Trust and distrust in buyer–supplier relationships: an exploratory experimental study

Jie Chen, Michael Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: Although trust and distrust as distinct phenomena are of increasing interest to operations and supply chain management (OSCM) scholars, they have been inconsistently conceptualized and there is a lack of evidence regarding the distinctiveness of their respective antecedents. This study, therefore, focuses on one of the most widely accepted dimensions of trust, benevolence, to help more fully analyse (supplier) trust and distrust (in a buyer) and explore the effects of relational norms and structural power as specific antecedents. Design/methodology/approach: The study employed a scenario-based role-playing experimental method. The proposed hypotheses were tested using structural equation modelling. Findings: The results that while relational norms increase supplier trust, power asymmetry can simultaneously generate supplier distrust, support the coexistence of supplier trust and distrust in a buyer–supplier relationship. Originality/value: This study is one of the first to explore the antecedents of supplier trust and distrust in a buyer. It demonstrates that supplier trust and distrust can coexist when the relationship is characterized by relational norms and asymmetrical power. This opens important questions for future trust–distrust research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-537
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2024


  • Antecedents
  • Buyer–supplier relationships
  • Dependence
  • Distrust
  • Power
  • Relational norms
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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