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Trust, conict and cooperative behaviour

Considering reciprocity within organizations
Karin Sanders and Birgit Schyns
University of Twente, The Netherlands
Purpose In this introduction of the special issue Trust, conict and cooperative behaviour the focus of the special issue is introduced: because al lot of attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes are based on reciprocity, they should be examined as a characteristic of relationships instead of a characteristic of employees. Design/methodology approach On a theoretical level reciprocity within organizations is considered by means of the social embeddedness approach and by means of leader member exchange. Findings Although reciprocity in relationships is well recognised in the academic literature seemingly little empirical work has been conducted on reciprocity in manager-subordinate and subordinate-subordinate relationships. Originality/value In this special issue, we try to ll in this gap and focus on the reciprocity within relationships to explain trust, conict and cooperative behaviour within organisations. Keywords Employee behaviour, Employee attitudes, Employee involvement, Industrial relations Paper type General review


1. Introduction Recent developments inside and outside organisations have sparked new research questions about the behaviour of managers and employees within modern work organisations. It has been claimed that less predictable outlet markets, and the micro-electronic revolution (Taplin, 1995) have brought about a change from hierarchical control by means of authority chains to more horizontal organisational structures (Piore, 2002). These organisational changes come under various headings the exible workplace, the socio-technical revolution, and the post-Fordist rm and their consequences for the workplace are just as variously denoted with phrases like employability, empowerment and every worker a knowledge worker. To react on changes of a dynamic outlet market responsibility for attaining production goals are transferred from supervisors to teams, such as management-teams, project groups or self-managing teams (Cohen and Bailey, 1997; Goodman, 1986). Within these teams, employees enjoy a considerable amount of autonomy, perform challenging tasks and experience alignment between personal and
Karin Sanders worked on this article during a visit at the University of New South Wales (School of Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour), in Sydney, Australia. Most of the papers included in this special issue of Personnel Review were presented at the International Conference Innovating HRM? 7 and 8 November 2003 at the University of Twente, The Netherlands. The authors want to thank Tom Redman for his valuable comments on an earlier version of the introduction of this special issue. Authors thank the reviewers of the different articles for their valuable comments on earlier versions of the articles.

Personnel Review Vol. 35 No. 5, 2006 pp. 508-518 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0048-3486 DOI 10.1108/00483480610682262

organisational goals. The ip side of this autonomy is that managers expect employees within a team work together, participate voluntarily, cooperate willingly and submit to the mutual informal control needed to keep the organisation running (Appelbaum and Batt, 1994; Handy, 1995). In order to keep organisations running these attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes like commitment, trust, cooperation and conict handling are becoming more important (Wickens, 1995). In line with this, research shows a negative relationship between cooperative behaviour and short-term absenteeism (Sanders and Hoekstra, 1998; Sanders, 2004), and shows that committed employees have higher work effectiveness and lower turnover (e.g. Mathieu and Zajac, 1990; Williams and Anderson, 1990). Furthermore, conict handling of employees and managers has far-reaching effects on the effectiveness of the organization (Yukl and Tracey, 1992). Although it is well known that these attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes are important for the organization, these outcomes share the problem that they cannot be tackled by means of labour agreements. While contracts are a standard way of protecting parties against opportunistic behaviour and other risks for the organisation, the uses of contracts as a safeguard for problems between employees and managers are limited (Macaulay, 1963). Explicit contracting to lessen problems concerning commitment, trust, conict and cooperative behaviours are associated with transaction costs (Williamson, 1975, 1996), such as the costs of attempting to anticipate all conceivable contingencies that might arise in the course of the relationship, the bargaining and decision costs associated with reaching an agreement on how to deal with these contingencies, the costs of writing a sufciently clear and unambiguous contract that can be externally enforced and the costs of external enforcement itself (Hart, 1987). Moreover, these employees outcomes are difcult to measure and verify, especially for third parties, such as a judge. In other words, contractual enforcement of these kinds of employees outcomes is difcult and costly, if not impossible. Therefore, transactions often rely on implicit contracts (Azariadis, 1987): contracts that are partially unwritten, tacit and not formally binding (Macneil, 1980). All the articles in this special issue focus on attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes that cannot be tackled by labour agreements, but are important to keep the organisation running. These employees attitudinal and behavioural outcomes as dened here can be studied from different angles. Very often, their relationship to organizational outcomes is the focus of research. For instance, employees outcomes are regarded as individual characteristics leading to higher performance. This approach neglects that behaviour is embedded in a context and is often based on interaction, that is, behaviour is not independent of: . whom is directed to; and . how the target person (or persons) reacts. Studying employees outcomes thus makes it necessary to examine the context of the respective behaviour as well as the target persons and their reaction. In the following section, we will have a closer look at the different approaches mentioned, that is, we will review research on employees outcomes as a characteristic of the employee, on embeddedness, and on target and target reactions. For the latter, we will concentrate on research that has focussed on reciprocity in the context of leader-member interaction and will expand these ideas to the employee outcomes referred to in this special issue.

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2. Employees outcomes as characteristic of the employee In the last decades, attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes were frequently focussed in research (see for instance for an overview of commitment, Meyer et al., 2002; for trust, Mayer et al., 1995; for conict behaviour, Rubin et al., 1994; and for cooperative behaviour in terms of OCB, Podsakoff et al., 2000). Most of these studies share the tendency to focus on these employees outcomes as characteristics of the employee. For instance, a lot of research has done on the question if women are more committed to the organisation than men (Rosenblatt et al., 1999; Singh and Vinnicombe, 2000), and if and why older employees behave more cooperative within an organisation than their younger colleagues (Podsakoff et al., 2000). Not very surprising in our opinion, the results of most of these studies are inconclusive. This means that despite all the research done on these topics, no answer can be given to the question if women are more committed to the organisation than men, and if older people trust others more than younger ones. In this special issue, we argue that these inconclusive results are due to the fact that these kinds of employees outcomes are seen as a characteristic of employees while they are in fact results of relationships employees have with other people inside and outside the organisation. This argument means that it is in our opinion not relevant to examine if women or men are more or less committed or if elder employees have more or less trust than younger employees, but that the relationships of employees, independent if it concerns women or men, should be considered when studying attitudinal and behavioural outcomes. In other words: employees are not cooperative in general but employees behave cooperative to some one, for instance the supervisor, the organisation or the co-workers. If attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes are examined as results of relationships it is important to distinguish between different actors and targets (supervisor, workgroup, colleagues, and people with the same profession) within and outside the organisation. Employees can trust their co-workers, but do not trust their supervisor or the management of an organisation. In the papers of this special issue employees outcomes are both theoretically and empirically examined as results of different relationships within organizations[1]. The topic of research of Koster and Sanders, and Sanders and Schyns is solidarity behaviour (in the article of Koster and Sanders, the differences between cooperative and solidarity behaviour are discussed). In these contributions explicitly differences are made between employees horizontal solidarity behaviour solidarity behaviour to other co-workers and employees vertical solidarity behaviour solidarity behaviour to the supervisor. In the article by Dietz and Den Hartog, the focus is on the measurement and operationalisations of organizational trust and attention is paid to the question who is being trusted?. Five different work-relationships are examined in this paper: the relationship to the immediate manger, to the immediate work colleagues, to the employer or management, to the rest of the organisation, and between organisational departments and different entities. The paper highlights where existing measure match the theory, but also shows a number of blind-spots or contradictions, particularly over the content of the trusting belief, the selection of possible sources of evidence for trust, and inconsistencies in the identity of the referent. In the last paper of this special issue, De Reuver examine conict handling of middle managers within organizations in their relationships to their superiors and to their subordinates. In this paper the question, Can the relationship between opponents and

managers conict handling be explained by the organizational power of the disputing parties? is answered. If we argue that attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes should not be examined as characteristics of employees, but should be considered as results of relationships employees have with different actor within and outside the organisation, the relevant question is than what inuences the different relationships within organisations and what the exchange within the different relationships is. Some authors argued that social context, such as the social embeddedness of relationships are important predictors to answer the rst part of this question (Hodson, 1997; Raub, 1997; Van Emmerik et al., 2002; Koster et al., 2003; Van Emmerik and Sanders, 2004). Research using a social exchange perspective (for instance Tsui et al., 1997) suggests that there is a correspondence between the focus of exchange and the type of reciprocating behaviour. This idea can also be found in leader-member exchange (LMX) theories (Graen and Uhl-Bien, 1991, 1995; Uhl-Bien et al., 2000). Although social embedded-ness and LMX are studied in two separated disciplines and are rarely related to each other, they seem to have some ideas in common. For instance in both theories the inuence of (expected) duration of a relationships is assumed to have an impact on the relationships and on the exchange within the relationship. In the following both theories are discussed and are related to the papers of this special issue. 3. Social embedded-ness of relationships In general, social embedded-ness of relationships can be described in terms of three kinds of embedded-ness within organizations: an institutional context, network embedded-ness, and temporal embedded-ness (Raub, 1997; Raub and Weesie, 1990, 2000). Institutional embedded-ness refers to the formal rules of an organization, such as career, and performance systems[2]. Individuals network embedded-ness refers to the network of social relationships between employees, for example friendships or status hierarchies, and temporal embedded-ness refers to the duration and expected future length of employment relationships[3]. In the following, the three kinds of embedded-ness are discussed and are related to employees outcomes. 3.1 Institutional embedded-ness Relationships are institutionally embedded. That is, they are inuenced by institutions, which provide the formal rules that govern the interactions between employers and employees and the interactions among employees (North, 1990). The content of an organizations governance structures is evident in the organizations human resource policies. Elements of formal governance structures are remuneration policies, monitoring and control systems[4]. Characteristics of governance structures in most modern organizations as compared to traditional rms are lower job security, a larger contingent workforce, the use of more performance-related pay and promotion systems, and the replacement of predictable career paths with more uncertain and competitive promotion systems. These characteristics not only increase incentives for competition between employees but they also make promotion and pay rises more uncertain and less transparent. In addition, we can expect consequences of these new working conditions for commitment. Going beyond formal contracts and eventually risking lessening attachment to an organisation is discussed in the context of psychological contracts (Schalk and Rousseau, 2000).

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It is well known from earlier research that differentiated and unpredictable reward systems may negatively affect employees sense of fairness with respect to the employers behaviour (Van Emmerik et al., 1998). Denise and Mishra (1995), and Tyler (2001) found that a certain degree of predictability of resources and rewards is essential for meaning and satisfaction in work. Such predictability is also essential for the establishment of trust between workers and management (Fox, 1974; Granovetter, 1985). 3.2 Social network embedded-ness Network embedded-ness pertains to the effects on employee behaviour of the amount and quality of social relationships (e.g. friendships or informal communication) between employees; as well of the structural characteristics of the networks these relations constitute (Granovetter, 1985). Networks provide information and serve as a means for the direct and indirect sanctioning of behaviours. In addition, social relations that are part of a larger network of relationships make it possible to gather information (Granovetter, 1985; Hechter, 1987). The longer social relationships between employees last, the more information will be gathered about the other person and the more likely it is that violations of solidarity norms may be detected and sanctioned by the peers. For instance, non-cooperative behaviour towards colleagues may be tempered when actors have to fear peer monitoring and future reprisals by colleagues in their network. Moreover, social relationships may also increase actors dependence on peer rewards, which in turn gives additional possibilities to sanctioning opportunistic behaviour of members of the social network. In this special issue, both Sanders and Schyns, and Koster and Sanders examine inuence of social embedded-ness on employees outcomes. For instance, Sanders and Schyns focus in their article on the relationship between (the shared) perception of the leadership styles and employees horizontal and vertical solidarity behaviour. According to the self-categorization theory they elaborate that the more employees within the same team have the same perception concerning the leadership style of their supervisor, the more cohesive the team will be. Furthermore, they elaborate on the relationship between cohesiveness and employees horizontal and vertical solidarity behaviour, and expect different relationships between cohesiveness and horizontal solidarity behaviour on one hand, and cohesiveness and vertical solidarity behaviour, on the other hand. 3.3 The temporal context Temporal embedded-ness captures both the history and the (expected) future of relationships. To the extent that a relationship has a longer history, actors have had more opportunities to gain information about the reliability of the other and to learn from previous behaviour of the other. Besides this, relationship specic investments are an important result of a common history (Raub and Weesie, 1990, 2000). Relation specic investments can be described as investments by which the relationship becomes more valuable for both partners, such as investments in rm specic skills or in trust building with colleagues. These investments will be lost if an employee decides to accept an offer from another organization. Mutual relation specic investments reduce opportunistic behaviour and stabilize relationships (Williamson, 1975, 1996). Furthermore; a common future allows promising future rewards or threatening undesired behaviour with negative sanctions. In addition, as a result of the absence of a long-term perspective, positive


effects of social networks on cooperative behaviour may likewise decline. In a short-term labour relationship, positive and negative sanctioning between employees may come under pressure, because employees may have little interest to invest in the future quality of peer relationships. It can be expected that this will have a negative effect on employees outcomes like conict and cooperative behaviour. 4. Reciprocity of behaviour Reciprocity of behaviour seems to be a bit of a neglected topic in the employees outcomes included in this special issue. With respect to LMX, the mutual relationship between leader and member, that has been transferred to team-member (Seers, 1989) and co-worker exchange (Sherony and Green, 2002) recently, Sullivan et al. (2003, p. 189) put forward the norm of reciprocity in exchange processes (Blau, 1964). They argue that the norm of reciprocity serves to initiate and stabilize social interaction among exchange parties. In order to develop in a positive or negative direction, three factors have to be taken into account: equivalence, immediacy, and interest. In the following, we will describe these factors based on Sullivan et al. (2003) work and transfer their ideas to cooperative behaviour in general taking into account the behaviours described in this special issue. 4.1 Equivalence LMX research makes clear that it is important in social exchange processes that both parties attach the same value to what they get as to what they receive (Graen and Scandura, 1987). This testing of equivalence will be more important in the beginning of exchange than in the long run (Uhl-Bien et al., 2000). According to Uhl-Bien et al. (2000), as relationships mature from lower to higher quality, individuals move out of active testing processes of reciprocity, i.e. they cease keeping score and worrying about whether they are paid back and focus instead on mutual concerns within equivalent or immediate payback. We can transfer this idea to other types of organizational behaviour as well as to other targets. Taking as examples the behaviour focussed on in this special issue, we can derive that in order to establish solidarity behaviour and trust in the long run, the actors must perceive that they get something back for their behaviour which is of equal worth than what they give. The case is easy for solidarity behaviour, which is explicitly based on reciprocity (Schyns and Sanders; Koster and Sanders, both in this special issue): here employees expect to get back the same amount of solidarity behaviour they exhibit or perceive to exhibit. The same could be true for trust: trusting somebody will probably raise the expectation of being trusted by that same person[5]. The above outlines underline the importance of knowing towards whom certain behaviour is addressed: As underlined in this special issue, actors are as important as targets when it comes to organizational behaviour. 4.2 Immediacy When regarding exchange processes, the question of the time passed between a shown behaviour and the return may be of importance at least in the beginning of the exchange process. As Sullivan et al. (2003, p. 190) pose with respect to LMX:
As individuals begin to built trust in on another, the time span of reciprocation lengthens, and if the relationship reaches high quality, concern about when reciprocation occurs becomes less important.

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The same is probably true for solidarity behaviour. For trust, we have to take into account the differentiation made in this special issue into input, process, and output of trust (see Figure 2 in Dietz and den Hartog, in this special issue). Immediacy of return may play or role in the decision to exhibit risk taking behaviours. 4.3 Interest With interest, Sullivan et al. (2003) refer to the question of self-versus mutual inuence. They argue that in exchange relationship, the interest of a person changes from self-to mutual inuence. According to Liden et al. (1997), as relationship quality increases, interest will move from a focus of self-interest to a focus on mutual-interest, here the parties of exchange strive to obtain mutual benets. In the highest quality relationships, the interest focus is on the other member of the relationship, reected by an unselsh devotion and deep concern for the other. For solidarity behaviour, we would thus expect that employees might rst just want to gain solidarity behaviour from others to full their own interest whereas in the long run, solidarity behaviour is shown for the sake of the group, that is, to reach common goals. For trust, this is harder to imagine as they may imply a common interest in the rst place. Still, that may be dependent upon that person towards whom the behaviour is exhibited. We can conclude that equivalence, immediacy, and interest are of relevance in relationships in organizations in general. Thus, employee solidarity behaviour, conict handling and trust also depend on how employees value what they receive in turn, how fast they receive something in return and how the interests change in the long run. 5. In sum Although reciprocity in relationships is well recognised in the academic literature (Malinowski, 1922; Simmel, 1950; Levi-Strauss, 1957; Homans, 1958; Gouldner, 1960) seemingly little empirical work has been conducted on reciprocity in manager-subordinate and subordinate-subordinate relationships (Settoon et al., 1996; Sparrowe and Liden, 1997; Uhl-Bien and Maslyn, 2003). In this special issue, we try to ll in this gap and focus on the reciprocity within relationships to explain trust, conict and cooperative behaviour within organisations. The research presented in this special issue does not only contribute to the academic literature on employees outcomes, but offers also contribution to people in the eld for instance human resource managers in large or small organization. Koster and Sanders shows that supervisors play a key role in eliciting cooperative behaviours from their subordinates. They can do this directly because they can increase the solidarity behaviour of the team members by showing solidarity behaviour towards them. Since solidarity is reciprocal, a good move from the supervisor will be answered by a solidarity move from the subordinates. What is more, supervisors can also play a role in creating solidarity relationships among team members. Sanders and Schyns extend on the results of Koster and Sanders and focus on the relationship between the perception of leadership styles of supervisor and vertical and horizontal solidarity behaviour. In this study it was also found that consensus in the leaders perception within a team is an important stimulus for creating a cohesive in-group that enhances the solidarity behaviour among team members (e.g. horizontal solidarity behaviours). But cohesiveness within a team is only related to vertical solidarity behaviour if the supervisor is perceived as high transformational, that is a


leadership style where supervisor ask employees to transcend their own self-interest for the good of the group, and to consider their long-term needs to develop themselves, rather than their needs of the moment. In the condition that employees perceive their supervisor as low transformational, there is no clear relationship between cohesiveness and vertical solidarity behaviour. This means that managers who will motivate both horizontal and vertical solidarity behaviour within their organizations should enhance consensus in perception of the supervisor within teams, but should also enhance the relationship between supervisors and team members. The article of Dietz and Den Hartog offers people in the eld an overview of intra-organizational trust and distinguish between the form that trust can takes, the content of the trust belief, the sources of evidence and the identity of the recipient. The last article of De Reuver shows that manager conict behaviour with respect to the opponent behaviour varies depending on the opponents organizational position. This study suggests that the interaction between organizational power and behavioural power use should lead managers to reconsider carefully which approach they apply in dealing with a given conict. If managers are alert to the power features that trigger their behaviour, they are better able to make deliberate choices concerning their behaviour. The ndings of this study could be used in management training to improve manager skills in inuencing people at work. In sum, the different articles in this special issue show that it is important to examine the different relationships within organizations when examining attitudinal and behavioural employees outcomes.
Notes 1. Although studies of these employees outcomes together are rare, it seems obvious that they are interrelated to each other: the more commitment an employee has to the organisation, the more willingness her or she will have to cooperate, and on a theoretical level is more often than not assumed that cooperative behaviour cannot come without trust. 2. Although most formal and informal rules are included within institutional context in this introduction we only focus on the formal rules. 3. These three kinds of embedded-ness may be related to each other. For instance, tenure or career systems are part of the institutional context, but will also inuence the temporal embedded-ness of employees behaviors. Also, the social networks of employees within an organization may inuence temporal embedded-ness by shaping employees intention to stay or leave (and vice versa). 4. An example of modern formal governance is project careers, a career system used widely by Dutch banks (see for instance Sanders, 2004). In a project career, employees have a permanent contract but they are placed in successive short-term projects in order to increase their exibility and experience and thus their value for the employer. 5. Commitment and OCB on the other hand, are concepts that go beyond direct exchange. Still, also in these cases, we can assume that employees lessen their commitment and OCB when not receiving something of equal worth back from the persons they exhibit their behaviour towards. References Appelbaum, E. and Batt, R. (1994), The New American Workplace, ILR Press, Ithaca, NY. Azariadis, C. (1987), Implicit contracts, in Eatwell, J., Milgate, M. and Newman, P. (Eds), The New Palgrave: Allocation, Information and Markets, Macmillan, London, pp. 132-40.

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Tsui, A.S., Pearce, J.L., Porter, L.W. and Tripoli, A.M. (1997), Alternative approaches to the employee-organisation relationship: does investment in employees pay off?, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 40, pp. 1089-121. Tyler, T.R. (2001), Why do people rely on others? Social identity and social aspects of trust, in Cook, K.S. (Ed.), Trust in Society, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY. Uhl-Bien, M. and Maslyn, J.M. (2003), Reciprocity in manager-subordinate relationships: components congurations and outcomes, Journal of Management, Vol. 29, pp. 511-32. Uhl-Bien, M., Graen, G. and Scandura, T. (2000), Implications of leader-member exchange (LMX) for strategic human resource management systems: relationships as social capital for competitive advantage, in Ferris, G.R. (Ed.), Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management, JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp. 137-85. Van Emmerik, I.J.H. and Sanders, K. (2004), The effects of social embedded-ness on job performance of tenured and non-tenured professionals, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol. 14, pp. 40-58. Van Emmerik, H., Hermkens, P. and Sanders, K. (1998), Personeelsbeleid en rechtvaardigheidgevoelens van medewerkers, Gedrag en Organisatie, Vol. 11 No. 6, (HRM practices and feelings of justice of employees), pp. 385-400. Van Emmerik, H., Sanders, K. and Lambooij, M. (2002), The effects of social embedded-ness on job performance efforts of tenured and non-tenured professionals, Small Group Research, Vol. 33, pp. 702-17. Wickens, P.D. (1995), The Ascendant Organisation: Combining Commitment and Control for Long-term, Sustainable Business Success, Macmillan, Basingstoke. Williamson, O.E. (1975), Market and Hierarchies:Analysis and Antitrust Implications, Free Press, New York, NY. Williamson, O.E. (1996), The Mechanism of Governance, Oxford University Press, New York, NY. Williams, L.J. and Anderson, S.E. (1990), Job satisfaction and organizational commitment as predicators of organizational citizenship and in-role behaviors, Journal of Management, Vol. 17, pp. 601-17. Yukl, G. and Tracey, B. (1992), Consequences of inuence tactics used with subordinates, peers, and superiors, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 77, pp. 525-35. About the authors Karin Sanders is Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at the University of Twente, The Netherlands. Her research interests include the determinants and effects of solidarity behaviour, and how these solidarity behaviours within organizations can be inuenced by means of formal and informal governance structure. Karin Sanders is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: Birgit Schyns has been working as an assistant professor in the department of Human Resource Studies at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Recently, she changed to the department of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Twente, The Netherlands. Her research topics comprise leadership and career development. She has done research on antecedents and consequences of LMX in Germany and the Netherlands, as well as on biases in followers perception of leadership (e.g. mood, personality, implicit leadership theories).

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