Trust Representations between Managers and Union Representatives: A Qualitative Analysis
University of Quebec in Outaouais (formerly University of Quebec at Hull) - Department of Industrial Relations
March 15, 2003
Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, Vol. 58, No. 1, 2003
Trust is a crucial component of cooperation in the context of introducing new forms of work organization and union/management partnership. A qualitative analysis of trust representations of managers and union representatives reveals that trust prevails throughout the forming of new social ties although there are important differences as to prior conditions. The research shows that trust is a multidimensional concept in which personal, situational and factual variables are all present. Moreover, trust shows an ambiguous type of relation, depending on the agents present in the relation, the specific situation and what is at stake. Lewicky and Bunker (1997) identified three types of trust : calculated trust, information-based trust and identity-based trust. Our study finds that the agents wish to transform the relation but also to maintain their own distinct identity. Nonetheless, the agents have some hesitation about placing their trust in the other, based on common identity.
The paper therefore attempts to analyse empirical dimensions of trust between managers and union representatives. The data were collected through open questions sent to HR and IR managers and union presidents in 1000 Quebec firms: 251 questionnaires answered by union representatives and 223 completed by managers were returned. Except for 45 dyads, the questionnaires answered by one party could not be paired up with the second party.
Firstly, the results show that trust is related to personal qualities such as loyalty, sensitivity to the other, commitment, sincerity, experience and other factors. Although the attributes of both parties seem similar, there is a significant difference between the two. From union representatives, managers wish to have the affirmation of a new type of leadership and competence, the possibility of employee mobilization behind the competitive goals set by managers. Therefore, the union representative is trustworthy if he or she shares the firm community’s values. On the other hand, union representatives ask for a symmetrical relation between the two parties. They require new resources of power. Trust is not a component of the relation if this relationship is characterized by domination. Communication is also an key component of trust. Frequent meetings, dialogue on real issues that can be dealt with, demonstrations of openness and a new code of conduct without confrontation, are all mentioned as preconditions. Trust is closely related to regular exchanges of information. Trust then is either calculated or information-based.
The second finding suggests that the conditions under which trust is possible are threefold: (1) structural conditions based on components such as market and employment growth; (2) situational conditions such as special events, a strike or a major lay off; (3) relational conditions which are assigned to the agents’ reputation.
In conclusion, emphasis is placed on the ambiguity of the relation showing a simultaneous desire to transform the relation while both agents play their traditional role. Each party recognizes the necessity of building a new tie without rejecting their own interests, values and needs and those of the other party.
JEL Classification: J53Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 25, 2010
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