The Simultaneous Impact of Trust and Distrust in SME export-import relationships

Frank Nyamrunda, Susan Freeman, Chris Medlin

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Considerable research has investigated the impact of trust and distrust in business relationships. However, much uncertainty still exists in how trust and distrust relate to each other in relationship development. The extant literature suggests that understanding of social mechanisms such as trust and distrust is very important for SMEs in establishing successful business relationships. In this paper, we draw on sociological theory, psychological theory and the process perspective on trust and distrust as foundational theories of trust building in a business relationship. The process perspective seems a useful approach to apply in this study we seek to understand how trust and distrust evolve over time in a relationship and why trust and distrust evolve in this way. We add to the trust building theories by suggesting that the impact of trust may depend on the extent to which distrust is present in a process of the business relationship development. Generally, distrust has been conceptualized as a simple reversal of trust. While trust is associated to distrust, this does not mean the two constructs are on a single dimension. We explore the idea that distrust is an orthogonal construct to trust. Distrust arises from a perception of incongruence between an organization’s /values and those of its partner. However, distrust may also exhibit in any specific focal area of the relationship. Though, the focal area of distrust may not be critical to the business relationship, the distrust will likely still shape relationship development. We conclude with directions for future research and management implications that incorporate both trust and distrust.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventIMP Asia Conference 2014 - Bali, Indonesia
Duration: 7 Oct 201410 Oct 2014


ConferenceIMP Asia Conference 2014


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