Identifying Trust Exchange Dynamics and Constituents of Employee Trust within Management Consulting

Neve Abgeller*, Mark Saunders, Reinhard Bachmann, Aniel Mishra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Focusing on management consulting firms, this study scrutinises a core group of knowledge workers revealing the complexity and diversity of meanings attached to their trust-related decisions, emotions, and behaviours. Drawing on 50 interviews utilising critical incident technique with management consultants working in leading UK and USA consulting firms, the study offers insights into the complex nature of human interactions and their embeddedness in social contexts. The study provides context-specific insights into an environment that, despite its claims to nurture trust, is inherently riddled with tensions arising from internal competition. Three main constituents are highlighted: (1) trusting trustors and trustworthy trustees; (2) the cruciality of giving and receiving support; and (3) building relationships and developing networks. This study draws on Social Exchange Theory and critically assesses its heuristic explanatory power in the context of the management consulting industry. Further implications for future theory and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Early online date8 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • critical incident technique
  • knowledge workers
  • management consultants
  • social exchange theory
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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