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‘High Trust’ and ‘Low Trust’ workplace settings: implications for our mental health and wellbeing


Hungerford, C and Cleary, M, High Trust' and Low Trust' workplace settings: implications for our mental health and wellbeing, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 42, (5) pp. 506-514. ISSN 0161-2840 (2020) [Non Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1080/01612840.2020.1822480



Trust is "an essential condition of human society" (Steinacker, 2019, p. 1), unifying families, communities, groups, and countries. Without trust, governments, businesses, and institutions (e.g. healthcare, educational, religious, media and research) would be unable to function effectively (Gustafsson et al., 2020). Yet, in the 21st century, there has been an erosion of trust in the organizations or groups that previously served as the cornerstones of societies (Agley, 2020; Calnan & Sanford, 2004; Camporesi et al., 2017; Hutchinson, 2018; Kaltenborn et al., 2017; Lauret, 2018). This erosion has filtered down into workplaces, with cynicism now characteristic of the way in which many employees view those in authority (Petitta & Jiang, 2019). Of particular concern are reports of the cynicism felt by employees toward their leaders or managers; and increases in disengagement and sick leave, attrition, and higher levels of stress and other mental health issues (Bourgault, 2019; Nicholson et al., 2014; Sungur et al., 2019).

This column discusses the notion of trust in the workplace and the effects of low-trust workplaces on the mental health and wellbeing of employees. In the first part of the article, consideration is given to, first, the terms ‘high-trust’ and ‘low-trust’ in the context of the work of nurses; second, the stages by which trust is developed in workplace settings; and third, the important role of leaders and managers in supporting the process of trust development. Following this, the essential characteristics of trust in the workplace are explained: benevolence, competence, reliability, honesty, vulnerability and openness (Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015). Examples from the workplace are provided to illustrate salient points. Finally, the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of those who work in low-trust environments is discussed, including suggestions for how nurses can overcome the challenges inherent in such workplaces.

Item Details

Item Type:Non Refereed Article
Keywords:trust, workplace settings, mental health and wellbeing
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Nursing
Research Field:Mental health nursing
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Provision of health and support services
Objective Field:Mental health services
UTAS Author:Cleary, M (Professor Michelle Cleary)
ID Code:141229
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:Nursing
Deposited On:2020-10-06
Last Modified:2021-04-26

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