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How is organizational trust preserved during times of disruption? We address this question, building on the concept of active trust which views trust as an ongoing accomplishment constituted by reflexive actors. Drawing on a multi-case study of four organizations that experienced major disruption in response to the global financial crisis of 2009, we contribute to trust theory in three ways. First, we extend beyond the current focus on trust building and repair by developing conceptual understanding of trust preservation as a distinct phenomenon. Second, we develop a theoretical model that explains how organizational actors accomplish the preservation of employees’ trust in their organization. We identify three trust preservation practices used in the successful case organizations – cognitive bridging, emotional embodying and inclusive enacting – and show that organizational members’ understanding of the established foundations of trust in the organization, and their ability to mobilize these, are critical to the preservation of trust. Third, we position trust preservation as a manifestation and extension of active trust, and show that for trust to be preserved in disruptive contexts, both familiarization and transformation of existing trust practices are required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1433
Number of pages25
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number9
Early online date10 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • employee trust
  • organizational disruption
  • trust in organizations
  • trust preservation
  • Sustainability
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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