The literature of small group dynamics is replete with studies emanating from small group experimentalists interested in the subject matter of trust. Trust and trusting relationships have been explored more notably by researchers utilizing small group network communications paradigm (Mackenzie, 1978). Because of the salience of trust to interpersonal and intergroup functioning activities aimed at realizing social group objectives, network communication researchers have focused on a set of variables. There are notions of personalities that are prone to easily trusting others. Self-esteem, self-concept, and self-efficacy do matter (Homans, 1974). There are individual attributes predisposing persons to cautious trusting. The situation or transaction linking parties in a social exchange may also condition the structure of trust manifest from such parties. Experiences gained by social intimates in working together have been known to constrain the texture of trust between them. There exists a natural tendency for a party once trusted to a positive avail, to be readily accorded more trust in future (Frey & Feld, 2002). There exists a social cost to trusting ventures, when a social transaction involving trust has a material cost impact, questions of how such cost is shared will arise. And pose challenges to fair exchange. In business transactions, parties expecting certain considerations from a contracted deal may often insist that all reasonable effort should be exerted to avert disappointment. In formal business relationships, individuals occupying organizational positions as agents will often have to relate to other agents in the regular course of business. The persons and parties engaging in trusting situations are not doing so in a cultural vacuum. Social mutual awareness, perceptual variations, historical antecedents, social learning, and episodes of intellectual experiences dove-tail into social cognitions of trust.
Human resource managers overseeing the diverse technical, professional, managerial, supervisory, functional, and operational personnel of an organization are in the business of engineering trust and trusting relationships. Categories of skilled and unskilled human resources have to be welded carefully into smooth functioning entities in the task of creating desired outputs. The processes of producing such outputs of goods, services, satisfaction, and social wealth often entail individuals and groups. Trust and trusting relationships necessarily permeate the hourly, daily, weekly, periodic, seasonal, and electronic operations of modern organizations. The human elements functioning as decision makers at various levels of any organizational technostructure are in dynamic interaction with themselves and with their internal and external environments. Such interactions generate categories and models of trust at the interpersonal, group, business, corporate, and organizational levels (Kramer, 1999). Operating personnel and decision makers are empowered to tap information resources, of both hard and soft texture, on products, parts, spares, materials, knowledge, ideas, and innovations, from the relevant environment of their functional business. Information systems must be created where they do not exist yet, and they must be fine-tuned and reinforced, even where they exist, in order to meet the electronic demands of the global village. Information and communication technology (ICT) is fast changing the face of information search, critical identification, harvest, use, and inter-organizational context. Individuals and groups of occupational experts with levels of relevant talents and skills are the negotiators in this complex exchange. The key managers and persons participating in such an exchange must elicit mutual trust. The HR manager naturally tends to become the anchor person to engineer the trust and productive trusting relationships warranted. For sure, a HR manager cannot dictate who trusts or distrusts whom or what in a work setting. But the facilitation of harmonious interactional milieu within employees, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders can be cultivated and sustained. Business-enhancing trust can be viewed as a HR managerial role (Brien, 1998; Misztal, 1996).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Trust: A behavior manifested by two parties based on mutual belief that neither party will let the other down.
Social Cognition: The learned way of how two or more persons know and see meaning in their relationships.