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Stakeholder Distrust

English title Stakeholder Distrust
Applicant Weibel Antoinette
Number 172752
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Führung- und Personalmanagement Universität St. Gallen
Institution of higher education University of St.Gallen - SG
Main discipline Science of management
Start/End 01.09.2017 - 31.08.2022
Approved amount 826'506.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Science of management
Applied psychology

Keywords (5)

interorganizational distrust; stakeholder theory; distrust management strategies; stakeholder engagement practices; mixed-methods design

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Misstrauen in der Beziehung zwischen Organisationen und ihren Stakeholdern hat in der Regel negative Auswirkungen: Investoren ziehen finanzielle Ressourcen ab, Kunden kaufen Produkte nicht mehr, Mitarbeitende kündigen und Lieferanten beenden die Zusammenarbeit. Wir gehen in diesem Forschungsprojekt dem Phänomen des Stakeholder-Misstrauens auf den Grund.
Lay summary
Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Skandale wie der Fall „Volkswagen“ zeigen, wie schnell Unternehmen und andere Organisationen das Vertrauen ihrer Stakeholder verlieren und Misstrauen entsteht. Misstrauen kann jedoch nicht nur durch grosse, medienwirksame Skandale zustande kommen, sondern in jedem alltäglichen Umgang mit den Stakeholdern. Um diesem Phänomen auf den Grund zu gehen, untersuchen wir im diesem Projekt die folgenden drei Fragen: 1. Welche Ursachen hat Stakeholder-Misstrauen und wie unterscheiden sich diese möglicherweise bei verschiedenen Typen von Stakeholdern (zum Beispiel Mitarbeitern, Kunden und Anteilseignern)? 2. Welche Konsequenzen hat Stakeholder-Misstrauen und wie unterscheiden sich diese möglicherweise bei verschiedenen Typen von Stakeholdern? 3. Welche Wirksamkeit haben unternehmerische Praktiken im Umgang mit Stakeholdern, sogenannten Stakeholder Engagement Practices, in Bezug auf das Management von Stakeholder-Misstrauen?

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Das Projekt gliedert sich in vier Phasen: 1. Wir bilden aus verschiedenen Bereichen der Praxis ein Team aus Experten, die uns über das Projekt begleiten und unsere Ergebnisse überprüfen. 2. Wir befragen grosse Schweizerische Unternehmen und andere Organisationen zu ihren Erfahrungen und Beispielen mit Stakeholder-Misstrauen. 3. In detaillierten Fallstudien gehen wir den obigen Fragen vertieft auf den Grund und stellen ein Modell zu Stakeholder-Misstrauen auf. 4. Wir testen unser Modell in einer weiteren Befragung von Unternehmen. Durch dieses Projekt erhoffen wir uns ein besseres Verständnis von Stakeholder-Misstrauen für die Wissenschaft und die Praxis.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 20.06.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
8th Annual Responsible Business Research Seminar Talk given at a conference Stakeholder distrust 11.03.2020 Tampere, Finland Sachs Sybille;
Summer Seminar in Stakeholder Theory Talk given at a conference Stakeholder distrust 01.07.2019 Virginia, United States of America Sachs Sybille;
Ph.D. Seminar "Organizations, Management and Theories of the Firm" Talk given at a conference Stakeholder distrust – an overview of a new research project 27.09.2018 Zürich, Switzerland Liedtke Canan; Laude Daniel; Weibel Antoinette; Sachs Sybille;
78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management Talk given at a conference Stakeholder trust & distrust 10.08.2018 Chicago, United States of America Sachs Sybille; Weibel Antoinette;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
167208 Big Data or Big Brother? - Big Data HR Control Practices and Employee Trust 01.03.2017 NRP 75 Big Data

Abstract

Trust is a fundamental element of the relationship between organizations and their stakeholders (Burchell & Cook, 2006; Greenwood & Van Buren III, 2010). Among other things, trust fosters stakeholders’ commitment (Ruppel & Harrington, 2000) and cooperation (Jones & Wicks, 1999; Post, Preston, & Sauter-Sachs, 2002), reduces transaction costs (Jones, 1995), has a positive effect on innovation and organizations’ ability to adapt to external changes (Harrison, Bosse, & Phillips, 2010) and, in the end, can result in a competitive advantage for organizations (Barney & Hansen, 1994). For these reasons, it is not surprising that trust constitutes a central theme in stakeholder theory. Especially during the last decade, stakeholder literature on trust has been growing in size and significance (e.g. Greenwood & Van Buren III, 2010; Harrison et al., 2010; Pirson & Malhotra, 2011; Pirson, Martin, & Parmar, 2015). At the same time, there has been an erosion of goodwill between stakeholders and organizations due to a number of recent issues such as Volkswagen’s emissions violations (Zhang, Veijalainen, & Kotkov, 2016), BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Brown, Buchholtz, & Dunn, 2016), and Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy that triggered the global financial meltdown in 2008 (Freeman, Harrison, Wicks, Parmar, & De Colle, 2010; Sachs & Rühli, 2011). Hence, stakeholders increasingly distrust organizations, especially private companies, and business as an economic institution (Werhane et al., 2011). However, stakeholder distrust is not unique to these latest developments but can exist in every organization-stakeholder relationship. Distrust is particularly important in highly salient and interdependent relationships because its consequences are mostly negative: lower contributions of stakeholders (Dervitsiotis, 2003; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002), higher transaction costs (Ghoshal & Moran, 1996), a negative relationship dynamic leading to stigmatization (Sitkin & Roth, 1993), hostility (Chambers & Melnyk, 2006) as well as fierce and often intractable conflicts (Tomlinson & Lewicki, 2006) and, as a result, lower organizational productivity and performance (Harrison et al., 2010; Sparrowe, Liden, Wayne, & Kraimer, 2001; Wicks, Berman, & Jones, 1999). Despite its high relevance for organization-stakeholder relationships, distrust has received relatively little attention by stakeholder theorists. More developed, in this regard, is the field of organizational studies in which there has been a recent rise of publications on the topic of distrust (e.g. Bijlsma-Frankema, Wisse, Täuber, Sanders, & Sitkin, 2016; Guo, Lumineau, & Lewicki, 2016). However, even in this field, there is relatively little empirical research on distrust as a distinct concept from trust and the emphasis seldom lies on inter-organizational research. Considering this lack of knowledge, the aim of our project is to understand how organizations handle distrust-based, yet salient stakeholder relationships (Bundy, Shropshire, & Buchholtz, 2013). For this purpose, we would like to study the antecedents, consequences and contingencies of stakeholder distrust and potential stakeholder engagement practices to manage stakeholder distrust. In this project proposal, we draw on existing research on distrust in organizational studies and stakeholder theory in order to outline the current scientific knowledge concerning distrust antecedents, consequences and contingencies in both fields of research. Subsequently, we propose a mixed-methods approach based on four modules including the following research steps: (1) workshops and focus groups with practice experts on distrust in organization-stakeholder relationships who will serve as a Sounding Board for the duration of the project, (2) a key informant survey of Swiss organizations on their stakeholder relationships and stakeholder engagement practices and tools, (3) in-depth, theory-building case studies of companies that feature distrust in one or multiple stakeholder relationships, and (4) a survey that will allow us to test a model of distrust antecedents, consequences and contingencies (moderators) in organization-stakeholder relationships.
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