that control chases out trust and trust removes the need for control. Instead, they show evidence that managers can concurrently apply multiple forms of control and influence strategies while invoking trust building into its basis. They contend that trust building and control comprise overlapping, rather than distinct managerial activities. The two can be mutually reinforcing.

After studying the labor “problem,” Kim Mather concludes, “management by consent rather than by right is more apt to deliver a mediated, mutually acceptable solution to workplace issues as they arise.” Don’t assume high trust; build mechanisms that assimilate inherent low trust and negotiated orders. Realistic trust-building interventions must be based on all the voices within a consensual framework.

Finian Buckley looked at issues of trust and engagement in a downsizing context and found that HR directors can hold seemingly contradictory feelings at the same time. HR managers included in developing downsizing strategies were more likely to experience enhanced trust of top management and improved engagement.

The book generally does a fine job of highlighting research in an area under increased scrutiny in the US due to the provisions of Dodd-Frank. Although studies outlined in this volume are weighted more heavily toward the UK, practitioners and academics in the US and around the world will find them illuminating with regard to how trust is formed, developed and maintained in organizations.

See also, Review: The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles, and Operations–A Legal Guide and Safeguard Reputation from the Business Integrity Alliance.


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