Trust within organisations

Publication Date01 Oct 2003
AuthorTom R. Tyler
Trust within organisations
Tom R. Tyler
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, USA
Keywords Trust, Organizations, Society, Organizational behaviour,
Co-operative organizations, Relationship management
Abstract It has been recognised that there is importance of trust within organisations. There is
also a recognised theme that trust must move beyond rational or calculative trust to various forms
of social trust. This paper makes clear the potential importance of social trust, and its value to
emerging organisations. In the new era of faster, looser, more rapidly changing connections
between people and groups, trust based on inferences about the motives, character and intentions
of others is becoming more central to the ability of organisations to manage their dynamics
efficiently and effectively and ensure their growth and survival.
It is clear that in the last several years issues of trust have become increasingly
central to the study of organisations. For someone who participated in early
efforts to draw attention to the importance of trust (Kramer and Tyler, 1996),
this growing centrality is exciting. The emerging role of trust makes sense
given that trust is a perfect focus for those interested in the dynamics of
organisations because trust sits at the boundary of psychology and sociology.
For this reason, the study of trust has become important in political science,
policy studies, law, organisational psychology, organisational behaviour and
behavioural economics. In this paper I want to address several key questions
that have emerged as central to the study of trust.
The first question is why trust has emerged as such an important issue in
the study of organisations. I believe that trust is important because of the
strong desire to understand how to create effective co-operation within
organisations. Trust is a ke y because it enables co-opera tion. While
co-operation has always been important in organisations, new trends in the
nature of organisational dynamics have had to consequences. First, they have
led to changes in the nature of work that make old styles of securing
co-operation increasingly difficult to maintain. Second, they have changed the
nature of the co-operation that is needed by organisations, putting greater
emphasis on more voluntary forms of co-operation which are more difficult to
Old models of management focused on command and control strategies of
motivation. These strategies encouraged authorities to direct the activities of
people in the organisation using surveillance linked to incentives and
sanctions. This model has been labelled the deterrence model in law,
“command and control” in management, “low trust” forms of governance in
sociology and rational choice in economics. These strategies allow authorities
to secure one type and level of co-operation. However, the world is changing,
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Personnel Review
Vol. 32 No. 5, 2003
pp. 556-568
qMCB UP Limited
DOI 10.1108/00483480310488333

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