Trust and Trouble; Building Interpersonal Trust within Organizations Defended on Thursday, 24 June 2004
The purpose of this study is to find out more about how trust works as an interactive and asymmetrical process, how trust is built up against the inevitable occurrence of trouble and how organizational policies and settings affect the generation and maintenance of trust. A theory of interpersonal trust building is developed based on relational signalling theory. The key argument put forward in this study is that for interpersonal trust to be built in work relations within organizations, both individuals in the relationship need to have their actions guided by a stable normative frame. Thus the stability of normative frames becomes a joint goal and likely to be jointly produced within the relationship. The theory shows that for interpersonal trust to be built (1) legitimate distrust situations must be taken away through interest alignment arrangements, (2) institutional arrangements must be put in place that stimulate frame resonance, (3) both individuals must regularly perform actions conveying positive relational signals and (4) both individuals involved in a trouble situation must at least act in ways that are not perceived as negative relational signals. A multiple case study strategy was applied covering two organizations. Embedded within the case study strategy, a multi-method approach was used with interviews, observations, a questionnaire survey, documents and verification meetings as instruments for three types of analysis: a quantitative trust and trouble event analysis, a quantitative survey analysis and qualitative analyses.
Trust building, trouble, distrust, organizational context, work relations, relational signalling theory, trust and trouble event analysis, professional services firms, Dutch firms