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


The results of this study support the proposition that staff nurse empowerment has an impact on their perceptions of fair management practices, feelings of being respected in their work settings, and their trust in management, which ultimately influence their job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Staff nurses in this study felt that structurally empowering conditions in their workplace meant that managers were more likely to treat them with concern for their well-being in relation to organizational decisions and provide them with explanations to justify these decisions. Consequently, they felt they received the respect they deserved in the organization which increased their trust in management, or the extent to which they felt their managers were reliable, honest, competent, and compassionate. These conditions resulted in greater job satisfaction and commitment to the organization; that is, they were more likely to believe in the goals and values of the organization, to exert extra effort at work, and have lower turnover intentions. These findings further elaborate factors in the work environments that are likely to increase nurse retention.

The links established in this study between employee empowerment and management practices that are based on treating employees fairly and respectfully and that build trust in management are consistent with those of Laschinger et al. (2000) who found strong relationships between components of empowerment and staff nurses trust in management. Hart, Capps, Cangemi, and Caillouet (1996) also linked employee trust to the willingness of managers to share information in a timely fashion. When employees feel they do not have access to information about organizational decisions and activities, they may suspect that information is being hidden and trust in management is destroyed. This may also be interpreted as a lack of respect by nurses who might feel that management is ignoring or disregarding their concerns about the impact of organizational decisions that affect their work. Nurses in this study reported low levels of trust in relation to management's honesty and concern for their needs.

Similarly, when staff nurses are provided with helpful feedback and guidance from managers and given the flexibility to use their judgement and make discretionary decisions through respectful interchange of ideas with management, their trust in management increases. Employees are also more likely to trust managers who provide necessary resources to accomplish work in a meaningful way. Under these conditions, nurses feel that they can provide nursing care that is consistent with the standards of their profession. Logically, this should lead to greater job satisfaction, commitment to the organization, and a desire to remain in the organization.

The relationship between interactional justice and trust in management is consistent with the results of Bies and Moag (1986) who found that perceptions of interactional justice were significant predictors of attitudes and behaviors toward specific managers responsible for decisions affecting employees. In fact, Moorman (1991) suggests that interactional justice can be thought of as a measure of fairness of specific supervisory personnel. The relationship between empowerment and interactional justice may also reflect this phenomenon, since immediate managers play an important role in providing access to empowering work structures in their areas of responsibility.

These results are similar to other studies that have linked organizational trust to open communication and information sharing (Gilbert & Tang, 1998; Tyler & Degoey, 1996), employee autonomy, nonauthoritative management styles (Podsakoff et al., 1996), and manager-expressed belief in employees' ability (Mishra & Morrisey, 1990). These same factors are also linked to structural empowerment (Laschinger & Havens, 1996; Laschinger, Wong, McMahon, & Kaufmann, 1999). While structural empowerment has been empirically related to job satisfaction and organizational commitment in several studies, the current study is the first to demonstrate the intervening roles of organizational justice, respect, and trust in management. This knowledge is particularly salient in today's uncertain health care environments and adds to the literature on recruitment and retention tactics.


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