Holtgrave, M., Nienaber, A. M., & Ferreira, C. (2017). Untangling the trust–control nexus in international buyer–supplier exchange relationships: An investigation of the changing world regarding relationship length. European Management Journal, 35(4), 523-537.

(Received Best Full Paper Award 2014 at the British Academy of Management in the Organizational Psychology Track)


Control and trust are the primary governance mechanisms buying organizations rely upon to organize and maintain their collaborative exchange relationships with foreign suppliers. But the question of how control and trust interrelate and should be pursued seems entangled and practical advice remains largely elusive. Based on empirical data on 212 recently- and long-established buyer-supplier exchange relationships in the textile industry, we test the relationship between three practices of interorganizational control (output, process, and normative controls), two dimensions of interorganizational trust (competence and goodwill trust), and relationship performance. Using structural equation modelling, we demonstrate the value of controls for building and validating trust to depend as much on the specific control practice deployed and dimension of trust observed, as on the temporal stage of the exchange relationship. Moreover, we reveal distinct performance effects of the different control practices and dimensions of trust. Herewith, this study allows for a comprehensive understanding of the trust-control nexus in collaborative exchange relationships between buyers and their foreign suppliers. Addressing managers, we reveal how normative controls can be used to build trust and promote performance at the start of the relationship, whereas output controls need time to reach their full potential. Process controls, in turn, are found to have adverse effects.

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Prof. Dr. Ann-Marie Nienaber
Professor in Human Resource Management and Organisational Behavior

Head of Research Group: Trust and Workplaces

Coventry University, United Kingdom
(Modern University of the Year 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations