Leaders' experience with emotion in the trust process with employees
Burke, Gigi Amanda
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Trust has become a significant factor in a leader’s ability to be effective in the workplace. While the leader’s role in establishing trust in organizations has been well documented, research has mainly focused on the cognitive and behavioral aspects of trust development. There has been less of a focus on the emotional aspect of trust development with employees. This is significant because how leaders’ understand and manage their feelings can influence the type and level of trust that they develop with their employees. This study’s purpose was to understand leaders’ experience with emotion in building, sustaining, and repairing trust with their employees. Two research questions guided this study: (1) what are leaders’ beliefs about emotion as related to building, sustaining, and repairing trust with employees? and (2) what techniques do leaders use to manage their emotions? A basic interpretive qualitative research design was used and semi-structured interviews were the method of data collection. Convenience sampling was used to identify twelve leaders representing various occupations in business, education, and government. The data analysis revealed five key themes regarding beliefs about emotion in the trust process and three broad areas of techniques that leaders used to manage their emotions that led to three primary conclusions. First, leaders’ general views about emotion suggest overall that caution should be used when experiencing and expressing emotion with building, sustaining, and repairing trust. Second, leaders’ management of their emotions in the trust process parallels much of the emotion work literature except when dealing with gender and race issues. Third, there is still more to learn about emotion work and emotional intelligence and how it can be effectively used in building, sustaining, and repairing trust. Implications for theory, research, and practice are presented.