Frontpage  About
Paper info: Inter-firm trust: two theoretical dimensions versus a global measure


Inter-firm trust: two theoretical dimensions versus a global measure


Chris Medlin
University of Adelaide
Chris Medlin and Pascale Quester

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 18th IMP-conference in Perth, Australia in 2002.



Trust is an essential construct of actor bonds in the IMP framework (Håkansson andSnehota 1995), and is also known to be important for inter-firm relationships(Håkansson and Snehota 1995; Morgan and Hunt 1994).Trust has been conceptualised as a multi-dimensional construct in previous business-tobusinessresearch, with the two dominant theoretical dimensions of benevolence orgoodwill on the one hand (Ring and Van de Ven 1992) and confidence, credibility orpredictability that a partner may be relied upon, on the other (Anderson and Weitz1989). These theoretical dimensions are recognised in early inter-firm research bySchurr and Ozanne (1985) who used the inter-personal definition of trust developed byBlau (1964) and Rotter (1967).However, some doubt has arisen as to whether these theoretical dimensions exist, withDoney and Canon (1997) finding that they could not discriminate empirically betweenthe dimensions of benevolence and credibility. In addition, most papers have resorted toa global operationalization of trust, so discounting the question of dimensionality.After a review of some elements of trust and its measurement in the inter-firmliterature, this paper presents empirical evidence that trust can be treated as a globalmeasure for inter-firm research. This evidence is based on a survey of 83 principals anddistributor/agent firms from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. All firmswere involved in the business applications computer software industry, wheredevelopment of trust is a key element of successful inter-firm interaction.The paper concludes by discussing the implications for future inter-firm research andtheory development on trust formation.