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Leadership | May 9

Preserving employee trust during crisis  

Leadership | May 9

Research has shown that trust facilitates and strengthens employee commitment and effort, but how do we ensure we have it?

Nicole Gillespie

Nicole Gillespie KPMG Chair in Organizational Trust and Professor of Management at the University of Queensland Business School

Reading Time 7 minutes

Rosalind Searle

Rosalind Searle Chair in Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology, Adam Smith Business School

Stefanie Gustafsson

Stefanie Gustafsson Senior Lecturer, University of Bath

Veronica Hope Hailey

Veronica Hope Hailey Fellow of the CIPD and Emeritus Professor at the School of Management, University of Bath

Although trust is always important in organisations, it becomes particularly vital during crises and periods of disruption. In times of change, trust facilitates the ability of employees at all levels of an organisation to navigate through and respond constructively to disruptions. It also underpins the organisation’s ability to be agile and resilient.  

Yet it is during crises and disruption — when trust is most required — that it is also more likely to be lost. The Covid-19 pandemic posed just such a threat. It required organisational leaders and policymakers to make rapid, large-scale changes to both sustain organisational viability and maintain the flexibility and ability to later scale up and rapidly return to their core business once the pandemic passed. To ensure organisational survival, they were forced to make tough and unpopular decisions, such as to cut pay and work hours, and lay off workers temporarily or permanently. The uncertainty and unpredictability of the pandemic jolted employees out of their familiar ways, including their habitual trust of their employers, and heightened their sense of vulnerability. In such a context, employees need and seek reassurance from their employer that their continued trust is deserved. 

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About The Author

Veronica Hope Hailey

Veronica Hope Hailey Fellow of the CIPD and Emeritus Professor at the School of Management, University of Bath

Rosalind Searle

Rosalind Searle Chair in Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology, Adam Smith Business School

Stefanie Gustafsson

Stefanie Gustafsson Senior Lecturer, University of Bath

Nicole Gillespie

Nicole Gillespie KPMG Chair in Organizational Trust and Professor of Management at the University of Queensland Business School

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