Using Empowerment to Build Trust and Respect in the Workplace: A Strategy for Addressing the Nursing Shortage

Heather K. Spence Laschinger; Joan Finegan


Nurs Econ. 2005;23(1):6-13. 

In This Article

Executive Summary and Introduction

Executive Summary

  • Pressures such as downsizing, resource constraints, and strained interdisciplinary relationships challenge the sense of stability of the work environment for nurses.

  • The authors evaluated the effects of employee empowerment on perceptions of organizational justice, respect, and trust in management.

  • The authors hypothesized that job satisfaction and organizational commitment ultimately benefit from efforts to improve employees' perceptions of empowerment.

  • Using Rosabeth Kanter's theoretical framework of organizational empowerment and numerous other research findings, the authors surveyed a sample of 273 medical-surgical and critical care nurses.

  • Study results revealed that structural empowerment had a direct effect on interactional justice, respect, and organizational trust.

  • Similarly, empowerment had a cascading effecting on organizational trust, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

  • The pivotal role and importance of the nurse manager in creating and maintaining trust with staff is reinforced by this research.


A recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) articulated the importance of a positive work environment for ensuring patient safety in hospital settings. Creating and sustaining trust throughout the organization was identified as a critically important leader activity (IOM, 2004). Yet, after a decade of downsizing and restructuring during which thousands of nurses were let go, nurses are understandably distrustful of management (Decker, Wheeler, Johnson, & Parsons, 2001; Ingersoll, Fisher, Ross, Soja, & Kidd, 2001; Laschinger, Finegan, Shamian, & Casier, 2000). Moreover, they feel that physicians and management staff do not respect them or their work (Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee, 2002; Laschinger, 2004; Laschinger, Finegan, Shamian, & Sabiston, 2001a). This lack of respect is manifested in several ways, including the manner in which management communicates important organizational decisions and the failure to address concerns expressed by nurses about the implications of these decisions.

Perceived lack of trust and respect in the work environment has detrimental effects on both the organization and employees. Employees who are distrustful are less likely to contribute to organizational goals and activities to the same degree as those who experience high levels of trust in their organization. Nursing management will have to work hard to regain the trust of their employees if the profession is to survive the impending shortage of qualified practitioners. Recruitment of newcomers to the profession and retention of those currently in the system will depend on regaining this lost trust. An important strategy for increasing recruitment and retention of nurses will be to create work environments that manifest justice, trust, and respect and thereby facilitate professional nursing practice. Kanter's notion of creating conditions of work effectiveness through the establishment of empowering work structures is a logical basis for this strategy.

The purpose of this study was to test a model linking nurses' empowerment to organizational justice, respect, and trust in management, and ultimately, job satisfaction and organizational commitment.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: