Report reveals how to rebuild trust after a scandal22 February 2012

Dr Nicole Gillespie, UQ Business School

Trust is a fundamental building block for any successful organisation - yet trust in business has plummeted since the global financial crisis.

Now a new report co-authored by a UQ Business School expert investigates how companies win trust and how they can rebuild it after their reputation has suffered serious damage.

Dr Nicole Gillespie, Senior Lecturer in Management at the business school, worked with Dr Graham Dietz of Durham University to write the report. ‘The Recovery of Trust: Case studies of organisational failures and trust repair’ has been published by the Institute of Business Ethics.

The report uses real-life examples of organisations which have suffered serious failures of trust – Siemens, Mattel, Toyota, BAE Systems, and the BBC – to illustrate good and bad practice in rebuilding trust.

Nicole said: “What is common to all the cases we have reviewed is that trust failures typically take years to resolve, and can be both debilitating and very costly. A clear implication is that it pays to invest proactively in designing an organisational system that encourages and supports trustworthy conduct.”

She says that in most of the cases, rebuilding trust required an overhaul of the organisational culture. However she emphasizes that a failure of trust can be repaired and it can even prove to be a catalyst to strengthen an organisation’s reputation.

She adds: “A crisis focuses and motivates the organisation, providing a strong and necessary impetus for radical change, and unleashing resources and new ways of thinking that are often difficult to leverage under normal circumstances. This is the silver lining of trust failures.

“We hope that this analysis of prominent cases of trust failure and repair serves as a helpful guide to those involved in this challenging task.”

Nicole has published a variety of papers on organisational trust. Her other research interests include leadership, teams and employee engagement.

For further information about the report, see www.ibe.org.uk.

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