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Insights from the Marine Corps Organizational Culture Research Project: Trust in the Marine Corps-the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Technical Report

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Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning Quantico United States

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This paper offers Marines accounts of how trust lives and dies in the Marine Corps. As with any organization, the Marine Corps and its members rely heavily on interpersonal and organizational trust to carry out Marine missions. And like any organization, the Marine Corps has spaces both where trust thrives and where it struggles. These Marines tell both stories the good and the bad and provide leaders their perspective on what is working and what is not. Key takeaways include 1 There is a lot of good going on. Marines recounted myriad stories of good horizontal and hierarchical interpersonal relationships and, through their words, gave evidence that they know what it takes to make trust thrive in the Marine Corps. 2 There are challenges with interpersonal and organizational trust. Marines had much to say about the breakdown of peer and leader trust. Many of the stories revolved around micromanagement and self-interest. This could have more to do with the prevalence of accountability processes the flourishing of an audit culture than with the quality and qualifications of Marines. 3 There are just some bad people out there who break trust through action and intent. They seem to be the outliers. 4 Marines tell of their challenges and concerns with performance evaluation and accountability measures and how that impacts trust in them. When Marines face such obstacles, they report mixed outcomes, dependent on whether they have trusted leaders who take care of their Marines or ones who appear more self-focused. More challenges arise when Marines have one of those bad people at the helm. 5 The intersection of trust based on position and trust based on shared identity warrants further attention through the exploration of the boundaries of Marine identity, as the Marine Corps diversifies its force. What follows is the good, the bad, and the ugly of Marine lived experience through the lens of trust.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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