Management Trust in Organizational Contexts
Ashley Fulmer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 February 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0159


Trust in organizational contexts has received sustained attention from management scholars and practitioners, particularly in light of the growing number of organizational scandals and failures. Since the second half of the 20th century, research on trust has proffered conceptualizations of trust that include multiple bases and relationship stages, differentiated the construct from other related concepts such as trustworthiness and risk taking, and identified the processes that lead to trust and trusting behaviors. As the field continues to mature, research has further distinguished among different referents of trust in organizational contexts, as individuals can trust a coworker, a supervisor, and the upper management in an organization, among others. While some commonalities exist, these different trust referents have been shown to be related to divergent antecedents and outcomes. More recently, the field has turned its attention to the levels-of-analysis issues, understanding that trust can reside not only within individuals but also within teams and organizations, such that members in a team may share their trust in one another or in the leader. At the same time, trust of individuals within a group or a system is likely to be influenced by a common set of factors, ranging from the climate of the group or other broader contexts to mutual third parties who are not directly involved. The momentum of trust research continues, as recent research has examined the notions of trust transfer, trust spiral, and the dark side of trust and being trusted. These advances underscore the need for future research to continue examining the incredibly complex and nuanced reality of trust in the ever-changing organizational landscape.

General Overviews

A number of articles provide good overviews of the state of the literature with different foci. Schoorman, et al. 2007 identifies critical issues within the research on trust. Lewicki, et al. 2006 examines different models of trust development. Korsgaard, et al. 2014 considers both parties in interpersonal trust and its dyadic nature. Burke, et al. 2007 focuses on trust in leaders, while Costa, et al. 2017 focuses on trust in teams. As trust can deteriorate and violations can occur, Kramer and Lewicki 2010 identifies contributing factors of trust repair and enhancement of general trust expectations. Finally, Fulmer and Gelfand 2012 provides a multilevel-multireferent review that identifies similarities and differences in the antecedents and consequences of trust across organizational levels.

  • Burke, C. S., D. E. Sims, E. H. Sims, and E. Salas. “Trust in Leadership: A Multi-level Review and Integration.” Leadership Quarterly 18 (2007): 606–632.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.09.006

    Considers multilevel factors of trust in leaders, including leader characteristics, follower predisposition, and team and organizational factors. It also discusses the effects of trust in leaders on individuals and teams.

  • Costa, A. C., C. A. Fulmer, and N. Anderson. “Trust in Work Teams: An Integrative Review, Multilevel Framework, and Future Directions.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 39 (2017): 169–184.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.2213

    Provides a review on trust in teams at both the individual and team levels. The article also offers a framework that integrates trust in teams at the two levels and their antecedents and outcomes.

  • Fulmer, C. A., and M. J. Gelfand. “At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust: Trust across Multiple Organizational Levels.” Journal of Management 38 (2012): 1167–1230.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206312439327

    Organizes the trust literature using the levels-of-analysis approach and differentiates between the theoretical and analytic level of trust (individual, team, or organizational) and the referent of trust (coworkers, team members, leaders, management, or another organization).

  • Korsgaard, M. A., H. H. Brower, and S. W. Lester. “It Isn’t Always Mutual: A Critical Review of Dyadic Trust.” Journal of Management 41 (2014): 47–70.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206314547521

    Identifies three approaches in examining dyadic trust: reciprocal trust, where trust in one party influences the other’s; mutual trust, where trust is shared between individuals; and asymmetric trust, where trust differs between individuals.

  • Kramer, R. M., and R. J. Lewicki. “Repairing and Enhancing Trust: Approaches to Reducing Organizational Trust Deficits.” Academy of Management Annals 4 (2010): 245–277.

    In light of the prevalent trust deficit in organizations, the article discusses different ways to repair trust and support generalized trust among organizational members.

  • Lewicki, R. J., E. C. Tomlinson, and N. Gillespie. “Models of Interpersonal Trust Development: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Evidence, and Future Directions.” Journal of Management 32 (2006): 991–1022.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206306294405

    Discusses different models of trust development: behavioral and psychological. The psychological models include a unidimensional approach of trust and distrust, a two-dimensional approach of trust and distrust, and a transformational approach of trust.

  • Schoorman, F. D., R. C. Mayer, and J. H. Davis. “An Integrative Model of Organizational Trust: Past, Present, and Future.” Academy of Management Review 32 (2007): 344–354.

    DOI: 10.5465/amr.2007.24348410

    Discusses extensions of trust research in relation to levels of analysis, violation and repair, affect and emotion, and cross-cultural issues.

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