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Trust in Organizations

Page history last edited by Charles Fritz 9 years, 6 months ago

Trust in Organizations


Trust in an organization is not built overnight; it is developed over many years but can be destroyed in an instant. This is why it is essential for a company to build and maintain trust within its organization. Trust in an organization is enacted by the CEO and passed down from the managers to the line staff. As you have already found out trust has many levels in which it can be built and destroyed. In this section we will be discussing how trust works within an organization. 


Since culture plays a major role in corporate trust I want to quickly explain Schein’s three major levels of culture (2004). According to Schein there are three major levels of culture within an organization. The first is artifacts. Schein states these are visible organizational structures and processes. According to Schein artifacts are hard to decipher. The next level of culture according to Schein is espoused beliefs and values. Schein states that espoused beliefs and values are strategies, goals and philosophies that are supported within the organization due to past social validation. The final major level of culture according to Schein is underlying assumptions. According to Schein this is unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings or ultimate source of values and actions. So what does this mean to an organization trying to run virtual groups around the world? Simple, staff takes in information every day, processes and analyzes data to form their own opinion about trust and other issues within a corporation.  Artifacts can be in the means of corporate structure or how projects are managed and run. Espoused beliefs and values are in the means of corporate goals, strategies, philosophies and the mission statement it expresses to its employees. Finally, underlying assumptions are feelings that staff members may have due to the direction of the company. This is within an employee and can be manifested due to failure or success within the company. For example a company fired staff because a project failed and promoted workers because a project succeeded. The staff would be very afraid of failure in a project because of the past precedent the company set. This can be built up over time and affect the way individual staff interacts in the organization as a whole. So what does this mean to an organization in the terms of trust? Simple, if a company does not understand Schein’s major levels of culture they may be misunderstanding why staff members do not trust the organization. According to Schein cultural differences can cause misinterpretation within the organization this can be especially true in the terms of trust. Someone from one country could interpret the meaning of trust differently than someone from another country. With that said a company’s structure, their strategy and mission statement or maybe individuals’ assumptions regarding the company do not foster an environment of trust. Thus making it important for a company to understand and evaluate Schein’s three major levels of culture within their organization and what message of trust they are conveying to their staff members. 


What else could affect trust within an organization? Different cultural categories of culture could affect the way trust is implemented or foreseen. According to Lewis (2006) he contends that cultures can be placed into different categories. The first cultural category is Linear Active, in this category members do one item at a time and within the scheduled time frame and concentrate immensely on that one item. While multi-active cultures are very flexible, are not interested in schedules and punctuality but more interested in reality and do not leave conversations unfinished. The next group, retroactive cultures according to Lewis, listen to others discussions and understand their position and then make their own opinion or position. So what does this mean to organizational trust?  A company needs to understand the different cultural categories and put into place a plan that everyone perceives everyone as being truthful thus creating trust in an organization. So you ask how trust can be misconstrued within different cultural categories. Let’s say members of one office are working with members of another national office and an office that is in another country. The one office is linear, another one is multi-active and the last one is retroactive. This could cause some problems due the different traits that each group carries during a project. The offices could mistrust the other offices because of their different methods of getting a project done and vice versa. By understanding Lewis cultural categories an organization can understand the differences and mitigate the problem before a culture of mistrust sets in. It is also very important to understand that one group can start out as linear and move towards multi-active or retroactive as time goes on and vice versa. So it is very important to understand the dynamics of groups within an organization. 


If you look further Hofstede and Pedersen identify five dimensions of culture (2002). They are identity, hierarchy, gender, truth and virtue.  Let’s discuss truth in more detail; within truth there are what the authors call synthetic cultures so for example truth varies from extreme uncertainty avoidance to extreme uncertainty tolerance.  Those who fall into the category of extreme uncertainty avoidance do not like change, rules are important and believe there is one truth and they have it. They do not like strong uncertainty at all and believe in traditional values. Those who are in the extreme uncertainty tolerance group find change curious, working hard is only valued when need be, innovative ideas are tolerated, rules should be limited to only when needed or absolutely necessary. This group likes change and does not always follow the traditional normal set. The groups also have different speaking volumes, space distancing while interacting and planning time. An organization needs to understand the differences because if one group does not understand the other, trust issues could arise due to the fact that these groups interact differently.  For example those who are in the group of extreme uncertainty avoidance speak loudly while those who are in the group of extreme uncertainty tolerance speak softly. If the two misunderstand the way the other is speaking they could assume that particular group does not trust them or vice versa. It is very important for organizations to understand this so they can avoid trust issues all together.  


Thus far we have found that culture can play an important role in making or breaking trust in organizations and the different ideas that encompass culture at a high level. What can organizations specifically do to create an environment of trust and maintain this environment? According to a research article written by Shockley-Zalabak Ph.D., Ellis Ph.D. and Cesaria entitled Measuring Organizational Trust Cross-Cultural Survey and Index (2003) they identified five factors that create organizational trust. They are Competence (staff’s effectiveness), Openness and honesty (shared communication), concern for employees (safety), reliability (consistent and dependable) and identification (sharing common goals, values and beliefs). In the research article they describe tools that can measure Organizational Trust within your company. The tool has a scoring guide to help you evaluate your trust level. Upon completion your organization will receive an Organization Trust Index allowing you to compare your score to other organizations in each dimension. This research article also explains how to address and mitigate concern areas within your organization. Another article entitled "Has the Enron Debacle threatened Your Organizations Trust?" by Price (2002) gave ten tips on how to ensure organizational trust. They were as follows; Be sure to have an open communication environment, Tell the truth, Do what you say, Be consistent, Listen intently and give worthwhile advice, Follow through, Be accountable, Forget about Popularity, Be honest during performance reviews, and Share the knowledge. An organization needs to build a trusting and productive work environment through integrity and humility. 


When an organization openly communicates, stands up to their commitments, keeps their staff safe, consistent and honest and creates an environment that employees identify with organizational trust then trust is created. Organizational trust not only boosts morale, it increases creativity, productivity, communication and efficiency amongst employees. This is a process that takes many years and hard work that an organization has to be willing to foster, grow and maintain. If a company is willing to work towards achieving organizational trust, they will undoubtedly see an increase in commitment and overall satisfaction from employees. As previously state, there are many variables that can derail this process that a company and its leaders must be well aware of. In the end, organizational trust is built by every employee within the organization and by understanding what creates organizational trust, employees can be responsible for creating a trustful organization.

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