Topic: Trust and Organization-Stakeholder Relationship Management

Author(s), Title and Publication
Welch, M. (2006). Rethinking relationship management: Exploring the dimension of trust. Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 138-155.

This qualitative study broadened existing views on relationship management by exploring the dimension of trust. A review of previous research relating to relationship management found that though trust is regarded as one of the key elements in organization-stakeholder relationship management, distrust is not present in many theorists’ views of relationships. The author interviewed seven corporate communication team members of a blue chip UK utilities company (UKUC) and four of its service providers to examine practitioners’ perceptions of trust and distrust in organization-stakeholder relationships, and the extent to which trust and distrust co-exist within the relationships.

Findings showed that distrust is a dimension separate from trust, rather than simply a lack of trust. The study provided evidence of the dimensions of trust identified in the literature (i.e., integrity, dependability, and competence), and the dimensions of distrust (i.e., guile, self-interest, suspicion, lack of caring, disrespect, intuitive scientist behaviors, concern about harm, and lack of confidence). Also, the findings revealed that trust and distrust operate simultaneously in a fluid zone of approval. This suggests that the organization and its stakeholders are unlikely to totally trust each other; instead, they are likely to change levels of trust and distrust over time, based on developments, contingencies and experiences. Distrust was added to Ledingham’s (2003) eleven dimensions of relationships as the twelfth one.

Implications for Practice
Managers may assist stakeholder relationships more effectively by recognizing the mix of trust and distrust existing within stakeholder relationships and selecting and implementing appropriate communication strategies to reduce distrust. Interpersonal communications and behaviors are central in such strategies.

Location of Article
The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

One thought on “Rethinking relationship management: Exploring the dimension of trust

Leave a Reply