Group Identity and Attachment: Two Paths to Trust and Cooperation in Groups
14 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2003
Date Written: February 2003
Cooperation is essential to long-term group effectiveness. It is difficult to achieve, however, when the group's and an individual's goals conflict. Under these circumstances, how does cooperation emerge? One means is through trust, which is an attitude critical to the formation of cooperation within groups and organizations (Smith, Carroll & Ashford, 1995). Although there is evidence for the relationship between interpersonal trust and cooperation in the workplace (Dirks & Ferrin, 2003; Korsgaard, Brodt, & Whitener, 2002), does trust in one's group engender cooperation? Our goal is to answer and extend this question. We begin with the proposition that an individual's trust in the group is distinct from interpersonal trust: it is not simply the average of a member's interpersonal relationships with other group members, but rather an individual's attitude toward the group as a collective. Drawing on Korsgaard, Brodt, & Sapienza (2003), we identify two critical conditions for trust in the group: identification and psychological attachment to the group. Identification is the extent to which individuals define themselves in terms of particular group memberships, and group attachment style reflects a person's propensity to seek and feel secure in groups. We propose that group attachment styles influence both the propensity to identify with a group and the relationship between identification and the individual's trust in the group. We test these propositions in an experiment using existing and newly formed student work groups, evaluating the effects of identification and attachment style on trust and cooperation in a group problem solving task.
Keywords: Organizational conflict, cooperation in groups, group-level trust and attachment
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