Importance of Building Trust in the Workplace: Study on the Moderating Role of Trust in the Outgroup | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

Summary of:

Halabi, S., Dovidio, J. F., & Nadler, A. (2021). When intergroup helping helps intergroup relations: The moderating role of trust in the outgroup. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 95, 104141. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2021.104141

Background & Theory

Trust is a factor that can moderate how a member of a low-status group responds to help offered by a member of a high-status group. Since trust involves the readiness of the low-status group to take the risk of being vulnerable to a high-status group’s actions, this vulnerability can be costly when the high-status group’s motives are manipulative. However, when the assistance is coming from a place of true intent, it can be a great opportunity to improve intergroup relations. Help is something that can be interpreted positively or negatively, and therefore trust affects how help is perceived in a situation of inter-group conflict. This mediating role of trust is hence studied in the context of Arab-Israelis in this study.

Research Question(s)

The researchers sought to examine:

    1. The potential moderating role of individual differences in the level of trust Israeli- Arabs feel toward Israeli-Jews on the reactions of Israeli-Arabs to a scenario in which an Israeli-Jewish job applicant offered or did not offer assistance to an Israeli-Arab job applicant.


The authors recruited 109 Israeli-Arab high school students because in early adolescence children are particularly susceptible to group-based biases. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire where three items of primary interest measured trust in Jews. (a) “I trust promises made by Jewish leaders,” (b) “I really believe that Jews are sincere in their desire to live in peace with Arabs,” and (c) “One just can’t trust Jews” (reversed).

For the evaluation of the Israeli-Jewish applicant measure, participants were asked to rate Danny, the Israeli-Jewish applicant, on six 7-point bipolar adjective scales. For the evaluation of Israeli-Jews in general, participants were asked to rate how they perceived Israeli-Jews in general on five, 7-point bipolar adjective scales.

In the second part of the study, participants were asked to evaluate responses to a scenario in which a job applicant was identified by a common Arab name. Participants read that Ahmad either received or did not receive help from Danny, an Israeli- Jew. Specifically, in the paragraph participants were informed that Ahmad “just finished his major in management” and was “applying to a highly competitive job in a well-known governmental company.” Ahmad, the Israeli-Arab applicant was, along with two Jewish applicants, taking tests that were indicative of skills in “solving complex problems, an ability that is central to the job desired.”

For half of the participants, the Arab applicant was described as receiving help from Danny, the Israeli-Jewish applicant, who realized that “Ahmad was anxious and not doing well in the test,” so he decided to help Ahmad overcome his anxiety by offering guidance for answering a few questions. In the no help condition, participants were simply told that the Israeli-Jewish applicant, after finishing the evaluation tests, left the room. After the helping manipulation occurred, participants were asked to answer a “few questions regarding the case they have just read.”


The analysis revealed that Israeli-Arab participants with greater trust in Jews reported more favorable evaluations of the Jewish applicant. Israeli-Arab participants higher in trust expressed a more positive orientation toward reconciliation with Israeli-Jews overall. The researchers found that while greater trust predicted more favorable evaluations, trust more strongly predicted positive intergroup responses (evaluation of the Israeli-Jewish applicant, Israeli- Jews in general, and interest in reconciliation) in the condition in which the member of the Israeli-Jewish outgroup actively offered assistance (the help condition) than when he did not take the opportunity to offer help (the no help condition).

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. Build Trust– In this case, the participants being studied were two historically conflicted communities, whereas in the workplace the hierarchy is often between organizational ranks or departments. Employees are more likely to ask for the help of their managers or colleagues if they trust them. Especially young career professionals who wish to show that they have it all together and are less likely to ask for help need reinforcement that they can reach out and be vulnerable. Active communication steps need to be taken to ensure that this trust is built. This will also ensure that the organization is more efficient and effective, as employees are able to discuss roadblocks and challenges with more vulnerability, which will ultimately lead to better problem-solving.
  2. Earn Trust– Companies can invest in team-building activities and build a culture of trust through many routes, but ultimately, employees will only feel safe when they can really trust their reporting managers and supervisors. Cultural change on the outside does not do much if the individual change is still missing. To ensure that managers rise to the occasion, the workplace must invest in their abilities to resolve conflicts and truly embrace diversity. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to enhance the interpersonal trust quotient of your organization and make your workplace more inclusive!

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.

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