An Integrated Model of Relationship Repair: Reintroducing the Roles of Forgiveness and Trust

The presence of trust between employees and organizational actors is crucial on account of the high transaction costs and impracticality associated with formally contracting all aspects of workplace relationships (Arrow, 1973). However, despite the benefits provided by trust in professional interactions, trust violations are very common (Tomlinson, Dineen and Lewicki, 2004). Even more troubling, according to Robinson and Rousseau (1994), is that violations of trust at work are associated with reduced organizational commitment, lower citizenship behavior, and an increased likelihood of turnover (Robinson, 1996). They can also generate resentment, anger, and hostility that may linger well beyond the transgression and manifest as anxiety and stress that interferes with employee performance and productivity (Gillespie & Dietz, 2009; Dutton, Ashford, Wierba, O’Neill & Hayes, 1997; Heimer, 1992). Therefore, due to the serious consequences that damaged trust, negative affect and the resulting negative interpersonal exchanges have on work outcomes, there is growing scholarly interest in understanding when and how trust is restored after a transgression or negative interaction (Barclay, Skarlicki & Pugh, 2005; Tomlinson & Mayer, 2009; Kim, Dirks & Cooper, 2009; Kramer & Lewicki, 2010). Management scholars have only recently begun to examine the processes of relationship repair (Ren & Gray, 2009; Kim, Dirks & Cooper, 2009), trust repair (Ferrin, Kim, Cooper & Dirks, 2007; Kim, Ferrin, Cooper & Dirks, 2004; Nakayachi & Watabe, 2005) and forgiveness (Fehr & Gelfand, 2010; Bradfield & Aquino, 1999; Tomlinson, Dineen & Lewicki, 2004). However, due to the growing awareness of its importance, as well as the relative lack of theoretical and empirical work in the domain (Ferrin, 2002; Gillespie & Dietz, 2009; Petriglieri, 2015 for exceptions), the amount of research on trust repair and forgiveness in recent years has increased dramatically (van der Werff & Buckley, 2017; Bachmann, Gillespie & Priem, 2015; Dirks, Lewicki & Zaheer, 2009; Kramer & Lewicki, 2010). However, despite that it is gaining momentum, a number of unanswered questions still remain. Specifically, the development of a conceptual model which articulates the factors that affect relationship repair and accurately describes the process of forgiveness after a transgression is needed. To date there has been little conceptual or theoretical work done on trust repair and only a few proposed conceptual frameworks that organize and categorize organizational and institutional trust repair. Therefore, in this paper, I seek to extend existing work by proposing a model of relationship repair that integrates our knowledge of forgiveness and includes an explanation of the proposed interplay between repair mechanisms and how these mechanisms can be combined to reestablish trust after a transgression.