Positive work environments result in higher levels of success while poor work environments lead to major organizational problems (Oldham, Hackman, and Pearce 1976). No matter the industry, managers play a major role in the workplace environment and therefore play a major role in the success of an organization (Piccolo and Colquitt 2006). This study dissects the elements of a good work environment by examining the relationship between middle managers and their direct reports. The study draws upon 13 in-depth interviews conducted with two different departments within the same higher education institution. The results focus on trust, autonomy, stability, and leader self-awareness, and other core elements identified in previous work as hallmarks of a good work environment. While the participants involved in the study appreciate stability, this is not a core determinant of a good work environment. However, the results indicate that trust is the foundation of a good work environment and that autonomy and leader self-awareness have reciprocal relationships with trust. When a leader is aware of their power and gives autonomy to their employee, trust is built between them. When trust is built between the pair, the leader is more comfortable giving autonomy to their employee. Overall, this study finds that when middle managers foster the relationship between trust, autonomy, and self awareness, they build a good work environment for their employees.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Matthew Grace

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.