Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Reconceptualization and Measurement of Workplace Interpersonal Distrust

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Michael Zickar (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Paul Schauer (Other)

Third Advisor

Margaret Brooks (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

William O'Brien (Committee Member)


Though many studies have focused on trust, its counterpart, distrust, has been largely ignored. The relative dearth of distrust studies may be the result of early assumption that distrust represents an absence of trust. Nevertheless, recent reviews have pointed out that distrust is not the opposite of trust, but rather a distinct construct (e.g., Lewicki, Tomlinson, & Gillespie, 2006). Moreover, though distrust was traditionally viewed as “bad,” researchers (e.g., Lewicki, McAllister, & Bies, 1998) suggested that distrust keep people vigilant and promotes healthy suspicion, which results in positive influences in organizations. Given the importance of interpersonal distrust, many researchers suggested investigations of distrust (e.g., Lumineau, 2015). However, the lack of valid distrust measure impedes distrust research. The current study makes an initial and essential step to fill the gap in literature by systematically reviewing previous studies about interpersonal distrust and reconceptualizing interpersonal distrust based on previous studies. Then this study develops an interpersonal distrust scale following standard scale development guidelines (e.g., Clark & Watson, 1995; Hinkin, 1995). The new scale demonstrates good psychometric properties, such as Cronbach’s Alpha in classical test theory and item discrimination in item response theory. The nomological network of distrust indicates that distrust and trust are only moderately correlated. Furthermore, the two constructs also show differential relation patterns with relevant variables (e.g., OCBI, CWBI, and risk-taking). These provide empirical evidences that trust and distrust are distinct constructs.