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Managing images of trustworthiness in organizations

Abstract

To possess an image of interpersonal trustworthiness is to be perceived by others as displaying (now and in the future) competence, benevolence, and integrity in one's behaviors and beliefs (Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman 1995; Mayer and Davis 1999). In this definition, interpersonal trustworthiness is defined as a perception of trustworthiness from and about social interactions. In a corporate context, competence refers to the abilities and skills that allow a manager to have power and influence in the organization, benevolence refers to a manager's desire to do good on behalf of organizational members, and integrity refers to a manager's adherence to principles or ideals that an organization's members find acceptable. This definition is based on recent frameworks which define trust as "a willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of another party." (Mayer and Davis 1999, 124). That is, where trust is defined as a willingness or intent to submit to the actions of another, trustworthiness is defined as a perception that a trusted person, a trustee, will exhibit specific behaviors that commonly engender a willingness to submit to that person's actions. These definitions of trust and trustworthiness are supported by recent research that identifies both motivation and ability as bases of trust in organizations (Mishra 1996; Brockner and Siegel 1996), and uses the components of intention and belief to define trust (McKnight, Cummings, and Chervany 1998).1 Such definitions seem particularly appropriate in managerial settings, where trust often means submitting to the direction of leaders with little knowledge about the consequences of those directions. In such risky or ambiguous situations, perceived trustworthiness has been shown to be an important factor in engendering people's willingness to subject themselves to the actions of others (Kramer and Tyler 1996). For example, F. David Schoorman, Roger C. Mayer, and James H. Davis (1996) found that perceived trustworthiness in a staff member contributed significantly to a veterinarian's willingness to delegate to that staff member risky tasks such as administering anesthesia. Similarly, in a fourteenmonth field study of management performance appraisal systems, Mayer and Davis (1999) found that enhancing perceived benevolence, integrity, and competence by means of implementing a new performance appraisal system increased employees "willingness to let top management have control over" employee and organizational well-being. Copyright © 2004 by Russell Sage Foundation. All rights reserved.

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