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Research Overview - Organizations, Enterprise and Trust

By Dr. Roxanne Zolin

Organizations involve social relationships and a major feature of relationships is trust. Trust is considered to be necessary to cooperation and an important influence on performance. I am interested in studying what influences people in organizations to trust and how does trust effect performance different organizational contexts?
Figure 1 shows these variables and relationships in the theoretical model which I have tested. (See figure 1*)
These relationships have been tested under the following conditions:

  1. Dyadic relationships that operate within and between organizations (8, 11)
  2. Dyadic relationships that are geographically distributed compared to collocated (2, 3, 4, 8, 11)
  3. Dyadic relationships that are cross-functional compared to uni-functional (8, 11)
  4. Dyadic relationships that are culturally diverse compared to homogenous (3)
  5. Dyadic relationships that span organizational levels, such as subordinate to supervisor, supervisor to subordinate, employee to top management and supervisor to top management (13)

I hope to expand this model to include different organizational levels, different organizational forms (e.g. public organizations, item 1), different stages of organizational growth (e.g. new enterprise development, item 5) and in the context of organizational changes (e.g. transformation, item 9*)
* Item numbers indicate the publications in my Collegial Review document that report the relationship between the variables.

Figure 1 Zolin Research Program’s Theoretical model of interpersonal trust
Figure 1 Zolin Research Program’s Theoretical model of interpersonal trust *

* The numbers on the diagram indicate the publications in my Collegial Review document that report the relationship between the variables.

Summary of findings
Publication 2: Our results suggest that cross-functional, geographically distributed workers may rely on early impressions of perceived trustworthiness when evaluating how their distant partners are delivering on commitments, because reliable information about actual follow-through is lacking or difficult to interpret. Consistent with this, we found that perceived trustworthiness, perceived follow-through and trust were relatively stable over time.

Publication 3: We find evidence that co-workers perceive one another to be less trustworthy when they are distributed as compared with collocated. We also found that trust is more stable in distributed dyads – it increases less, but it also decreases less than in collocated dyads.

Publication 4: We found that in interorganizational new product development teams buyer representatives and supplier representatives trust differently. As these teams move from hierarchy to clan or network organization management needs to consider how to encourage norms of trust for these two different roles.

Publication 8: Virtual teamwork was found to have positive as well as negative effects on trust, while virtual organization had only negative effects. Geographic distribution reduced task interdependence, personal communication, perceived trustworthiness and trust. The cross-functional nature of virtual teamwork increased perceived trustworthiness, supporting the theory of Swift Trust. Virtual organization coworkers were more likely to be geographically distributed, to have lower task interdependence and to have less personal communication and to miss our on the benefit of Swift Trust from being cross-functional.

Publication 11: We found that trustor’s perceptions of the trustee’s follow-through and ability to the trustee matched the project manager’s assessment of the trustee. But we found that Trustors in distributed dyads rated the ability of their partners lower than the project manager. Finally, we found that Trustors in dyads with discipline diversity assessed the trustee’s ability and perceived follow-through higher than those in the same discipline.

Publication 12: Trusting improved the trustor’s process performance in terms of better flexibility, information sharing, problem solving and creativity, but had a negative effect on the trustor’s output performance. In contrast, being trusted improved the trustee’s output performance in terms of better time, cost and quality without affecting the trustee’s process performance.

Publication 13: We found that quality of information had a greater impact on trust than the quantity of information. Trust was more strongly associated with the organization’s culture of openness for non-supervisors than for supervisors. Finally, supervisor’s participation was mainly influenced by the quality of information received from their boss, while for non-supervisors participation was mainly influenced by the organization’s culture of openness.

1. Lewis, Ira and Zolin, Roxanne (2004) “The Public to Private Continuum Measure and the Role of Stakeholder Boards as a Proxy for Markets in the Governance of Air Navigation Services,” International Public Management Review, 5(2)

2. Zolin, Roxanne, Hinds, Pamela J., (2004) Trust in Context: The development of interpersonal trust in geographically distributed work, In Trust and Distrust in Organizations, Eds. Roderick M. Kramer, and Karen Cook for Russell Sage Foundation: New York.

3. Zolin R, Hinds P. J., Fruchter R., Levitt R. E. (2004), Interpersonal trust in cross-functional, geographically distributed work: A longitudinal study. Information and Organization, 14(1), 1-24.

Research in Progress
4. Zolin, Roxanne, Dillard, John (Accepted), Trust in Defense Acquisition. Acquisition Research Symposium, May 2005, Naval Postgraduate School, CA.

5. Kropp, Fredric and Zolin, Roxanne, (Accepted) Technological Entrepreneurship: The Role Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs Play in Developing and Commercializing Technologies International Conference on Small Business 50th World Conference in Washington, June 2005.

6. Zolin, Roxanne, (Accepted) The Role of Trust in Knowledge Management. Session coordinator at the EIASM Conference October 2005, Amsterdam.

7. Zolin, Roxanne (Accepted) What new visions of trust can the Mayer, Davis and Schoorman model provide in the 21st century? Symposium Facilitator, Academy of Management, August 2005.

8. Zolin, Roxanne (Submitted) Trust in virtual organizations and virtual teamwork: leading the way in the construction industry. Journal of Construction Procurement.

9. Sekerka, L. E., Zolin, R., Simon, C, (Submitted) Change Now Because I Say So! --- Specialized Management Identity and Coercive Rapid Transformation, .Academy of Management Conference, August 2005.

10. Zolin, Roxanne and Crawford, Alice, (Data collected), Liking or learning? A comparison of student opinion forms to grades. Academy of Management Learning & Education.

11. Zolin Roxanne, (In draft), “Diversity and trust attributions in virtual teams. How differences in discipline, location, organization and task interdependence effect perceptions of ability and follow-through.”

12. Zolin Roxanne, (In draft), “Interpersonal trust and individual performance: The difference between trusting and being trusted.”

13. Thomas, Gail and Zolin Roxanne, (In draft) The effect of communication on trust and participation. A comparison of supervisors and non-supervisors, Journal of Business Communication.

14. Lewis, Ira and Zolin Roxanne, (In outline), Comparing performance between public and private organizations. A comparative study of Air Traffic Control in six countries, Public Administration Review.

15. Zolin, Roxanne and Crawford, Alice, (Data collected). Distanced learning compared to resident learning: A comparison of student opinion forms and grades. Academy of Management Learning & Education.