Sunday, February 14, 2010


Building trust between individuals within organizations is accomplished
through a series of sequential phases. Trust relationships move through three
developmental stages — calculative-based trust, knowledge-based trust, and
identification-based trust. It is important to understand what needs to occur in
each stage of trust development in order to effectively increase the level of trust between individuals.
Calculative-based trust is a stage where each potential interaction between two individuals is assessed as an independent value-based transaction. If the interaction is evaluated as beneficial to the trustor, he will engage in the transaction with the trustee. Every interaction is calculated to determine its potential value and if a positive outcome is forecast, the trust level increases incrementally based on the perceived magnitude of the transaction. If the interaction outcome is negative, the trust relationship is diminished proportional to the scale of the violation. The value or weight of each transaction is compared to the outcomes associated with maintaining the relationship.
In a calculative-based interaction, an individual can behave out of a
concern for retribution (deterrence) for not following through on an obligation.
Trust is sustained through the threat of punishment which motivates the trustee to a greater degree than the prospective of reward. Calculative-based trust, however, is quite tenuous and is highly susceptible to extinction of the
relationship based on a single flagrant action. In situations where the magnitude of the action is egregious, the trustor can ‘calculate’ that the relationship should not be sustained. Therefore, in calculative-based trust, the trust relationship can be completely severed if the trustor feels that the magnitude of the action is severe.
Knowledge-based trust is grounded in an individual’s degree of predictability. If the trustor can predict with a relatively high degree of certainty how the trustee will behave, the trust relationship will continue to grow. When behaviors can be anticipated, a degree of generalized expectancy occurs. The predictability of behavior, over time, derived from the accumulation of knowledge through experience with the other person, enhances trust .
Two key processes are necessary to build trust in the knowledge-based
trust phase. The first process, explicit communication, enables the parties to
express their thoughts, concerns, and expectations openly and honestly.
Explicit communication entails the use of verbal and non-verbal mechanisms
necessary to establish a common understanding and achieve shared knowledge
between the two parties. The second process, nurturing, involves a stylized
set of behaviors necessary to establish a richer connection and compatibility
between the individuals. During the second process, the trustor continues to
watch and listen to the trustee with whom he engages in explicit communication.
This encourages the trust relationship. Relationships within an organizational context are often knowledge-based. Trust, at the knowledge based level, is minimally affected by inconsistent behavior. If the trustee can adequately explain the reason for his behavior, the trustor is likely to accept the justification with little to no impact on the resultant trust level.
Identification-based trust is the third phase of a trust relationship. In this stage, the trustor and trustee can effectively understand and appreciate the other’s needs. This permits the trustor to function as the trustee’s agent. In this stage of trust development, both parties learn what really matters to each other, thus enabling them to eventually place the same degree of importance on those behaviors. In this stage, the individuals are able to understand one another without the need for protracted explicated conversations. The trustor and trustee are synchronized in understanding what is important to each other. Both individuals work consciously to be supportive of the other and are respectful of the other’s concerns. Very few relationships reach this stage of trust in an organizational setting because individuals often lack the time, energy, or interest necessary to achieve this highest level of trust.
Trust exists in a business relationship when three conditions are met:
(1) the parties risk losing too much if either individual behaves inappropriately;
(2) either individual can predict the other’s behavior well and can therefore protect against being deceived;
(3) both individuals have adopted the other’s preferences. Although trust is difficult to build, developing trust within organizations is facilitated through meeting conditions, understanding stages, and taking explicit actions consistent with the trust relationship phases.

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