Why Organizational Trust Matters?

Organizational theorists have been writing about the importance of organizational trust for decade. In their works, McGregor (1967), Argyris(1973), and Likert (1967) have all supported the concept of trust. As cited in Robbins (2003a), McGregor proposed two distinct views of human beings, which he labeled Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X is associated with the negative belief that workers cannot be trusted, dislike their work, and can only be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment to achieve desired goals. On the other hand, Theory Y provides a contrasting view and is associated with the belief that workers can be trusted and if given proper empowerment, they can make innovative decisions and are accountable for the achievement of the goals of their organization (as cited in Robbins).

Trust is crucial for organizational success, organizational communication, and employee empowerment. According to Culbert and McDonough (1986), most managers agree that trust plays an important and integral role in achieving and sustaining organizational effectiveness. Individuals trust others who are confident that the individuals will do a competent job.

More than ever before, organizations should pay attention to trust and job satisfaction. Without trust, especially a lack of it in a hierarchical organization, such as in the US Federal work force, open and honest communication, knowledge management, employee involvement, continuous improvements of products and services, and innovative and creative approaches to solve work assignments and human capital management issues tend to shut down. Trust is a key leadership imperative and matters more than ever before in this current Federal workforce environment.

Which side are you on, Theory X or Theory Y? Do you manage your employees by coercion or by empowerment? What is your theoretical foundation? Do you have a good understanding of who makes up your workforce and what values and beliefs they bring to your organization? Do they trust you as their managers and leaders? I would like to hear from you.~ Dr. Phuong Le Callaway, (PhD), Organization and Management/Human Resource Management


Argyris, C. (1973). On organization of the future. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Culbert, S.A., & McDonough, J.J. (1986). The politics of trust and organization empowerment. Public Administration Quarterly, 10(2), 1-18.

Likert, R. (1967). The human organizations: Its management and values. New York: McGraw-Hill.

McGregor, D. (1967). The professional manager. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Robbins, S.P. (2003a). Essentials of organizational behavior (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Robbins, S.P. (2003b). Organizational behavior (10 Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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David Kuehn

As for employees, I prefer trust but validation. For organizational success is a need for trust by employees of supervisors and leadership and trust among employees for each other.

Scott Kearby

If you have been a part of a high performing organization, then you know that it involves trust … trust of each other and trust of the organization. In that type of organization people feel they are genuinely valued, and they put forth effort to help the group succeed and for the appreciation of their co-workers (team mates). While a paycheck is important and the amount of pay should reinforce the employee’s feeling that they are a valued member of team, the money is not the reason people put forth extra effort, they do it for the team.

Even so there may be people who are not “team players” and they will quickly lose the trust of the group. The best thing a leader can do with these people is fire them. To quote Dick Grote “It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It’s the people you don’t.”