Why Should I Trust You?
Predictors of Interpersonal Trust in a Knowledge Transfer Context


Daniel Z. Levin
Organization Management Department
Rutgers Business School – Newark and New Brunswick
Rutgers University
111 Washington Street
Newark, NJ  07102
(973) 353-5983
Fax (973) 353-1664


Rob Cross
McIntire School of Commerce
University of Virginia—Monroe Hall
Charlottesville, VA  22904
(434) 924-6475
Fax: (434) 924-7040


Lisa C. Abrams
IBM Institute for Knowledge-based Organizations
1 Main Street, 6th floor
Cambridge, MA  02142
(617) 588-5825
Fax (617) 588-2305



February 2003



Working Paper
Presented at 2002 Academy of Management meetings, Denver



To examine factors that promote a knowledge seeker’s trust in a knowledge source, we analyzed survey data from three companies in different industries and countries. We found that the biggest predictors of benevolence- and competence-based trust were more malleable relational features such as shared language (a new construct) and shared vision, with little or no effect from more stable and visible features such as formal structure and demographic similarity. Further, benevolence-based trust was easier to predict than competence-based trust. Finally, knowledge seekers’ reliance on knowledge-source behaviors in determining how much to trust a source’s competence were relied on even more heavily by knowledge seekers with more division tenure, suggesting that certain attitudes in the trust realm may solidify over time.

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