Posted on : November 22, 2017
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Professor Tan Hwee Hoon (SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business), shares insights from her research in cross-cultural trust and discusses ‘why do people trust each other’? Does trust develop differently across cultures? Why is it important for organisations to develop a culture of trust? Instead of importing Western models of interpersonal trust, Prof. Tan in her research adopted a qualitative approach to understand trust relationships from indigenous cultures’ perspectives. She examined trust relationships directed at different foci in the organization (supervisor, peer, and subordinate) in two different countries, Turkey and China. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 Turkish and 30 Chinese employees working for a variety of large-scale organizations located in Istanbul, Turkey and Shenzhen, China. The research also reported the content analysis of trust-building critical incidents narrated by the respondents. The research findings showed that the general antecedents of Ability, Benevolence, and Integrity were found to exist in both countries. However benevolence, with its culture-specific manifestations, played a very important role in trust-building across multiple foci in both countries. Prof. Tan also found that trust relationships in these two contexts tended to go beyond the professional domain, and to involve sharing of personal time, information, and space. Drawing on this evidence, Prof. Tan proposes a trust-building process that is more affective in nature and which straddles both work and non-work domains.