Types of trust


There are three types of trust in organizational relationships:

1. Deterrence-based

2. Knowledge-based

3. Identification-based

Deterrence-Based Trust:

The most fragile relationships are contained in deterrence-based trust. One violation or inconsistency can destroy the relationship. This form of trust is based on fear of reprisal if the trust is violated. Individuals who are in this type of relationship do what they say because they fear the consequence of not following through on their obligations.

Most new relationships begin on a base of deterrence. Take, as an illustration, a situation in which you’re selling your car to a friend of a friend. You don’t know the buyer. You might be motivated to refrain from telling this buyer all the problems with the car that you know about. Such behavior would increase your chances of selling the car and securing the highest price.

But you don’t withhold information. You openly share the car’s flaws because of fear of reprisal. If the buyer later thinks you deceived him, he is likely to share this with your mutual friend. If you knew that the buyer would never say anything to the mutual friend, you might be tempted to take advantage of the opportunity. If it’s clear that the buyer would tell and that your mutual friend would think considerably less of you for taking advantage of this buyer friend, your honesty could be explained in deterrence term.

Another example of deterrence-based trust is a new manager-employee relationship. As an employee, you typically trust a new boss even though there is little experience to base that trust on. The bond that creates this trust is because of the authority held by the boss and the punishment he or she can impose if you fail to fulfill your job-related obligations.

Knowledge-Based Trust:

Most organizational relationships are rooted in knowledge-based trust. That is, trust is based on the behavioral predictability that comes from interaction. It exists when you have adequate information about someone to understand them well enough to be able to predict their behavior accurately.

Knowledge-based trust relies on information rather than deterrence. Knowledge of the other party and predictability of his or her behavior replaces the contracts, penalties, and legal arrangements more typical of deterrence-based trust. This knowledge develops over time, largely as a function of experience that builds confidence of trustworthiness and predictability. The better you know someone the more accurately you can predict what he or she will do. Predictability enhances trust—even if the other is predictably untrustworthy because the ways that the other will violate the trust can be predicted! The more communication and regular interaction you have with someone else, the more this form of trust can be developed and depended on.

In an organizational context, most manager employee relationship is knowledge based. Both parties have enough experience working with each other that they know what to expect. A long history of consistently open and honest interaction, for instance, is not likely to be permanently destroyed by a single violation.

Identification-Based Trust:

The highest level of trust is achieved when there is an emotional connection between the parties. It allows one party to act as an agent for the other and substitute for that person in interpersonal transactions. This is called identification-based trust. Trust exists because the parties understand each other’s intentions and appreciate the other’s wants and desires. This mutual understanding is developing to the point that each can effectively act for the other.

Controls are minimal at this level. You don’t need to monitor the other party because there exists unquestioned loyalty.

The best example of identification based trust is a long term, happily married couple. A husband comes to learn what’s
important to his wife and anticipates those actions. She, in turn, trusts that he will anticipate what’s important to her without having to ask. Increased identification enables each to think like the other, feel like the other, and respond like the other.