At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust

Nomadic Lass (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together.” –H.L. Mencken

Forbes recently reported that trust in business is at an all-time low. Providing a new and much-needed understanding of current trust research and a blueprint for the future, C. Ashley Fulmer and Michele J. Gelfand, both of the University of Maryland, published “At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust: Trust Across Multiple Organizational Levels” in the Journal of Management July 2012 issue:

As the first review that examines the nexus of trust and levels of analysis, this article serves three novel functions. First, we organize and review studies on trust based on different levels, including the individual, team, and organizational levels, and thus our review includes trust at higher levels that have not been previously reviewed. Within each level, we also consider different referents of trust, such as trust in leaders, trust in teams, and trust in organizations. Based on these two distinctions, we offer a multilevel–multireferent framework that differentiates between trust at a level of analysis and trust in a referent. Our multilevel– multireferent framework is important for improving precision in the conceptualization of trust in organizations.

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