It is assumed by some safety professionals that trust between organizational members is beneficial for safety (e.g., promotes open communication) and distrust is detrimental (e.g., leads to failed safety initiatives). While these assumptions make intuitive sense, they have been challenged by recent findings that reveal associations of trust with negative outcomes and distrust with positive outcomes. In the current paper we address these inconsistencies by testing the assumptions of safety professionals against recent research findings. Drawing on existing research and interview data, we outline the positive and negative functions of interpersonal trust and distrust and argue that an optimal model of good safety is one that comprises both attitudes. We proceed to build on this understanding by exploring the development of these attitudes in the specific context of safety. Consistent with research in other organizational domains, we show that trustworthiness qualities play a central role in the development of safety-specific interpersonal trust and distrust over and above the contribution of contextual factors. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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