Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

What Does It Mean to Trust Your Team Colleague? an Exploratory Study Using Grounded Theory

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

What Does It Mean to Trust Your Team Colleague? an Exploratory Study Using Grounded Theory

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

When studying work teams, understanding the phenomena which determine or influence the cooperation among individuals is essential. In spite of the importance given to the concept of trust for the good functioning of interpersonal relations and cooperative actions in work teams, little research has been conducted in order to reveal the importance of trust in relation with work team formation and group processes in general. The purpose of this study was to examine trust in work teams for developing a more contextualized understanding of the way trust emerges when temporary research project teams are considered. Nine students who participated in research project teams were interviewed. Detailed descriptions of working in research project teams and the process of trust formation were elicited. Data were analyzed using the grounded theory approach and a model of trust formation was proposed based on the way the participants described their own experience of trust. Two aspects are emphasized by the research findings: the importance of implicit information processing in trust formation, and the dynamic character of trust formation. Implications of findings are discussed and directions for future research are described.

KEYWORDS: trust, grounded theory, emergent states, work teams.

INTRODUCTION

When studying work teams, understanding the phenomena which determine or influence the cooperation among individuals is essential. Among them, trust has received sustained attention in research literature, as it enables cooperative human actions (McKnight, Cummings, & Chervany, 1995), generally influencing group processes (Deutsch, 1973; Gambetta, 1988; Dirks, 1999; Dirks & Ferrin, 1998), and behavior (Golembiewsky & McConkie, 1975).

Trust appeared most frequently as a research question within the organizational field (Ebert, 2007). This is a reflection of the importance given in modern organizational settings to collaborative work, cooperation and sharing of responsibilities among employees (Costa, 2003). However, a closer analysis of Ebert's (2007) meta-analysis results shows that most research on trust in organizational settings focus on trust in superiors and leaders (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002; Burke, Sims, Lazzara, & Salas, 2007) and also on trust in the organization or between organizations (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer, 1998). Even though scholars acknowledge its importance in sustaining group effectiveness (Costa, 2003), only a limited number of empirical studies examine trust in relation with work teams formation and group processes in general (Simons & Peterson, 2000; Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Costa, 2003; Dirks, 1999; Mayer & Davis, 1999; Gladstein, 1984; Kiffin-Petersen, 2004; Curseu, 2007; Pitariu, 2008; Curseu & Schruijer, 2010). This is considered to be a consequence of the lack of agreement between different trust conceptualizations (Costa, 2003).

Having been studied in very different contexts and at different levels of analysis (Costa, 2003), consent regarding what trust really is or regarding trust formation, manifestation and outcomes, is difficult to attain (Lewicki & Bunker, 1996). The increase in the number of conceptual works and reviews on trust coming from different fields (Ebert, 2007; McKnight & Chervany, 1996; Watson, 2005) adds to this lack of a common perspective on the phenomenon. An analysis of the literature highlights the need for an integrative theory and definition of trust in order to further advance the empirical research (Costa, 2004; Ebert, 2007). Despite this general agreement, the existent reviews seem to have little impact on the empirical research conducted so far. One way of understanding why this happens is by examining those characteristics of trust that are reported in these reviews as agreed upon in most studies.

The complexity of this concept is the first among these characteristics. Trust is described as a fragile, emotional, interpersonal phenomenon which is difficult to operationalize and measure even though it forms the basis for every interaction (Ebert, 2007; Watson, 2005). …

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