Organization development and cultural values of trust in international contexts

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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to address the call for empirical research on trust and culture highlighted in the existing literature. This study empirically investigates the underlying cultural values of trust across multiple countries – the term used to describe specific cultural environments that have the potential to influence the way in which people demonstrate trust toward others – and then documents their subsequent influences on the success of organization development (OD) efforts in international contexts. Design/methodology/approach: Using data from multiple sources, this study conducts a series of empirical tests to investigate the underlying cultural values of trust in a large sample of 42 countries over the past 20 years (2000–2020). Then, the study further extends the findings to propose an empirically developed framework, namely, a country classification, which can be used to assess whether cultural environments in a specific country appear to support or impede trust behavior and the likelihood of success in implementing OD initiatives and interventions in international contexts. Findings: Trust is robustly related to cultural values. Specifically, people from countries with high power distance and uncertainty avoidance cultures tend to exhibit less trust in others, whereas those from countries with high individualistic and long-term oriented cultures are more likely to trust others. The country classification further demonstrates that Estonia, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands are the group of countries whose cultural values appear strongly consistent with the underlying cultural values of trust, implying a greater likelihood of success for OD efforts and interventions. On the other hand, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Mexico are the group of countries whose cultural values appear to differ significantly from the underlying cultural values of trust, suggesting potential obstacles for successful OD efforts and thus appropriate modifications of OD interventions are essentially needed. The results for other countries are also discussed. Practical implications: The findings offer several practical implications for the community of OD consulting, especially those who work internationally in cross-national consulting projects or deal with culturally diverse organizations. These include a more sophisticated understanding of the cultural environments that support or impede the willingness to trust in a specific foreign country, an evidence-informed strategy to design or adopt appropriate OD interventions that align with the cultural environments of a foreign country and a framework to assess and improve the likelihood of successful OD interventions in international contexts. Originality/value: To the author’s best knowledge, this is the first study to conduct an empirical examination of the influence of culture on trust in a comprehensive manner, subsequently providing a transitional bridge between two major strands of trust research in the current OD literature: trust serves as a necessary foundation for successful OD efforts and the willingness to trust can potentially be explained through cultural spheres. Second, this study explores trust behavior in international contexts and develops a country classification concerning the influence of culture on trust, both of which have never been accomplished in prior research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-544
Number of pages25
JournalReview of International Business and Strategy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 23 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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