Evolution of Trust in Newcomers to Organisations


“You will just have to trust us”… This is what it sometimes can feel like for a newcomer to an organisation. When you are new to an organisation trust needs to develop for many reasons. First, we can’t function without a certain level of trust. Trust reduced uncertainty, enhances the quality of social exchanges, etc. Also, the organisation cannot benefit from an employee’s competences if there is no trust. But how does trust develop in organisations?

Think about a time you started a new job. Did you know anybody in the organisation before you started? These first weeks in a new job are exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Everything is new (and we typically think better).

According to Schaubroeck and others we start with a type of trust which is based on our confidence  in other people’s competence, reliability and dependability in the area of our work. This is referred to as cognition-based (or knowledge-based) trust. Based on how this confidence develops we will subsequently develop more personal relationships. The latter is an emotional attachment which reflects confidence that the ‘other’ is concerned about your personal welfare. This is referred to as affect-based trust.

Schaubroeck and others tested a model demonstrating how affect-based trust in both leaders and peers evolves from a foundation of cognition-based trust. This study observed new army recruits during their 14 weeks residential entry program.

People appreciate their organisational membership  and can contribute more effectively when they have more relationships based on affect-based trust in peers. For effective socialisation it is very important to demonstrate good will and to provide information to newcomers rather than to treat them as ‘newbies’.


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