Employee attitudes on organizational trust in a Connecticut community college

Date of Completion

January 2002


Education, Community College|Education, Administration|Education, Educational Psychology




The purpose of this study was to examine and describe the distinct culture of a community college in Connecticut and investigate the attitudes of employees that have experienced a leader trust failure. The research design used qualitative methodology of naturalistic inquiry and relied on inductive logic to build generalizations specific to the complexities of human interaction at this community college. The major data-gathering techniques were observation of the employees in their work environment, formal and informal interviews, focus groups, and review of documents. ^ Positive and negative feedback on perceptions of leadership, collective context, and peer relations were recorded from embedded words, language, and concepts that connote trust and distortions of trust as they relate to decision-making, information/communication, collaboration/relationships, and culture. Categories of salient themes, such as setting, participant perspective, activity, and relationship were developed using codes, recurring ideas and language, and patterns of belief linking the people and context together (Marshall & Rossman, 1995). The data analysis was peer debriefed by two educational professionals. Interview participants, two faculty, two administrators and one staff person, did member checks to increase the trustworthiness of the study. ^ The results indicate that at this college, the culture and the president's participation in the organization's reality hold the highest importance and consequence with the employees. The style with which the president interacts with this cultural web that is intimately connected to this “family” of employees' plays a strong role in the organization's success. ^ This research provides insights into the events and characteristics that have led to the shared beliefs and behavior by many of its members, offering a greater understanding of the meaning and importance of trust and its integration with leadership, decision making, collaboration and cooperation. ^ The selection of the community college for this study was based on the recent resignation of its president and the questions that were raised regarding the transactions that took place during that process. The employees at this college developed a high degree of dissatisfaction with decision-making processes, information sharing, cooperation and overall distrust of the president. A climate survey, the Personal Assessment of the College Environment (PACE) was administered to 89 of the 126 full-time employees to obtain the perceptions of personnel concerning the college climate and to promote more constructive communication among faculty, staff and administrators. The overall results from the PACE instrument indicated an “unhealthy” campus climate. The areas of greatest concern from the survey included a poor spirit of cooperation, the lack of information sharing and participatory decision-making, and the absence of open and ethical communication. Additionally, during the two-year tenure of the president, the college experienced its highest level of turnover. ^