Team trust is increasingly being recognized as important for team performance, but little is currently understood about how it develops and evolves over the course of a team's lifespan. Because trust and related team constructs are inherently dynamic, this represents a critical gap in the literature that needs to be addressed before team trust can be fully understood and effectively facilitated in practice. Of particular relevance to these gaps are action teams – those that come together to perform under time-constrained, yet often high-stakes conditions. While scholars have begun to explore how trust develops in these contexts, little is understood about how it evolves over time. As such, we propose a theoretical model of team trust in action teams that incorporates its dynamic nature, models the reciprocal relationship between team trust and team performance, delineates unique mediating pathways based on the team's progression in the multiphasic performance cycle, and considers the role of moderating influences that may strengthen or attenuate the impact of performance feedback on subsequent team trust. Specific research implications are discussed, providing a rich foundation for future empirical studies, and ultimately, the generation of evidence-based interventions for facilitating trust as teams cycle through multiple performance episodes over time.
Team trust can be defined as “a shared psychological state among team members comprising willingness to accept vulnerability based on positive expectations of a specific other or others” (Fulmer & Gelfand, 2012, p. 1174). As indicated, trust in teams is a multidimensional construct (Costa, 2003), comprising team members' positive expectations about each other's competence and motivations, as well as a shared acceptance of vulnerability based on the assumption that teammates will act in the best interest of the team. Consequently, trust can play a prominent role in how individuals work together, influencing a range of team processes and emergent states that are critical for team effectiveness (e.g., back-up behavior; Barczak, Lassk, & Mulki, 2010), making it a central construct for teams researchers to understand. While trust has traditionally been examined in relation to individuals, leaders, and organizations, scholars have recently begun to explore it within team settings as well. Fulmer and Gelfand (2012), for example, presented a review of the trust literature across levels, including the team level. Others have modeled the development of trust within the specific context of swift-starting action teams (Wildman et al., 2012). At this point, however, little is known regarding the progression of trust over time, particularly as the team cycles through performance episodes and experiences various contextual cues that can change team members' future interactions (e.g., trust violation). Because trust is critical throughout the duration of a team's existence, an understanding is needed not only of how it develops initially, but also of how it evolves, responds to different team experiences, and is maintained over time. Indeed, scholars have criticized the lack of investigation of emergent states in a more dynamic manner (Kozlowski, Chao, Grand, Braun, & Kuljanin, 2013). We thus draw from research that points to a more fluid and cyclical process, building on Marks et al.'s (2001) team process taxonomy and adapting it to the construct of team trust, whereby trust evolves and relates to team performance in unique ways at different points in the team's action-transition cycle. Our model is characterized by three major components: a focus on trust within action teams; exploration of a reciprocal relationship between team trust and team performance over time; and consideration of possible contextual influences (see Fig. 1).