Antecedents of Stakeholder Trust: What Matters to Whom?

48 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2010 Last revised: 2 Nov 2013

See all articles by Michael Pirson

Michael Pirson

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business; Humanistic Management Network; Harvard University

Deepak K. Malhotra

Harvard Business School - Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit

Date Written: February 21, 2010


Prior research on organizational trust has not rigorously examined the context specificity of trust, nor distinguished between the potentially varying dimensions along which different stakeholder groups (e.g., employees, customers, investors, etc.) base their trust. As a result, dominant conceptualizations of organizational trust are overly generalized. Building on existing frameworks stemming from research on organizational trust and stakeholder theory, we introduce a more nuanced perspective on the nature of organizational trust. We develop a framework that distinguishes between organizational stakeholders along two dimensions: depth of the relationship (deep or shallow) and locus (internal or external). The framework helps to identify which of six dimensions of trust (benevolence, integrity, managerial competence, technical competence, transparency, and identification) will be relevant to which stakeholder type. We test the predictions of our framework using original survey data from 1,296 respondents across four stakeholder groups from four different organizations. The results reveal that the relevant dimensions of trust indeed vary across different stakeholder types, and provide strong support for the validity of the depth and locus dimensions.

Keywords: Trust, Stakeholder Trust, Organizational Trust, Stakeholder Management

JEL Classification: M00, M1, M10, M14

Suggested Citation

Pirson, Michael and Malhotra, Deepak K., Antecedents of Stakeholder Trust: What Matters to Whom? (February 21, 2010). Fordham University Schools of Business Research Paper No. 2010-016, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Pirson (Contact Author)

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10018
United States

Humanistic Management Network ( email )

St. Gallen

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Deepak K. Malhotra

Harvard Business School - Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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