When employment becomes uncertain, how can employee trust and satisfaction be maintained?

Scientific Newsflash and Courses of Action

 

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In a context of employment insecurity, how can employee trust and satisfaction be maintained?

An employee’s trust helps preserve their psychological contract with their employer, while job insecurity is one of the elements that can break it.

OUR PARTNERS

This initiative was made possible through a collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke and is supported by the Chief Scientist of Québec, with the Fonds de recherche du Québec.

Marie-Pier Boivin

Marie-Pier Boivin is a PhD candidate in organizational psychology (PhD R/I) at the Université de Sherbrooke. Her thesis focuses on individuals’ functioning at work as a component of workplace psychological health.

The contents on a purple background are the doctoral student’s recommendations.

What Is Meant by…? [1]

Job insecurity

Concerns about the future of your job.

Job satisfaction

How content you are with your job.

Trust

The feeling of being able to take risks in a relationship, because you believe that the other party wants what is best for you and will be careful with what you share with them.

Employees can place their trust in one or more co-workers, one or more supervisors and in the organization.

Psychological contract

An informal and implicit agreement (that is, one that is not written or legally binding) between an employee and their employer.

  1. The employee’s expectations towards the organization (e.g.: getting a promotion every 5 years);
  2. The organization’s expectations towards the employee (e.g.: helping to integrate new employees by acting as a mentor);
  3. What the employee is prepared to do for the organization (e.g.: work overtime to complete a project on time);
  4. What the organization is prepared to do for the employee (e.g.: provide development opportunities).

What Are the Study’s Findings?

1. When job insecurity increases, employees trust their employer less.

Employees perceive job insecurity as a breach of one of the clauses of the psychological contract. Once the contract is undermined, the employee might question the trust that they place in their organization. This contract breach makes them question the organization’s desire to take care of them.

Employees experiencing job insecurity will be less likely to act in a way that meets the organization’s expectations and needs, because they do not trust them anymore.

2. The less employees trust the organization, the less satisfied they are.

Since job satisfaction reflects how content an employee is with their job, reducing or removing the trust they have in their organization negatively affects the way they see their work. It is essential to find strategies to rebuild employees’ trust in their employer or to reestablish the psychological contract.

 

JOB INSECURITY


TRUST IN THE ORGANIZATION


JOB SATISFACTION

 

COURSES OF ACTION

WHAT CAN ORGANIZATIONS DO?

In contexts where it can be difficult to prevent job insecurity:

  1. Communicate clearly and transparently with employees, especially during periods of change or uncertainty.
  2. When possible, allow employees to make decisions that have impacts on their jobs.

 

OUR PhD STUDENT’S RECOMMENDATIONS

FOR EMPLOYERS

Nurture the trust that employees place in us and increase their feeling of control over their job situation.

  • Communicate clearly, continuously and calmly about every change in the organization’s situation, as well as the effects of these changes on employees’ work (e.g.: imposed telework, temporary or permanent layoffs). Make sure that the information transmitted is properly understood and that there is no room for interpretation.
  • Ask employees about their concerns regarding their employment status. Insofar as possible, respond quickly or be transparent and admit to not having an answer. Be empathetic about employees’ concerns and the stressful nature of the situation.
  • If necessary, support employees in their search for resources by helping them meet needs that the organization cannot or can no longer fulfill (e.g.: applying for employment insurance).
  • If possible, meet with each employee to determine whether their basic needs are being met (e.g.: food, medication, items for babies and pets). Offer help to meet those needs that are not being met.

FOR EMPLOYEES

Share your concerns openly and proactively.

  • Ask questions to the right people (e.g.: if the question is about pay, contact the payroll department instead of a co-worker).
  • Inform your supervisor of your concerns. Share with them ways of alleviating your concerns (e.g.: mention your fear of losing your job).
  • Identify your needs (e.g.: being able to feed your family) and share them with your supervisor clearly and calmly.
TO CITE THIS GLOBAL-WATCH SCIENTIFIC NEWSFLASH

Boivin, M.P. (2020). When employment becomes uncertain, how can employee trust and satisfaction be maintained? Global-Watch Scientific Newsflash, available at www.global-watch.com

Flash written under the direction of France St-Hilaire, associate professor of Human Resources at the Université de Sherbrooke’s School of Management.

TO CITE THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY THE AUTHORS OF THE STUDY

Richter, A., & Näswall, K. (2019). Job insecurity and trust: Uncovering a mechanism linking job insecurity to well-being. Work & Stress, 33(1), 22-40. https://doi.org/10.1080/02678373.2018.1461709

[1] These definitions were adapted by our PhD student from those in the scientific article.

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