Macquarie University
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Trust work in organisation-stakeholder relationships: three discourse analytic studies

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:43 authored by Heather Jackson
This thesis is about trust. Specifically it investigates how trust is established, developed and displayed in organisation-stakeholder relationships. The thesis is presented in the form of three studies, each based on a different organisation. The first study focuses on a newly established sustainability services consultancy which offers assurance of corporate, social and environmental performance and reporting. This study investigates how the consultancy lays the foundations for trusting client relationships by examining the proposals for work that are submitted to potential clients. The second study analyses an organisation-wide trust building strategy that is being implemented in a dental equipment supply organisation. The main aim of the strategy is to generate cultural change, improve manager-employee relationships and enhance productivity, thereby boosting the organisation's financial performance. This study examines how the social and discursive practices driven by the strategy offer both affordances and constraints to the development of trust across the organisation. The third study examines a case of established trust as displayed in the final meeting of a community liaison group that had been meeting for four-and-a-half years. It investigates how trust has been established in the group and how it is evidenced in the participants' meeting interactions. What ties these case studies together is the fact that each emanates from an organisation that takes a 'relational' orientation to organisational practice (Lozano, 2005) and as such prioritises the development of 'mutually beneficial stakeholder relationships' (Zadek, 2004). In each case, the organisations view trust as the key to these relationships. Trust is defined in this research as an interpersonal 'relational' phenomenon that is discursively constituted. Trust per se is seen as an outcome of parties making positive evaluations of each other's actions and interactions over time and in particular contexts. Several broad research questions arise from this conception of trust and form the basis of enquiry in this research. These include: What social and discursive practices can lead to parties positively evaluating each other's actions and interactions? What contextual conditions are likely to aid in the development of trust? In what ways is trust discursively and interactionally displayed? A variety of discourse analytic methodologies are employed in addressing these questions. Their selection is, in large part, dependent on the type of data collected at each research site. These methodologies are set within a multi-perspectival discourse analytic research framework (Crichton, 2010; Candlin & Crichton 2011; Hocking 2010; Candlin & Crichton, 2013a), which allows for consideration of the interplay between a range of perspectives that are relevant to the development of trust. These perspectives include: the social and institutional context; the purpose of interpersonal relationships; participants' prior experience with organisational practices and with each other; and participants' and analyst's 'narratives of experience' (Holmes, 2005; de Fina & Georgakopolou, 2008; Taylor et al, 2011). Overall, the findings of this research and indeed of work on trust theory in general, support a widely held view that interpersonal trust is a complex multi-faceted construct requiring multiple modes of analysis and interpretation (Chapter 2). Although there appear to be some general underlying principles that apply to interpersonal trust and to its typical trajectories, for example, that trust is held to develop over time (Barney & Hansen, 1994; Solomon & Flores, 2001) and is an outcome of shared experience and interaction (Solomon & Flores, 2001), nonetheless, the manner in which trust is mediated is context and site-specific and varies in situ. Using both ethnographic and discursive-interactional data, this thesis provides an empirically grounded contribution to trust research by offering 'descriptions, explanations and interpretations' (Fairclough 1992; 2010) of how relational trust can be developed in organisation-stakeholder relationships. In addition, it offers a practically relevant resource for organisations and practitioners wishing to integrate trust work into organisational practice.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Conceptualising relational trust, ontological perspectives -- 3. Theoretical framework, discourse analytic methodologies and research approach -- 4. Case study 1: Initiating trust in organisation-client relationships -- 5. Case study 2: Trust work: a strategy for building organisation-stakeholder trust? -- 6. Case study 3: A case of established trust in community relations -- 7. General conclusions and practical relevance -- Appendices.


Includes bibliographical references "December 2012 Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy"

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Alan Jones


Copyright Heather Jackson 2013. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (x, 270 pages)

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