The birdcage is open, but will the bird fly? How interactional and institutional trust interplay in public organisations

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In the wake of New Public Management reforms, the prospect of increasing task performance by building trust within public organisations has awoken renewed interest in the public sector. The focus has, however, predominantly been on strengthening leaders’ trust in employees by offering the latter greater autonomy, while employees’ decisions to accept and return trust have received less attention. The purpose of this article is to develop a conceptual framework for studying how interactional and institutional trust interplay when employees in public organisations respond to leaders’ attempts to build trust by offering them greater autonomy. The conceptual framework is applied to a case study conducted in Copenhagen Municipality, which is actively engaged in a reform to strengthen trust. The results support the proposition that the optimal conditions for employees to accept offers of greater autonomy occur when they experience both high interactional and high institutional trust. However, the case study also illustrates that other factors such as horizontal trust, professional confidence and available resources also affect employees’ willingness to accept offers of greater autonomy.
Translated title of the contributionFugleburet er åbent, men flyver fuglen?: Hvordan interaktionel og institutionel tillid spiller sammen i offentlige organisationer
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Trust Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)185-202
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version og the article: “This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Trust Research on Journal of Trust Research, available online:”


  • Trust
  • Institutional trust
  • interactional trust
  • Control

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