Trust always exists in any form of personal relationship (Deutsch, 1958; Gambetta, 1988) and it is a basic concept to describe social interactions (Rotter, 1967) and ways to act, including organizational behavior (Couch & Jones, 1997; McEvily, Perrone, & Zaheer, 2003). Trust favors the creation and maintenance of competitive advantages (Jarillo, 1988; Barney & Hansen, 1994; Bibb & Kourdi, 2007) and it has become a precondition for a better performance and competitive success in the new business environment (Bradach & Eccles, 1989; Ring & Van de Ven, 1992; Sako, 1998; Kramer & Tyler, 1996; Kramer, 1999). Considering the impact of information technology (IT) on society and business, the consolidation of knowledge as the main source of competitiveness, the fact that frontiers among firms, and among people and firms, are becoming blurred, and the growing sharing of sensible information in computer mediated relationships, trust will become a must in the electronic human resources management (e-HRM) field.
Trust is currently a familiar term that is applied without enough precision and clarity (Auerbach, 1990; Huemer, 1994) due to a great diversity among trust definitions (Castelfranchi & Tan, 2001; Jones, 2002; McKnight & Chervany, 2002). Most of the trust definitions tend to agree that trust concerns the “willingness of one person or group to relate to another in the belief that the other’s actions will be beneficial rather than detrimental, even though this cannot be guaranteed” (Child, 2001). Deutsch (1962) conceives trust as an observable behavior that (a) increases the own vulnerability, (b) happens with respect to a person that is not subject to a personal control, and (c) and that is chosen in a situation in which the possible damages that can arise when the other takes advantage of the own vulnerability are greater than the benefits than can be obtained from this behavior. So, trust is associated with dependence and risk.
According to Lewicki and Bunker (1995), the study of trust can be framed attending to its consideration as an individual characteristic, as a characteristic of the interpersonal transactions, or as an institutional phenomenon. So, when discussing trust we should consider not only the interpersonal approach. It is necessary to take into account people’s own perspective, their relationships, and the context where trust should arise.
Specific disciplines exist associated to each perspective. Personality psychologists traditionally have considered trust as an individual characteristic (Rotter, 1971, 1980). Social psychologists have defined trust as an expectation on the behavior of others in the transactions, focusing the contextual factors that foster or depress the development and maintenance of trust (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). Finally, economists and sociologists have been interested in how institutions and incentives are created to reduce anxiety and uncertainty (Goffman, 1971; Zucker, 1986). However, as Bhattacharya, Devinney, and Pillutla (1998) indicate when concentrating in specific aspects of the trust concept, each one of the different perspectives and disciplines provides only a partial and incomplete description of trust.