This article explores the epistemological roots and paradigmatic boundaries of research into employee trust, a growing field in human resource management. Drawing on Burrell and Morgan's well-known sociological paradigms and their epistemological foundations, we identify the dominant approaches to employee trust research to examine its strengths and limitations. Our review of the literature on employee trust revealed that the majority of the most cited papers were written from a psychological perspective, characterised by positivistic methodologies, variance theory explanations and quantitative data collection methods. We also found that most of the studies can be located in the functionalist paradigm, and while accepting that functionalism and psychological positivism have their merits, we argue that research in these traditions sometimes constrains our understanding of employee trust in their organisations. We conclude that trust researchers would benefit from a better understanding of the ontological, epistemological and axiological assumptions underlying of HRM research and should embrace greater epistemic reflexivity.
- industrial sociology
- employee trust
- intra-organisational trust
- sociological paradigms
Siebert, S., Martin, G., & Bozic, B. (2016). Research into employee trust: epistemological foundations and paradigmatic boundaries. Human Resource Management Journal, 26(3), 269-284. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12103