Sub-theme 02: (SWG) Trusting: The Practices and Process of Organizational Trust

Nicole Gillespie
University of Queensland, Australia
Guido Möllering
Jacobs University Bremen, Germany
Antoinette Weibel
University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Call for Papers

Organizational trust is expressed in the practices and processes that the members of an organization, or organizations as collective actors, engage in. These practices build, maintain, mobilize, prevent, destroy or repair the trust within and between organizations over time. Manifestations of organizational trust are not fixed but constantly evolving, shaped by prior trust as well as by new and ongoing influences and dynamics on organizational relationships. This final, sixth sub-theme of the Standing Working Group (SWG) on "Organizational Trust" sets out to systematically deepen and extend understanding of the practices and process of organizational trust by bringing together researchers who can offer theoretical and empirical insights on this topic.

While scant research has explicitly examined trust from a practice or process theory perspective, existing research provides several insights of relevance. The notion of 'trust as process' typically refers to the temporal and relational nature of trust and how trust changes and evolves (e.g. Nooteboom, 1996). Early work included examinations of the dynamics of trust (e.g. Zand, 1972) and stage models of trust building that suggested trust changes its quality as the relationship between trustor and trustee evolves (e.g. Lewicki & Bunker, 1996). However, much of this existing research focuses on interpersonal trust and it is unclear how trust as process translates to the organizational level and organizational referent (see Jagd, 2010; Möllering, 2013).

Scholars like Deutsch (1973) and Garfinkel (1967) started by linking trust to patterns of social interaction and the notion of 'practices of trust' refers first of all to the link between trust as attitude and trust as behaviour which – when meaningfully and regularly linked – constitutes patterns of action that can be termed 'practice'. In organizations, it is important that individual practices become social practices by being recognizable and reproducible among those who interact with each other. The second step is to investigate to what extent these practices are supported by organizational rules, culture, structure and resources and hence, to what extent they are institutionalized and taken for granted.

This sub-theme encourages scholars to delve deeper into the idea that trust is a matter of process and practices. We call for theoretically and methodologically sophisticated and at the same time 'relevant' research that deeply engages with how organizations build, support and repair trusting interactions among individual and collective actors. This can be extended to field-level analyses of practices in a sector or industry, as well as comparative studies of organizational trust practices and processes in different contexts. Potential questions that could be addressed include:

  • How do trust and distrust as processes and practices develop, evolve and change in organizations over time?
  • How does habitual trusting evolve, and how is it sustained (or questioned) by sensemaking in the organizational context?
  • How do organizational trust violations occur and what practices prevent such violations or facilitate trust restoration and repair?
  • How can we model a dual-process view of trusting?




  • Deutsch, M. (1973): The Resolution of Conflict. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Garfinkel, H. (1967): Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Jagd, S. (2010): "Balancing trust and control in organizations: towards a process perspective." Society and Business Review, 5 (3), 259–269.
  • Lewicki, R.J., & B.B. Bunker (1996): "Developing and maintaining trust in work relationships." In: R. Kramer & T.R. Tyler (eds): Trust in Organizations: Frontiers of Theory and Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp. 114–139.
  • Möllering, G. (2013): "Process views of trusting and crises." In: R. Bachmann & A. Zaheer (eds): Handbook of Advances in Trust Research. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 285–305.
  • Nooteboom, B. (1996): "Trust, opportunism and governance: A process and control model." Organization Studies, 17 (6), 985–1010.
  • Zand, D.E. (1972): "Trust and managerial problem solving." Administrative Science Quarterly, 17 (2), 229–239.


Nicole Gillespie is Senior Lecturer in Management at the University of Queensland, Australia, and International Research Fellow at the Centre for Corporate Reputation, Oxford University, UK. Her research on organisational trust is currently focused on trust failures and repair, stakeholder trust in challenging contexts, and trust in teams. Her work appears in journals such as 'Academy of Management Review', 'Journal of Management', 'Business Ethics Quarterly' and 'Human Resource Management', as well as books and commissioned reports (Institute of Business Ethics). She serves on the editorial boards of the 'Journal of Trust Research' and 'Leadership Quarterly'.
Guido Möllering is Professor of Organization and Management at Jacobs University Bremen, Germany. He works on inter-organizational relations, organizational fields, and trust. He has published the book "Trust: Reason, Routine, Reflexivity" and articles, for example, in 'Organization Science', 'Organization Studies', and 'Journal of International Business Studies'. He is Senior Editor of 'Organization Studies' and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of 'Journal of Trust Research'.
Antoinette Weibel is Director of the Institute for Leadership and Human Resource Management at University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She studies, for example, legitimacy of HR practices, trust and control, employee engagement. She publishes in journals such as 'Journal of Public Administration', 'Group and Organization Management', and 'International Journal of Human Research Management'. She is President of the First International Network on Trust (FINT).