Interpersonal trust & team effectiveness in manufacturing & IT sectors.

AuthorNeelam, Netra


Recent studies have proved that there is interrelationship between team effectiveness and trust (Langfred, 2004; Kirkman et al, 2006; Simons & Peterson, 2000). The present study focuses on finding out if there is significant difference in the perception of team effectiveness and interpersonal trust between employees of IT and manufacturing sectors. The study also attempts to find the extent and direction of interrelationship between the various dimensions of team effectiveness and interpersonal trust. The diagrammatical representation of the model we are going to test is given in Fig. 1.

Team Effectiveness

Kozlowski and Bell (2003: 334) have defined team as: "collectives who exist to perform organizationally relevant tasks, share one or more common goals, interact socially, exhibit task interdependencies, maintain and manage boundaries, and are embedded in an organizational context that sets boundaries, constrains the team, and influences exchanges with other units in the broader entity." McGrath (1964) and Mathieu et al. (2008) have described team effectiveness in terms of input-process and output analysis.

Time seems to play a significant role in input-process and output analysis of team effectiveness.

Based on a study of 231 knowledge workers belonging to 27 work teams, Janz et al. (1998) found that design, process, and contextual support factors have important implications for team effectiveness. Positive relationship between team autonomy and team job motivation reduces as teams worked under more interdependent conditions. Several gaps remain in the current team effectiveness literature. Team work is largely dependent on coordination and backup system. Coordination implies the streamlining of the sequences and time of team activities (Marks et al., 2001). Backup implies providing coaching & mentoring to team members, by behaviorally helping members in the team activities, by working in his/her place if required or assisting team member for completion of the team work (Marks et al. 2001).

Various theories explain the antecedents of team effectiveness. For example: Socio-technical theory (e.g. Pasmore, 1988; Pearce & Ravlin, 1987) and work design theory (Hackman & Oldham, 1976) have focused on the design of the group's task. Self-leadership theory (Manz & Sims, 1986; Matz, 1986) has identified the supervisory behaviors as determinant of effectiveness of self-managed team whereas theory of participative management (Lawler, 1986; 1992) has pointed out the various dimensions of organizational context for success of team. Campion et al (1993) recognized job design and group process variables as predictors of team effectiveness. Cohen and Bailey (1997) have perceived team effectiveness in terms of performance, attitudes, and behaviors. Performance can further be categorized as team performance and role based performance. Another emerging concept looking into team effectiveness is team empowerment both structural and psychological (Mathieu et al., 2006).

Cohesion, or the commitment of team members to the team's overall task or to each other is another important aspect of team performance (Goodman, Ravlin & Schminke, 1987). Collaboration has also been identified as important antecedent of team effectiveness (e.g., Levesque et al 2001; Mathieu et al., 2005). Most studies on team effectiveness are related to the blue-collared employees (e.g., Cordery, Mueller & Smith, 1991; Goodman, 1979; Kemp, Wall, Clegg & Cordery, 1983; Wall, Kemp, Jackson & Clegg, 1986; Wageman, 1995; Walton, 1972). Few studies have examined the effectiveness of teams comprising knowledge workers and even fewer studies on information systems teams (Campion, Papper & Medsker, 1996; Henderson & Lee, 1992). It is more intense for teams who performed intellectual or decision-making tasks as compared to more physical ones. Further performance of virtual team level largely depends on the frequency and intensity of communication, adaptability to modes of communication and finally trust. Task related knowledge and clarity about it is another significant predictor for team performance (Mathieu & Schulze, 2006).

Langfred (2004) provided evidence that team-level trust has a downward concave curve relationship with the level of monitoring within the team or team autonomy. When individual autonomy is high and monitoring is low, team performance is negatively affected. Trust was found to be a positive moderator of the relationship between team training proficiency and team performance (Kirkman et al, 2006). It also appears to be a moderator within Top Management Team performance models in which it moderates the relationship between task and relationship conflict (Simons & Peterson, 2000).

Interpersonal Trust

Zolen et al (2004) has found in geographical and cross-functional work environment initial perceived trustworthiness is of significance and influenced by commitment and follow-up carried during interaction. Rousseau et al. (1998) defined trust as "a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based on positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the other party." They have studied trust at individual level, group level, firm level and inter firm level. Trust has also been found to be positively associated with revenue and profit at the organizational level of analysis (Davis, et al., 2000; Simons & McLean Parks, 2002). Antecedents of trust are teamwork, leadership, and organizational culture (Fairholm, 1994; Nicholas, 1993; Ryan, 1999). Matzler and Renzl (2006) have found strong relationship between interpersonal trust, job satisfaction and employee loyalty. Trust has been found to reduce conflicts, decrease transaction costs, facilitate rapid formulation of ad hoc work groups and promotes effective responses to crises. Brashear et al (2003) found that interpersonal trust is most strongly related to shared values and indirectly related to organizational commitment and turnover intention.

There are three guiding principles of cognitive trust described by Newell et al. (2007): ability, benevolence and integrity. Ability refers to trustor's confidence on the knowledge base and competency of the trustee, benevolence is the trustor's faith on the goodwill and intention of the trustee. Integrity refers to trustee's reliability and dependability under the trustor's perspective.

Commitment trust is found at the initial stage when the entrepreneur commits himself to work for fulfillment of the objective mainly with motivation of reward of financial gain and challenge. Integrity is the dominant factor at this stage. This stage is soon to be followed by collaborative trust which is build over time, with employees and partners getting well aware of each other's competency. They have now developed a positive or a negative feeling for each other. This is the stage probably when they start preparing the succeeding generation. The ability factor is the key element at this stage of trust development. Finally, we have companion trust which is based on the feeling of benevolence. It is developed through special interaction outside the periphery of work. Trust emancipates individual's "expectation about those actions of others which have a bearing on her choice of the action, when the action must be taken before she can observe the actions of those others" (Dasgupta, 1988 : 312).

Trust incrementally develops over time depending upon other's choice to reciprocate cooperation and declines with same intensity when the other chooses not to reciprocate (Axelrod, 1984; Deutsch, 1958; 1973; Lindskold, 1978; Pilisuk & Skolnick, 1968). Swift trust may be developed in moderate interdependent tasks between parties where there is role based interaction, conscious efforts for reducing inconsistencies, broad professional standards laid out, recruitment of additional workforce from known labor pool lowering expectations for trust-destroying behavior (Meyerson et al., 1996). Ferrin (2003) defined multiple factors which determine level of trust are...

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