Trust-control dynamics to optimise innovative behaviour

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The overarching purpose of this dissertation is to better understand trust-control/control-trust dynamics. Two independent studies were conducted. The first, qualitative study examined how trust-building is perceived by managers and employees in an organisational setting and how trust-building is influenced by control mechanisms. This study gleaned insights from semi-structured interviews with managers and employees (n=16) from a fifty-year old family-owned business in its 3rd generation. Using grounded theory, evidence of four distinct dimensions of managerial trust-building behaviours were found. Specifically, findings differentiate between (1)foundational, (2) organisational, (3) analytical, and (4) context-driven trust-building behaviours. Furthermore, (1) input, (2) action, and (3) output controls were identified to better understand how trust and control are integrated. Findings suggest that the complementary function of input, action and output controls on trust oscillates depending on context. More specifically, the role of control oscillates depending on the degree of autonomy and the competence gap that the manager determined through his/her analysis and interpretation of various factors. The data analysis of Study 1 also unearthed a plethora of benefits of trust, including increased levels of collaboration, productivity, and innovation. Building on these observations, sections of the developed grounded model were tested in a second, quantitative study to reach statistical generalisation. Specifically, a global online survey was conducted with 291 valid employee responses from 19 companies across Australia, North and South America, and Europe. Study 2 examined how the established control-trust dynamics influence employees’ innovative behaviour. First, results of this study confirmed a positive, complementary relationship between control mechanisms and trust and found evidence for partial mediation through the concept of felt versus wanted trust. Second, results indicated that this control-trust duality is partially contingent on leadership style. Finally, results showed that these relationships positively influence employee innovative behaviour. In sum, this dissertation sheds light on how control mechanisms, specifically managerial input, action, and output control, can be utilised to increase employees’ trust experience and therefore their inclination to behave innovatively.
Date of Award29 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJustin Craig (Supervisor) & Kenneth Moores (Supervisor)

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