Building Trust in the Workplace: Study Highlights Its Importance in Post-Conflict Reconciliation

Summary of:

Casas-Casas, Andrés & Mendez, Nathalie & Pino Uribe, Juan. (, 2020). Trust and Prospective Reconciliation: Evidence From a Protracted Armed Conflict. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development. 154231662094596. 10.1177/1542316620945968.

Background & Theory

International efforts in post-conflict reconciliation have always emphasized the importance of external stakeholders such as economic and military capabilities in creating peace between communities. This study looks at the effect of trust on reconciliation between communities during the post-conflict or peacebuilding process, reiterating the importance of trust-building in local institutions, rather than external, top-down ones.

Research Question(s)

The authors tried to answer the following questions:

  1. Does an increase in trust in state institutions also increase the perception of future reconciliation amongst people that live in areas with the presence of armed actors such as guerrillas and paramilitary groups?
  2. Do higher levels of interpersonal trust increase prospective reconciliation amongst people that live in areas with the presence of armed actors such as guerrillas and paramilitary groups?
  3. Do higher levels of trust in groups that participate directly in peacebuilding such as ex-combatants and victims, increase the likelihood of positive attitudes towards prospective reconciliation amongst people that live in areas with the presence of armed actors such as guerrillas and paramilitary groups?
  4. Do higher levels of trust in groups that participate directly in peacebuilding such as ex-combatants and victims, increase the likelihood of other positive attitudes towards prospective reconciliation such as tolerance and willingness to support peaceful negotiation as the preferred option to terminate the war?

Methods

The program was evaluated by characterizing and diagnosing five departments of Colombia. The authors developed a baseline through economic experiments and a specific survey, focus groups, a representative survey, and interviews with key actors to accurately understand complex local realities. A Colombian non-profit organization implemented this research project with the support of the European Union and the Colombian government.

Results

Trust in government and trust in ex-combatants affects the perception that reconciliation with the demobilized groups is possible, especially trust in the national government (political trust) and towards ex-combatants (intergroup trust) seems to impact future reconciliation positively. People who believe that perpetrators can reintegrate into society and effectively cooperate tend to support reconciliation. Drivers existing at the micro-level can make peace more secure and sustainable during the pre-reconciliation phase and the initial post-agreement stages.

How This Translates for the Workplace:

  1. Examine organizational hierarchies: A big lesson from this paper, amongst others, is about not relying only on top-down structures of leadership to maintain peace but to involve local actors who are in direct contact with the people in the peacebuilding process. On a company level, ensure that the mid and bottom level leadership are aligned with the company’s values and maintain harmony in their respective teams. If the employees can trust their immediate managers, conflict resolution can occur more swiftly and is likely not to escalate.
  2. Transparency in strategy and leadership: Employee trust has to be earned. The company management must ensure that they practice the best possible ethics, like honesty and transparency regarding their company’s strategy. Mechanisms can be put in place to make sure that contradictory intentions are not held. Initiate trust-building activities that may overlap with team building ones. The increased trust also acts as a deterrent to the creation of conflict situations in the first place.
  3. Nudging accountability and not micromanaging: Having trust in employees to turn in their work on time by not micromanaging their schedules is a crucial component of the future of work. The managers, in this new age of employment, must not concern themselves with how or from where that work is done but giving their team members the freedom to define their boundaries, timings, and work-life balance. Have clear expectations when it comes to output, and trust their individual process. This way, when they are self-accountable and not being micro-managed, trust is implicitly included in the organizational structure.