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Most of the studies on trust in organisations have taken a cross-sectional approach (snapshot view) and looked at it at a single point in time. However, trust is a dynamic phenomenon and cross-sectional studies of trust are inadequate to meaningfully capture changes in trust and understand how it fluctuates over time in response to events and interpersonal interactions.

We have taken a longitudinal approach and followed the working relationships of 17 individuals over a seven month period. By interviewing people at three month intervals we have gained a real insight into their lived experience of trust or the lack of it, how judgements about trust are formed and how trust changes over time. Our intention in doing this research was not to offer frameworks or prescriptions, but rather to explore how people really experience trust or a lack of it and the emotional impact of changes in trust in some of their most important relationships at work. We hope that this will serve to encourage leaders and managers to think about and reflect on their own relationships in order to build high trust, healthier and more productive ones.

From the stories of 17 individuals, we have selected five that seemed most interesting to us (because the level of trust fluctuated significantly over the seven month period). We have produced the five stories in abridged form in this report both to shed a light on the lived experience of trust and as a lens through which readers may consider their own relationships. We have also analysed all the interviews using thematic analysis and identified eight trust-building behaviours.

The Lived Experience of Trust
By Meysam Poorkavoos, Carol Hatcher and Andy Smith

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