Distrust and suspicion are common and recurring problems within many organizations. Our understanding of the antecedents and consequences of such distrust and suspicion, however, remains far from complete. The present chapter addresses this issue by articulating a framework for conceptualizing the origins and dynamics of a heightened and exaggerated form of distrust and suspicion termed organizational paranoia. Drawing on recent social psychological theory and research, the framework identifies social cognitive processes that contribute to the development and maintenance of organizational paranoia. The framework also explicates a functionalist perspective on the role of paranoid cognition in organizations.
Early versions of these ideas were presented at the Bellagio Conference on Distrust, Russell Sage Foundation Workshop on Trust in Organizations, and Tutzing Conference on Trust in Society and Organizations.