The relation between trust, leadership, safety and culture : a comparison of Seawell employees on the UK and Norwegian Continental Shelves
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It is assumed that the world is getting more and more interconnected and that the business world is becoming increasingly global. To what extend this evolution will influence values and practices in organizations and leadership, are an interesting question. Trust is, whether it is inter personal- or in regard to organizational work practice, important in areas where individuals have responsibility and need to perform in a reliable way. Trust is in most safety literature assumed to be beneficial for safety, and distrust detrimental. These assumptions make intuitive sense, but have been challenged in research in association with trust and safety performance. Conchie and Donald’s (2007) Trust model is valuable in understanding trust and safety. Transformational leadership style is believed to have the most affective results in developing trust. In regards with safety culture, research has found that a transactional leadership style also may a positive effect. The objective of this study was to examine and understand cultural similarities and differences related to trust and leadership and its anticipated influence on organisational safety performance. A comparative study of safety and organizational culture has been performed on the UK and Norwegian Continental Shelves within two phases. The main project uses a combined methodological approach. While data gathered in the first phase are of a quantitative character (survey data 2007), second phase data consists of qualitative data (focus group interviews and key informant interview). The quantitative data comprises a questionnaire survey which included Seawell employees working within well services in UK and Norway completed in 2007. The aim of phase two in general is to achieve a deeper understanding of the quantitative findings in phase one. In my study I’ve made a selection of relevant issues from the main projects and my main goal has been to examine the relations between trust, leadership, safety and culture. My research questions are: 1) How may cultural aspects influence on the perception of trust, safety and leadership? 2) How is trust related to safety? 3) Are leadership styles different across shelves, and how may this influence trust and safety aspects? My data is of a qualitative character and was collected through focus group interviews and a key informant interview in UK and in Norway. A meaning coalescing method (Kvale, 1997) was used to reduce and analyse the qualitative data. The overall results showed an organization with high compliance towards safety and high trust in workmate and management commitment to safety. Cultural aspects were found to influence on the perception of trust, safety and leadership. The trust the UK informants expressed towards their supervisors appeared to be of a different kind than the trust Norwegian informants expressed towards their leaders. Cultural differences related to Power Distance and Assertiveness may be an explaining factor when understanding these differences. In relation to trust and safety both countries appear to have a general agreement about both the upsides and downsides to trust, and the importance of functional trust and functional distrust in relation to safety. The leadership style most suitable to increase trust and distrust seem to be a combination of both transformational and transactional leadership styles. In addition, contextual and cultural differences should be taken into consideration when further improvement of the organizational safety performance is to be developed.
Master's thesis in Change management