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A social role perspective on trust repair

Shayna Frawley (School of Human Resource Management, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Jennifer A. Harrison (Department of People and Organizations, NEOMA Business School, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 12 September 2016




The purpose of this paper is to apply insights from social role theory to trust repair, highlighting the underexplored implications of gender. Trust repair may be more difficult following violations that are incongruent with the transgressor’s gender role.


This paper reviews research on trust repair, particularly Kim et al.’s (2004, 2006) discovery that apologizing with internal attributions is best for ability-related violations and denying responsibility is best for integrity-related violations. Propositions about trust repair are grounded in attribution and social role theory.


Trust violations may incur a bigger backlash when they are incongruent with gender roles, particularly for individuals in gender-incongruent professions and cultures with low gender egalitarianism. Men may find ability-related violations more difficult to repair. Women may find repairing benevolence and integrity-related violations more difficult. When apologies are offered, attributions that are consistent with gender roles (internal attributions for men, external attributions for women) may be most effective.

Practical implications

Gender can be a relevant factor in trust repair. Policies and training addressing conflict should consider how these differences manifest.


Gender role differences have largely been overlooked in trust repair. By integrating social role theory and exploring benevolence-based violations, this paper offers a more complete understanding of trust repair.



The authors would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful suggestions and comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Academy of Management Conference in Philadelphia. Thank you to Y.T. Chuang and the participants at our session for your help in developing the paper.


Frawley, S. and Harrison, J.A. (2016), "A social role perspective on trust repair", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 35 No. 8, pp. 1045-1055.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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