Original Research

Is benevolence the pinnacle of an employment relations trust hierarchy?

Lukas I. Ehlers
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 19 | a1655 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v19i0.1655 | © 2021 Lukas I. Ehlers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 2021 | Published: 26 October 2021

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Lukas I. Ehlers, Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: Employment relations trust (ERT) is related to compliance, fairness, good faith and benevolence in such relations. Benevolence is not a legal obligation in employment relations and will typically be displayed voluntarily. Gaps in the literature suggested a need for a valid and reliable theory of employment relations benevolence and its relationship with trust in such relations.

Aim: This study was undertaken to investigate the relationship between benevolence and the development of trust in employment relations.

Setting: The study was undertaken in the Gauteng province of the Republic of South Africa.

Methods: An exploratory quantitative research method was implemented to test two hypotheses emanating from a literature review. A questionnaire survey facilitated the collection of data from 83 purposefully sampled voluntary respondents, who were ordinary employees, managers and academics. Statistical analysis was done to test the validity of two hypotheses.

Results: Employment relations trust can be expected to develop through four distinct, overlapping and relatively predictable sequential stages, namely compliance, fairness, good faith and benevolence. Benevolence can be assumed to be the last stage in this development process.

Conclusion: Benevolence can be regarded as the erratic pinnacle of a four levelled theoretical hierarchy of ERT. Benevolence can occur before, during or after displays of compliance, fairness or good faith in employment relations.

Contribution: This theory of ERT provides valid and reliable foundations for dealing with and researching a variety of aspects related to benevolence and trust in employment relations.


employment; relations; trust; development; hierarchy; fairness; good faith; benevolence


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