Trusting as a 'Leap of Faith': Trust-building practices in client-consultant relationships

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scandinavian Journal of Management, 2015, 31 (2), pp. 232 - 245
Issue Date:
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© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Successful client-consultant relationships depend on trust, but trusting is difficult in the non-routine, high-stake context of consulting. Based on a sample of 15 clients and 16 consultants in Australia, we develop a grounded model that explains the process of trust granting in the context of client-consultant relationships. Our model builds upon two influential research streams on trust in the literature, the ABI model (Mayer et al., 1995. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 709-734) and Zucker's (1986. Research in Organizational Behavior, 8, 53-111) generic modes of trust, and combines their insights with a process perspective on trusting as proposed by Möllering (2001. Sociology, 35(2), 403-420). By acknowledging the process nature of trust as a leap of faith resulting from socio-cognitive (-emotional) interactions we move away from the passive evaluation of trustworthiness. Our findings suggest that trusting is a process that involves three social practices: (1) signaling ability and integrity; (2) demonstrating benevolence; and (3) establishing an emotional connection. Our study contributes to the trust literature on consulting and to trust research more generally by advancing a process approach and emphasizing the social, not merely mental, nature of trusting as involving a leap of faith.
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