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Job consequences of trustworthy employees : a social network analysis Lau, Dora C.


This study examines the consequences of being trustworthy at work. The Performance Enhancement argument suggests that trustworthy employees are likely to occupy central positions in various social networks and such positions may enable trustworthy employees to perform better and feel more satisfied at work. On the other hand, the Resource Depletion argument proposes that trustworthy employees tend to attract help seekers and therefore they will experience more work overload and burnout. Direct health-care providers at a local rehabilitation center were surveyed. While trustworthy employees tended to occupy more central positions in both work and friendship networks, such positions did not relate to better performance or higher job satisfaction. Trustworthy employees were found to perform better only when the negative impact of their network centrality was controlled for. A two-edged sword explanation is proposed that the central positions in the instrumental network occupied by trustworthy employees enabled them to be natural boundary spanners. Extra coordination work across programs hampered the work performance of trustworthy employees. After controlling for the negative influence of being boundary spanners, trustworthiness was found to positively relate to work performance. In addition, trustworthy employees were found to do more extra-role behaviors. The Performance Enhancement argument is partially supported. Contrary to the Resource Depletion argument, trustworthy employees, especially benevolent ones, reported less emotional exhaustion than those who were less trustworthy. The relational literature suggests that trustworthy employees, due to their concern for others' interests, are able to benefit from their deep, strong, and mutual relations with their colleagues. Such relations allow trustworthy employees to feel more meaningful at work and therefore able to better deal with burnout. Two more findings are discussed. First, benevolence was found to be the major driver, among all trustworthiness components, of work performance and burnout. It is suggested that positive attributions of trustworthy employees' intentions are critical in drawing assistance, favors, and support from their colleagues. These social exchanges are important foundations of better work performance and reduced emotional exhaustion. Second, central positions in the instrumental network were found to negatively relate to work performance. Instead of possessing information benefits and information brokering advantages, these central positions were found to correlate with boundary spanning activities. These extra coordinating activities added to the workload of trustworthy employees. Practical implications, potential limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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