On the Delicate Art to Balance Trust and Control to Promote Performance

By David de Cremer and Jakob Stollberger

In every relationship, trust plays a valuable role to ensure that both ends are not met with infidelity and injustice. Successful companies for that matter compel their employees to apply trust and control on a proportionate rate to deliver just that.


Trust matters to organisations in important ways. The presence of trust has been demonstrated to affect a wide range of variables at both the individual and organisational level, which all combined promote the overall effective functioning of any organisation (Kramer, 1999). For example, when employees trust each other they will report higher job satisfaction, display more voluntarily citizenship behaviours, exchange information more quickly and frequently, and experience greater well-being and happiness at the work place. Organisations in turn benefit from such highly motivated and effective employees, as companies that are effective in fostering a trusting work culture perform better, create more revenue and ultimately lead their industry by being innovative (Colquitt, Scott, & LePine, 2007; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002). If trust has so many benefits, why is it then that so few companies really succeed in establishing a trust culture?

As we all know, organisations are complex hierarchical structures that create frequently conflicts of interests and feelings of fear to be exploited. Trust is commonly defined as people’s willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of others, because they consider the intentions of the other to be honest and caring about interests of others (Rousseau et al., 1998). Many organisations will therefore try to control the complexity of their work setting for trust to blossom. But it is exactly in this effort to try to control the self-interest of employees and coordinate efforts in more transparent and accountable ways that trust may be more difficult to achieve than ever. Why?

Please login or register to continue reading... Registration is simple and it is free!

About the Authors

David De Cremer is provost chair, professor of management and organisation at National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, a fellow at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Before moving to NUS he was the KPMG endowed professor in management studies at Cambridge Judge Business School. He has published over more than 250 academic articles and book chapters and is the author of the book Pro-active Leader: How to overcome procrastination and be a bold decision-maker and and co-author of “Huawei: Leadership, culture and connectivity.

Jakob Stollberger is assistant professor at Aston Business School, Aston University, UK. Jakob’s research examines the interplay between leadership, emotions, and innovation at work. He also works as a practitioner consulting businesses in these areas. Prior to joining Aston Business School, Jakob held research positions at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and the University of Birmingham.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of All China Review.