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An exploration of team trust in culturally diverse teams

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


As organizations expand into the global marketplace, there is an increasing need for a globally mobile talent pool. The trust placed by an individual in their employing organization is fundamental in the decision to relocate globally. Similarly, the trust between international workers is critical to successful international work. Despite trust and global mobility being well established topics, the intersection remains under-researched. At the individual level, i.e., interpersonal, trust is defined as “a psychological state that comprises the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour of another” (Rousseau et al., 1998: 395), where the parties engage in risk-taking activities after having evaluated their target’s trustworthiness (Mayer et al., 1995). Trust becomes simultaneously more important yet more challenging to develop and maintain in a team setting (Grossman and Feitosa, 2018). Trust at the team level represents the aggregated degree of trust shared with sufficient consensus among members in a team (Costa, 2003; Fulmer and Gelfand, 2012). Furthermore, team trust increases satisfaction with the team (Chou, Wang, Wang, Huang, and Cheng, 2008) and proactive idea implementation and problem-solving (Parker, Williams, and Turner, 2006). There was limited focus paid to how shared experience, manifested in a team climate, emerged to demonstrate trust between team members. Concomitantly, how shared experience contributes to interpersonal trust (Mӓkelӓ and Brewster, 2009) has not been explored. This dearth is surprising, since team trust is a well-established phenomenon within the broader trust literature. Furthermore, while research on trust within teams is well established, there is a need to explore culturally and ethnically diverse teams. The expatriation context offers opportunities for such research. Within the global mobility literature, most studies have examined trust between host country nationals and expatriates during the international work experience only. The study may also consider how team trust can be encouraged as shared experience could contribute to interpersonal trust. While team trust has been examined extensively in the trust literature, there is a lack of consideration within an expatriate context. Research has established that consensus among team members is critical for trust (Costa, 2003; Fulmer and Gelfand, 2012). This consensus is harder to achieve in culturally diverse teams. This topic provides an exciting avenue for research within the trust and global mobility literature streams because there is a gap in both fields that considers the context of culturally diverse teams. Trust in a culturally diverse team setting is an essential aspect of expatriate adjustment and performance and is thus worthy of exploration. The global mobility literature has grown exponentially in recent years as globalization becomes a reality for many organizations (Guo and Al Ariss, 2015), pointing to an ever-shifting context in which people are managed. A feature of this shifting context is the need for a globally mobile workforce. We continue to witness changing forms of expatriation, for example self-initiated expatriates (Suutari and Brewster, 2000), hidden expatriates (Haak-Saheem and Brewster, 2017) and inpatriates (Dickmann and Baruch, 2011) to name but a few. A shared feature among these workers is the significance of undertaking international work and the trust between diverse cultural teams. In the context of global mobility, trust fosters a willingness to engage with cultural differences, whereas a lack of trust may lead to ineffectual international work. Thus, there is a need to develop our understanding of the role that trust plays in international work to surface practices which influence trust.

Application Enquiries:

Entry qualifications

An applicant should normally hold a Master’s degree at distinction or merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification. International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements.

How to apply

Please visit our how to apply page for a step-by-step guide and make an application.

Application deadline: Friday 30 June 2023.

Fees and funding

This opportunity is for self-funded PhD students. Applicants are encouraged to apply for external funding and we will support this process if and when required. Find out about fees and funding for PhD projects.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Dr Nadia Kougiannou