Trust and reconciliation

Trust repair and dealing with ethical failures

The issue of trust has been on the forefront of research agendas across a variety of sub disciplines in social sciences including psychology, management, organizational behaviour, economics, and law among others (Tyler & Huo, 2002). Across these disciplines a wide range of definitions of trust exist, but, recently the vast amount of studies on trust rely on the perspective that trust is a psychological state based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour of another (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer, 1998). A common theme of many trust studies seems to be that they primarily focus on understanding what happens when trust is present and alive. At the same time it is noteworthy that only a little number of studies focuses on understanding what happens when trust is reduced (i.e., distrust). This perspective in the trust literature is most likely affected by the notion that trust is easier to destroy than to create (Meyerson, Weick, & Kramer, 1996). As a result, the literature on trust seems to have created the idea that building up trust again in relationships may prove too difficult and therefore “surprisingly few studies have directly examined how trust may be repaired” (Kim, Dirks, Cooper, & Ferrin, 2006, p. 50). in our research efforts, we depart from the rather negative and pessimistic view that has dominated the literature on trust and adopt a “positive” view by claiming that human beings do have the capacity to build up trust again after it has been violated. In this respect, the process of “trust broken and trust regained” can be compared with the metaphor of a broken bone. A broken bone is a very aversive and painful situation, but it can grow strong again. Indeed, a broken bone that has been properly set can grow equally strong (or maybe even stronger) than the initial unbroken bone (see Pratt & Dirks, in press).