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Trust is key in working relationships. But recent research shows that the more similar you are to co-workers, the less likely you are to trust them.

Wondering what factors build interpersonal trust between peer coworkers, Tony Ammeter, Ph.D., a University of Missouri-Rolla engineering management professor, surveyed diverse teams of MBA students for four months as they worked together on class assignments. His findings, presented recently to the Southern Management Association, indicate that students with similar job backgrounds were significantly less likely to trust each other than those with differing backgrounds.

"There may be some professional jealousy" Ammeter says, suggesting that people may feel threatened by coworkers who could know more about their area of expertise. Fortunately, this distrust dissipated over time. Ammeter suggests that during team-building, workers "exchange information about individuals' abilities, and convey that their intentions are good for the team."

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