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“Trust Me”: Differences in expressed and perceived trust relations in an organization

Social Networks
DOI: 10.1016/j.socnet.2012.01.004
  • Trust
  • Multivariate Exponential Random Graph Models
  • Governance
  • Organizations
  • Perceptions
  • Psychological Bias
  • Psychology


Abstract The possibility of resolving the tension between trust as a psychological condition and trust as a general organizing principle depends on assumptions about the convergence of expressed and perceived trust relations. In empirical organizational research these assumptions are frequently left implicit and only rarely modeled directly. Using data that we have collected on trust relations within the top management team of a multiunit industrial group we specify and estimate multivariate exponential random graph models (ERGMs) that reveal important differences in the structural logics underlying networks of expressed and perceived trust relations. Results confirm that trust induces awareness and produces expectations of reciprocity – features that are consistent with the view of trust as a general organizing principle. Results also show that networks of perceived trust relations are characterized by tendencies toward reciprocity and generalized giving of trust. When multivariate network effects are introduced, however, expressed trust relations no longer show a significant tendency toward reciprocation. Interpreted together these results suggest that: (i) the distribution of expressed and perceived trust relations differs; (ii) expressed trust relations in organizations are more hierarchical than are perceived trust relations, and (iii) expressed and perceived trust relations need to be modeled jointly. These findings suggest caution in the adoption and interpretation of trust only as a general organizing principle, and suggest that psychological mechanisms also play an important role in the making and breaking of trust relations within organizations.

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