‘Organizational recidivism’ and trust repair: A story of failed detectives

Sabina Siebert, Graeme Martin, Branko Bozic

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    261 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose: Over the last decade, trust repair has become an important theoretical and practical concern in HRM. The purpose of this paper is to explain why organisations fail to repair their stakeholders’ trust following a series of trust breaches.

    Design/methodology/approach: The authors adopt a process theory approach and the analytical frame of a detective novel to investigate reputational scandals in RBS. In doing so, the authors explore the interweaving of two stories: the story of the “crime” (the bank’s actions which led to breaches of trust) and the story of the “detectives” (parliamentary, regulatory and press investigators).

    Findings: The study suggests that the organisation’s failure to repair trust is associated with ineffective detection of what went wrong in the bank and why.

    Practical implications: The authors argue that HR practitioners appreciate the complicated and unfolding nature of repeated transgressions, which, we argue, is addressed by approaching trust repair from a process perspective.

    Social implications: An organisation may be admitting the destructive impact of the event on trust, and beginning to show willingness to accept responsibility for the violation, but at the same time a new transgression may happen, further damaging trust and derailing trust repair efforts. Therefore, what is needed in organisations is a longitudinal analysis that takes into account organisational history, including the history of earlier wrongdoings.

    Originality/value: The paper is one of the few that had analysed trust repair using a process perspective and in using the metaphor of the detective novel in providing a more complete and nuanced story by telling is from two sides.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)328-345
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2018


    • banking
    • detective story
    • organizational recidivism
    • process theory
    • trust breach
    • trust repair
    • Organizational trust repair
    • Detective novel metaphor
    • Process theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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