The Trouble with Trust

The Trouble with Trust

The Dynamics of Interpersonal Trust Building

Frédérique Six

The Trouble with Trust poses the question: if trust is considered to be important for successful cooperation, why don't high-trust work relationships predominate? Part of the explanation, the author argues, is that it is particularly difficult to build and maintain trust in work relations. This book addresses this problem by providing an in-depth, multi-level empirical analysis of the process by which trust builds up and breaks down in the interaction between people within organizations.

Chapter 2: Foundations for a Theory of Trust Building

Frédérique Six

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, economics and finance, industrial organisation

Extract

This chapter begins with a general description of the assumptions and key implications of relational signalling theory before applying these to a theory of interpersonal trust building. The key argument put forward in this study – and explained in this chapter – is that for trust to work in work relations within contemporary organizations,1 both individuals in the relationship need to have their actions guided by a stable normative frame.2 Thus the stability of normative frames becomes a joint goal and likely to be jointly produced within the relationship itself with positive relational signals, as well as within the organization as a whole with the help of flanking arrangements that are part of the organizational context. RELATIONAL SIGNALLING THEORY The present explanatory effort builds on the theoretical framework for the analysis of governance problems in organizations, ‘relational signalling theory’. For the theoretical foundations of the relational signalling approach, see the writings of Lindenberg (1988, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998). Further elaboration and empirical testing of the theory can be found in Wittek (1999, 2003) and Mühlau (2000). Two basic assumptions are made in relational signalling. First, human behaviour is goal directed and any effort to explain social phenomena should pay attention to the goals of the individual actors (Lindenberg, 1997). Individuals are boundedly rational in the sense that they have too little information, but also – and possibly more so – with regard to their ability to make use of all the information at their disposal. This implies that individuals are generally intelligent...

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