The Role of Network Positions and Team Interaction Processes on Initial Trust Formation in Meetings

This paper belongs to Thematic Session 3 of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Lisa Handke, Technische Universität Braunschweig (Industrial/Organizational and Social Psychology)

Due to a lack of contextual cues and socio-emotional interactions, virtual teams depend on the development of swift trust (e.g., Brahm & Kunze, 2012; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999). Swift trust, in turn, is based on individual expectations which are tested and proven through actions at early stages of team development (Meyerson, Weick, & Kramer, 1996). Furthermore, initial trust formation strongly relies on attribution processes. Central to attributions of trustworthiness is perceived ability (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995). Competence, i.e. ability, is in turn often attributed to individuals displaying high dominance (Anderson & Kilduff, 2009).
An important context for the formation of initial trust in virtual teams are face-to-face kick-off meetings (Brahm & Kunze, 2012). Here, participation may not necessarily be equally distributed (cf., Sauer & Kauffeld, 2013). A measure which captures relative participation of team members in meetings is degree centrality (Sauer & Kauffeld, 2016). A person with a high degree centrality is described as a central actor in the the sense that she or he has the most ties (here: speaking turns) to others in the (meeting) network (cf. Wassermann & Faust, 1994). Numerous studies have linked degree centrality to influence and leadership processes, showing that members who participate more are perceived as influential by the rest of the group (Bass & Stogdill, 1990; Wheelan & Johnston, 1996). Consequently, a high degree centrality is reflected in a certain dominance of the conversation, which may in turn lead to high perceptions of trustworthiness by other team members. Accordingly, members low in centrality should show more trust in their team members than members high in centrality, who will not consider their (less dominant) team members as able and thus trustworthy.
In line with social exchange theory, positive exchanges in meetings increase group cohesion (Sauer & Kauffeld, 2016), which is in turn related to trust (Yukl, 2010). As trust is regarded as a socio-emotional process (Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004), we assume that positive socio-emotional statements exchanged during the team meeting will mitigate negative effects of high centrality.
In order to measure individuals’ degree centrality and team-level socio-emotional statements, we perform social network (cf. Sauer & Kauffeld, 2013) and interaction analyses (cf. Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012) on video-taped data obtained during 33 initial team meetings. Data of the entire sample will be analyzed by the time of the symposium. As hypothesized, first results of our multilevel analyses (n=12) with cross-level interactions show that degree centrality had a negative effect on individual evaluations of co-worker trust which was weakened by the team-level proportion of socio-emotional statements uttered during the meeting.
Our results highlight the relevance of early meeting interactions for individual-level trust perceptions. While structurally influential positions appear to negatively impact the trust in one’s co-workers, this negative effect can be alleviated by socio-emotional statements expressed by the team

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