Research Summary

Building Effective Relationships Across Cultures



Trust is the foundation of any successful collaborative relationship. In my first stream of research, I draw on the basic distinction between cognition-based versus affect-based trust– that is, trust from the head versus trust from the heart – to better understand the foundation of effective business ties in the global economy. In a publication in the Academy of Management Journal, I examined the extent to which trust from the heart and trust from the head are associated with the resources that are exchanged in workplace relationships. I then build on these findings to examine cultural differences in the social structure of trust between Chinese and American managers. In a publication in the Journal of International Business Studies, I found that, consistent with arguments about familial collectivism and observations of Chinese networking behaviors, affect- and cognition-based trust are more intertwined in Chinese executives’ network relationships than in those of their American counterparts. In another article in the same journal, I examined how Chinese CEOs trust their overseas business partners, this time directly illuminating the intercultural dynamics of trust. A key finding here is that non-Chinese executives doing business in China suffers an affect-based trust deficit–Chinese managers are less likely to trust foreign partners from different cultures, and any trust that develops between people of different cultures tends to be fragile and easily diminished by situational factors (e.g., firm size). One key objective of this research stream is to advance a new trust-based perspective on the elusive concept of “guanxi” networks in the Chinese business culture, and to help non-Chinese executives doing business in China understand why it can be so challenging to build effective business ties with their Chinese counterparts.