Section of Work and Organisational Psychology, Delft University of
Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Work team trust and effectiveness
Keywords Trust, Behaviour, Performance management, Team working, The Netherlands
Abstract This article aims to explore the nature and functioning of trust in work teams. Trust is deﬁned as a multi-component variable with distinct but related dimensions. These include propensity to trust, perceived trustworthiness, co-operative and lack of monitoring behaviours. A model was tested relating trust with perceived task performance, team satisfaction, and two dimensions of organisational commitment, i.e. attitudinal and continuance. Survey data from 112 teams(n ¼ 395) was collected in three social care institutions in The Netherlands. The results are supportive of a multi-component structure for trust and of its importance to the functioning of teams and organisations. Work team trust appeared strongly related with team member’s attitudes towards the organisation. Trust between team members was positively associated with attitudinal commitment and negatively with continuance commitment. Trust was also positively related with perceived task performance and with team satisfaction. In addition, perceived task performance appeared strongly related to team satisfaction.
Scholars have long been interested in the study of trust in organisations (e.g.
Gambetta, 1988, Coleman, 1990). During the past few years this interest has turned into a major focus of organisational literature and research, leading to a renewed emphasis on the nature, causes and consequences of trust (Hosmer,
1995, Kramer, 1999; Shaw, 1997, Rousseau et al., 1998). This resurgence of interest is partly explained by the changes in the way of thinking and functioning of organisations during the last two decades of the millennium. As organisations have become ﬂatter and more team centred, traditional management forms have given way to more collaborative approaches that emphasise co-ordination, sharing of responsibilities and the participation of the workers in the decision processes (Keen, 1990). New emphasis is given on interpersonal and group dynamics at the workplace, where trust is seen as one of the critical elements. If trust is absent, no one will risk moving ﬁrst and all members will sacriﬁce the gains from collaboration and co-operation in increasing effectiveness (Sabel, 1993).
Although scholars agree on the importance of trust in sustaining effectiveness, research on this topic has been highly affected by the lack of agreement in deﬁning this concept. One problem of studying trust is the vast applicability of the term “trust” to different contexts and levels of analysis.
Within the organisational literature, trust has been studied with regard to interpersonal work relationships, teams, organisations, governance structures or even societies as a whole. As result, an enormous variety of approaches and
Vol. 32 No. 5, 2003 pp. 605-622 q MCB UP Limited
deﬁnitions have emerged across disciplines, appearing sometimes largely disconnected and ignoring each other’s contributions, or criticised each other’s research methods and accomplishments very severely. Recognising that trust reﬂects a multitude of roles, functions and levels of analysis has been a turning point for theory and research on this topic. Instead of accentuating the differences between conceptualisations, researchers have started to concentrate on the common elements across perspectives in order to provide coherent knowledge with