On the complexity of organizational trust: a multi-level co-evolutionary perspective and guidelines for future research

  • Currall S
  • Inkpen A
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Abstract

During the past decade, scholars have made significant progress in the study of trust in organizational settings. For instance, significant theoretical advances have been achieved (e.g. Rousseau et al., 1998), as have empirical developments such as those published in special trust issues of Organization Science (McEvily et al., 2003) and Organization Studies (Bachmann et al., 2001). Despite this progress, however, ‘trust remains an under- theorized, under-researched, and, therefore, poorly understood phenomenon’ (Child, 2001: 274). The aim of this chapter is to spur research that moves beyond current theor- etical and empirical approaches by using a multi-level and co-evolutionary framework for studying trust. We believe that trust researchers should devote greater attention to the complexity of trust and particularly its evolutionary nature. Our chapter is an attempt to explore the complexities of how trust evolves over time and how it is impacted by organ- izational context. This idea is consistent with the view of others such as Koza and Lewin (1998), who have argued that trust should not be viewed as a static construct. Also, we have argued elsewhere (Inkpen and Currall, 2004) that a co-evolutionary approach is useful for studying trust.We expand on those themes in this chapter.

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Authors

  • Steven C Currall

  • Andrew C. Inkpen

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