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Distinguished Scholars Invited Essay: Are Secret Proceedings Why Longer Tenured Employees Trust Their Organizations Least?


We address the effects of secrecy in organizational policy enforcement. First, the legal literature that explains why court proceedings are open is summarized: openness more effectively holds decision makers and claimants accountable for truthfulness and unbiased decisions, demonstrates that the rich or powerful have not bought off the weak, supports adaptation to changing norms, and enhances the legitimacy of state authority. Next, we propose that when organizational policy enforcement is kept secret from other employees, organizations lose these benefits. One reflection of these loses will be lower employee trust in their organizations the longer their tenure there. Using questionnaire data from a large U.S. governmental agency, we found that lower employee trust with tenure is incrementally linearly lower over the course of employment, not the result of an early breach of the psychological contract. This occurs for employees at all hierarchical levels but is steepest for nonsupervisory employees, suggesting that employees lack information about policy enforcement may be driving this phenomenon.

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