The development of trust and distrust in a merger

Searle, Rosalind H. and Ball, Kirstie S. (2004). The development of trust and distrust in a merger. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 19(7) pp. 708–721.



This paper explores the development and maintenance of trust and distrust in an organization undergoing a merger. Using a longitudinal study we examined the sense-making of retained staff by comparing two sets of in-depth interviews with six survivors and detailed field notes. Four central themes were identified revealing differences between trust and distrust. The themes included: the importance of perceived changes to the psychological contract, organizational justice, reputations of individuals and risk management. By analysing the sense-making the need for congruence between what was done and how it was done was revealed. As distrust grew staff balanced this disequilibrium through their trust in the familiar, however, this finding calls into question the role of rationality as the basis for risk management. We discuss the implications of these findings for the successful management of mergers.

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