Group Decision and Negotiation

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 723–752 | Cite as

Is Trust Always Better than Distrust? The Potential Value of Distrust in Newer Virtual Teams Engaged in Short-Term Decision-Making

  • Paul Benjamin Lowry
  • Ryan M. Schuetzler
  • Justin Scott Giboney
  • Thomas A. Gregory


The debate on the benefits of trust or distrust in groups has generated a substantial amount of research that points to the positive aspects of trust in groups, and generally characterizes distrust as a negative group phenomenon. Therefore, many researchers and practitioners assume that trust is inherently good and distrust is inherently bad. However, recent counterintuitive evidence obtained from face-to-face (FtF) groups indicates that the opposite might be true; trust can prove detrimental, and distrust instrumental, to decision-making in groups. By extending this argument to virtual teams (VTs), we examined the value of distrust for VTs completing routine and non-routine decision tasks, and showed that the benefits of distrust can extend to short-term VTs. Specifically, VTs seeded with distrust significantly outperformed all control groups in a non-routine decision-making task. In addition, we present quantitative evidence to show that the decision task itself can significantly affect the overall levels of trust/distrust within VTs. In addition to its practical and research implications, the theoretical contribution of our study is that it extends to a group level, and then to a VT setting, a theory of distrust previously tested in the psychology literature in the context of completing non-routine and routine decision tasks at an individual level.


Trust Distrust Virtual teams Team performance Decision making Decision quality 



We acknowledge and appreciate previous work, edits, and reviews from several academics who have made this article possible: John Romney, Bonnie Anderson, Linn Van Dyne, Anil Aggarwal, Jeffrey L. Jenkins, David Wilson, Laura Rawlins, and Whitney Lindsley.

Supplementary material

10726_2014_9410_MOESM1_ESM.doc (252 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Benjamin Lowry
    • 1
  • Ryan M. Schuetzler
    • 2
  • Justin Scott Giboney
    • 3
  • Thomas A. Gregory
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Information SystemsCity University of Hong KongKowloon TongHong Kong, China
  2. 2.Eller College of ManagementUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.School of BusinessUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  4. 4.Center for Process InnovationGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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