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

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 19:31 authored by Hungerford, C, Cleary, M

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.


Publication title

Issues in Mental Health Nursing










School of Nursing


Taylor & Francis Inc.

Place of publication

United States

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Mental health services

Usage metrics

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