Making sense of institutional trust in organizations: Bridging institutional context and trust

Lars Fuglsang, Søren Jagd

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Institutional-based approaches to trust can explain how trust logics can exist in a societal context as compared to logics of distrust. Strong institutions in the form of regulative, normative and cognitive structures can enable and inspire trust-relations among people at the interpersonal and inter-organizational level. We suggest, however, that the actor-dimension of institutional-based trust is an underexplored issue in the literature. Quoting Fligstein, institutional theory needs to explain how ‘some social actors are better at producing desired social outcomes than are others’ (Fligstein, 1997: 398). While Fligstein refers to actors who engage in ‘robust or local action’ we argue that actors who engage in (robust, local) sensemaking activities are better at (re)producing institutional-based trust. Particularly in situations when institutions are relatively unstable, unfamiliar to the actors and ambiguous, sensemaking strategies directed towards exploring the institutional foundations of trust at a local level can be an important basis of interpersonal trust-relations. First, based on a summary of studies of institutional-based trust we argue that an unresolved issue is how institutions more precisely form the basis for trust-relations. Second, we explore how sensemaking may serve as a bridge between institutional contexts and interpersonal trust processes. Based on Weber and Glynn’s (2006) model of relations between institutions and sensemaking, we argue that institutions are ‘emerging’ rather than ‘impacting’. The relevance of this view of sensemaking for bridging institutional-based and interpersonal trust processes is illustrated by reviewing a case study on how trust is created in a politically turbulent and foreign environment.
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)23-39
StatusUdgivet - 2015

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