Chapter 16: Does Trust Still Matter? Research on the Role of Trust in Inter-Organizational Exchange
Bill McEvily and Akbar Zaheer What is the nature of inter-organizational trust? Is the concept even meaningful? If so, what role (if any) does it play in aﬀecting the performance of interﬁrm exchange? These questions were at the heart of what motivated our study ‘Does trust matter? Exploring the eﬀects of inter-organizational and interpersonal trust on performance’ (Zaheer et al., 1998). At the time of our study, there was considerable theoretical doubt and ambiguity about the inﬂuence of trust, an inherently individual-level concept, on exchange performance, an organizational-level outcome. Our goal was to provide some conceptual clarity on the topic and our approach was three-fold. First, we proposed a theoretical basis upon which interpersonal and inter-organizational trust could be conceptualized as related, but distinct constructs. We argued that whereas trust originates from individuals, the object of trust may be another person or entity, including a collective entity such as an organization. Thus, while interpersonal trust is the trust of one individual in another, inter-organizational trust is the collectively held trust orientation by members of one organization toward another organization. Second, we developed a theoretical model that related trust at the two levels of analysis, interpersonal and inter-organizational, to exchange performance. Our core proposition (summarized in Figure 16.1) advanced the idea that trust, both inter-organizational and interpersonal, enhanced performance by lowering the transaction costs of exchange. Third, we empirically tested our model with survey data from a sample of buyer–supplier relationships. The results of our study...
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