University of Twente Student Theses


Mutual trust in the manager-subordinate dyad : understanding the dilemmas of showing empathy

Oort, E.J.M. van (2019) Mutual trust in the manager-subordinate dyad : understanding the dilemmas of showing empathy.

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Abstract:This study contributes to communicative leadership development by empirically investigating the interplay between communicative first-line managers and their subordinates in a Belgian division of a Swedish multinational organisation. This research focuses specifically on the demonstration of empathy and its relationship with mutual trust in the manager-subordinate dyad. Thus, given that a first-line manager wants to enhance mutual trust, this study addresses the following research question: ‘What do Belgian communicative first-line managers encounter when first-line managers demonstrate empathy towards their subordinates in order to enhance mutual trust?’ The data, obtained by conducting observations and interviews with first line managers and warehouse employees, results in three trust-related paradoxes: (1) showing empathy versus being vulnerable; (2) showing empathy versus maintaining a professional distance; and (3) demonstrating trustworthy behaviour and maintaining a professional distance. The outcomes of these paradoxes are as follows: employees with a negative propensity towards trust prefer a new first-line manager to demonstrate empathy, although they do not reciprocate this behaviour. Ironically, when a new first-line manager endures challenges in his or her team, the respect and trust of subordinates are earned. A major finding of this study is that unions have a considerable effect on the work floor.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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