New UCI Study Finds the Longer an Employee's Tenure, the Less They Trust Their Organization

Secrecy surrounding organizational policy enforcement could be to blame

Article ID: 680469

Released: 5-Sep-2017 12:00 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: University of California, Irvine, The Paul Merage School of Business

Newswise — Secrecy in organizational policy enforcement is an important factor undermining employee trust in organizations over time, according to a new study from the University of California, Irvine. Unlike interpersonal trust, which tends to increase with experience, employee trust in their organization decreases with experience.

The paper, a Distinguished Scholars Invited Essay titled, “Are Secret Proceedings Why Longer Tenured Employees Trust Their Organizations Least?,” was co-authored by UCI Paul Merage School of Business doctoral program alumnus Kenji Klein, PhD, and published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

“The decline happens incrementally over the span of an employee’s tenure with their organization when policy enforcement is kept secret from other employees,” said Jone Pearce, Dean’s Professor of organization and management at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business and lead author of the study. “Secret proceedings weaken, rather than support, employees’ perceptions that policy enforcement is taken seriously, which then works to undermine trust in their organizations.”

Unlike legal trial proceedings, most organizations’ policy enforcement proceedings lack the fundamental feature of due process procedures: They are not open. In addition, organizational secrecy can spread as employees assume secrecy is what the organization expects, and so they withhold information that they should be sharing, potentially causing additional harm to organizations and employees alike.  Organizations argue that secrecy surrounding policy enforcement is done for reasons of privacy, for the organization itself and for the complainants and accused.

“Being open about enforcement proceedings helps protect against someone making false charges and allows all employees to know that violations have consequences,” said Pearce. “Openness keeps those rendering judgement honest, while secrecy undermines accountability.  Hiding enforcement proceedings may help a company or its employees avoid embarrassment; however, it comes at a price.  And, that price is a loss of trust in the authorities and their policies.”

Understanding why employees with more tenure trust their organizations less also has important theoretical and practical implications for human resources management practices. Longer tenured employees are often sources of guidance for newer employees on understanding organizational values and expectations, and may spread their low trust to their less experienced coworkers, further undermining others’ organizational trust.

About The Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine

The Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine offers four dynamic MBA programs – plus PhD, specialty masters and undergraduate business degrees – that prepare business leaders for our digitally driven world. Through our programs, students acquire the exceptional ability to grow their organizations through strategic innovation, analytical decision-making, digital information technology and collaborative execution. While the Merage School is relatively young, it has quickly grown to rank consistently among the top five percent of all business programs worldwide through exceptional student recruitment, world-class faculty, a strong alumni network and close relationships with both individual business executives and global corporations. Additional information is available at merage.uci.edu.

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