At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust: Trust Across Multiple Organizational Levels

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 Last revised: 22 Jun 2013

See all articles by Ashley Fulmer

Ashley Fulmer

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Michele Joy Gelfand

University of Maryland

Date Written: June 27, 2011


Despite the importance of trust at multiple levels in organizations, extant reviews have focused solely on trust at the interpersonal level. We believe that a systematic review of trust research across levels and trust referents can integrate the growing number of both micro and macro studies on trust. Further, as trust is a linchpin for divergent topics such as leadership, teams, organizational change, and strategic alliances, a multilevel-multireferent review of trust can facilitate integration in the field of organizational sciences. In this review, we adopt a levels of analysis approach to organize the current research on trust in divergent referents that include interpersonal, teams, leaders, and organizations at the individual, team, organizational, and interfirm level and analyze the similarities and differences in antecedents and consequences dominant at each level. Building on this foundation, we further identify theoretical approaches and research gaps, offer recommendations for integration, and discuss six lingering questions that research so far has overlooked. In doing so, our review offers a systematic and comprehensive view of the current trust literature in organizational sciences and provides a blueprint for future research directions.

Suggested Citation

Fulmer, Ashley and Gelfand, Michele Joy, At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust: Trust Across Multiple Organizational Levels (June 27, 2011). IACM 24TH Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Ashley Fulmer (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) ( email )

Bukit Timah Road 469 G
Singapore, 117591

Michele Joy Gelfand

University of Maryland ( email )

1142 Biology-Psychology Building
College Park, MD 0742-4411
United States
301 405 6972 (Phone)

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