Sub-theme 02: (SWG) The Dynamics of Trust in Challenging Contexts

Rosalind Searle, Coventry University, UK
Reinhard Bachmann, SOAS, University of London, UK
Shay S. Tzafrir, University of Haifa, Israel

Call for Papers

Building on our 2014 sub-theme which focused on the role of contexts, our attention here is on trust and its dynamics in risky situations where there is a threat to previous organisational trust. We will consider organisational trust in periods of change. Given our location, Greece, this is a very pertinent setting in which to examine the practices and impacts of trust dynamics from economically and socially challenging contexts, in which change is a salient and at times dramatic issue that individuals have to respond to.

We have three broad topics concerning change in this year's sub-theme:


  1. We take our conceptualisation of 'change' to be very broad; we focus on key contexts and communities for whom organisational trust is being challenged. We adopt a consideration of change in terms of the challenges organisations face in for example handling downsizing, mergers and acquisition, industry or country-level upheavals. However, we are also open to contributions which deal with turbulence as a result of challenges that may have emerged from a wide range of other external shocks such as natural disasters piracy or kidnap, and war. Our aim is to explore whether and how trust can be maintained, reformed or lost during such periods of turbulence.
  2. Second, we include in our call examination of organisational trust in challenging contexts, such as social work, health or justice, where organisational trust may, for example, be challenged for both users and staff by virtue of the imposition of programmes of change required from users. In this second type of context individual service users/clients have a change imposed upon them which might impact of staffs' change.
  3. Finally, we invite papers which consider organisational and institutional-level trust for in the context of challenged, such as the Roma, for whom trust in institutions has always been difficult. In this latter category of papers we also include attention on age cohorts, where institutional trust is being threatened for new groups, such as young people, especially those with tertiary education who currently lack access to economically viable employment. Concerns about this new threat to trust for previously engaged communities is reflected in current government initiatives due to the potential and serious economic and social long term implications.

Change is often suggested to be the only constant; ubiquitous in nature and occurring at an increasing pace for organisations and those working within and between them (Balogun & Hope-Hailey, 2008). Change can arise from strategic development for an organisation producing significant structural and market shifts and realignments. It may be, however, more restricted in its scope and impact (Saunders & Thornhill, 2003). Its dynamic too can vary from incremental changes, to all-encompassing ongoing continuous dramatic transformations, or those which involve periods of stability interspersed with others of significant changes (Burnes, 2009). What happens to trust in period of punctuated equilibrium (Gersick, 1991) is largely unexplored. The management of strategic change invariably produces uncertainty and vulnerability, which can often be problematic (McCalman & Paton, 1992). Change is often perceived as threatening (Fugate et al., 2012), with consequences in terms of more passive user/ employee withdrawal, including intentions to quit, voluntary turnover, absenteeism, or disengagement in the form of off-register Not in Education, Employment Training (NEETs) (Van Parys & Struyven, 2012); through to more active resistance, including counterproductive work behaviours, or sabotage; but it might also produce positive outcomes (Fugate, 2013), including pockets of supportive and active enabling behaviours which make some groups in organisations more resilient and able to almost thrive during such periods of turbulence (e.g. Dawkins et al., 2013; Waugh et al., 2008). Some contexts have created previous negative experiences with further rounds of injustice (Dhenka-Kahlon & Coyle-Shapiro, 2013) and trust breach anticipated.

We invite contributions that provide insight into change as a context for studying forms, meanings, dynamics and/or processes of organizational and institutional trust. In line with the overall framework of our Standing Working Group (SWG) 02, the focus is on trust at the organizational and institutional level, as well as the dynamic interplay of trust between micro- and macro levels of social relationships. We encourage papers that examine the influence of a range of contextual variables, including but not limited to: clashes between communities, national and organizational cultures, legal frameworks, institutional forms, socio-economic factors, power and vulnerability, historical and temporal influences, etc. This sub-theme aims to shed light on the causes and consequences of these differences and identify as well as consider to what extend there are strategies which would promote better management and integration of change for trust-based vertical and horizontal relationships within and across organisations.

Below are some indicative questions:

  • If change is so ubiquitous, how can we develop more resilient employee and citizen behaviour that is better prepared and able to cope with (continual) upheavals? Can we make change more predictable as a means of preventing trust breach?
  • How does change impact on trust during highly turbulent economic, political, organizational, or societal environments? For example, are the current austerity programmes creating new and different trust challenges for both employees and service users/clients? Are the organisational trust challenges distinct or similar for these distinct groups?
  • What types of change have the least and greatest impact? For example, is externally imposed change preferable to internally created impetus? How can trust be restored following periods of emergency, such as war or environmental catastrophe? What can be done to alter the impact for trust?
  • What are the consequences of change for organisational and institutional trust? Do previous models of change help to understand current forms of turbulent change? Or is the current pace and relentlessness of change producing unforeseen spill over effects which are amplifying trust violations?
  • Do impersonal forms of trust matter more in a period of dynamic change, or are interpersonal-forms of trust more important in such situations?
  • Under which circumstances is identification-based trust affected in periods of change? What are the consequences of deep levels of trust being eroded?
  • Are there some communities, such as young people or Roma, where trust needs to be built in order to prevent further economic threat?




  • Balogun, J., & Hope-Hailey, V. (2008): Exploring Strategic Change (3rd ed.). Harlow: FT Prentice Hall.
  • Burnes, B. (2009): Managing Change (5th ed.). Harlow: FT Prentice Hall.
  • Dawkins, S., Martin, A., Scott, J., & Sanderson, K. (2013): "Building on the positives: A psychometric review and critical analysis of the construct of Psychological Capital." Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 86 (3), 348–370.
  • Dhenka-Kahlon, R., & Coyle-Shapiro, J. (2013): "Anticipatory (in) justice and organizational change: Understanding employee reactions to change." In: S. Oreg, A. Michel & R. Todnem (eds.): The Psychology of Organizational Change: Viewing Change from the Employee's Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 173–194.
  • Fugate, M. (2013): "Capturing the positive experience of change: Antecedents, processes, and consequences." In: S. Oreg, A. Michel & R. Todnem (eds.): The Psychology of Organizational Change: Viewing Change from the Employee's Perspective. Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–41.
  • Fugate, M., Prussia, G.E., & Kinicki, A.J. (2012): "Managing employee withdrawal during organizational change: The role of threat appraisal." Journal of Management, 38 (3), 890–914.
  • Gersick, C. (1991): "Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm." Academy of Management Review, 16 (1), 10–36.
  • Saunders, M.N.K., & Thornhill, A. (2003): "Organisational justice, trust and the management of change – An exploration." Personnel Review, 32 (3), 360–375.
  • Van Parys, L., & Struyven, L. (2012): "Withdrawal from the public employment service by young unemployed: a matter of non-take-up or of non-compliance? How non-profit social work initiatives may inspire public services." European Journal of Social Work, 16 (4), 451–469.
  • Waugh, C., Fredrickson, B., & Taylor, S. (2008): "Adapting to life's slings and arrows: Individual differences in resilience when recovering from an anticipated threat." Journal of Research in Personality, 42 (4), 1031–1046.


Rosalind Searle holds the Chair in Organisational Behaviour and Psychology at Coventry Business School, UK. Her research interests include organisational level trust, and trust and HRM. She has published in journal including 'International Journal of HRM', 'Journal of HRM' and the 'British Journal of Social Work'. She has co-edited with Denise Skinner a book on "Trust and HRM", and co-editing with Ann Marie Nienaber and SimSitkin the forthcoming "Routledge Companion to Trust". She serves on the Editorial Board of the 'Journal of Management' and as an Associate Editor of the 'Journal of Trust Research'.
Reinhard Bachmann holds a Chair in International Management at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and is the Director of the Centre for Trust Research (CTR), UK. His research interests focus issues of trust and power, specifically in inter-organizational relations. He has published in journals such as 'Organization Studies', 'Cambridge Journal of Economics', 'British Journal of Sociology'. With Akbar Zaheer he has co-edited the "Handbook of Trust Research". He is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the 'Journal of Trust Research' and serves on the Editorial Board of 'Organization Studies'.
Shay S. Tzafrir is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Haifa, Israel. His research interest focus on Trust and HRM as well as trust and negotiation. He serves as an Associate Editor of the 'Journal of Managerial Psychology' and 'Journal of Trust Research'. He also serves on the Editorial Review Board in 'Journal of Management'. His articles have been published in journals such as 'Industrial Relations', 'Human Resource Management', 'Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology',' International Journal of Human Resource Management', and others.