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Distrust: Not Only in Secret Service Organizations

Journal article
Authors S. Siebert
Barbara Czarniawska
Published in Journal of Management Inquiry
Volume 29
Issue 3
Pages 286-298
ISSN 1056-4926
Publication year 2020
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Pages 286-298
Language en
Keywords actor-network theory, distrust, objects and quasi-objects, secret, service organizations, trust, integrative model, call center, trust, surveillance, resistance, level, Business & Economics
Subject categories Economics and Business


In this article, we discuss the issue of distrust in the most extreme example of distrustful organizations: secret service organizations. Distrust may be a basic organizing principle in such organizations, but how is it produced and maintained? Inspired by actor-network theory, we analyzed the devices, codes, rules, and procedures used in secret service organizations, and then asked whether these devices, codes, rules, and procedures differ from those used inordinaryorganizations. Based on our analysis, we make two contributions. First, we draw researchers' attention to distrust that is intentionally built and maintained rather than distrust that is accidental and indicative of faulty management. Second, we identify the material manifestations of distrust. We argue that in future studies of trust and distrust in organizations, it will be necessary to focus on the technologies, physical objects, and quasi-objects. These, together with discourses, guarantee the stability of connections among organizational actions.

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