The Problem of Context in Organizational Trust Research
The concept of interpersonal trust has been important in organizational trust research for at least a decade, but recently a growing literature is stressing the need to focus more on the institutional dimensions of trust-creation. The opposition between traditions stressing either interpersonal or institutional trust raises the more general question of how we may understand the role of context in interpersonal trust relations. The paper attempts to fill the gap in the organizational trust literature, between interpersonal and institutional trust research, by investigating the more general problem of the link between context and organizational trust processes. The notion of context is highly important for understanding trust processes in modern organizations, but remains largely absent in trust research. The present study proposes applying the sensemaking approach as a ‘bridging construct’ (Floyd et al., 2011) between institutions and interactions to explore how context may be relevant for trust processes. We argue that people must actively and consciously “make sense of context” as a basis for trust. The importance of understanding how actors make sense of context in order to understand organizational trust is illustrated by reference to two earlier reported case studies on trust in organizations.
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Second Seminar of Nordic Research Network on Trust within and between Organisations, 2011