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The Effect of Control Systems on Trust and Cooperation in Collaborative Environments

Angela L. Coletti, Karen L. Sedatole and Kristy L. Towry
The Accounting Review
Vol. 80, No. 2 (Apr., 2005), pp. 477-500
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4093066
Page Count: 24
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The Effect of Control Systems on Trust and Cooperation in Collaborative Environments
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Abstract

Because of conflicting incentives among participants, collaborations (e.g., strategic alliances, joint ventures, and work teams) present a significant control challenge to managerial accountants. On the one hand, formal controls such as sanctioning and monitoring systems improve cooperation by reducing the incentives for opportunistic behavior. On the other hand, prior research finds that the mere presence of a control system causes decision makers to view the collaborative setting as non-cooperative, and other collaborators as untrustworthy. In this paper, we conduct two experiments in which participants act as business collaborators. Through these experiments, we examine the effects of control on trust and cooperation in collaborative settings. Specifically, we posit and provide evidence that a strong control system can enhance the level of trust among collaborators. The mediating role of control-induced cooperation provides the mechanism by which control systems can increase trust in collaborative environments. Furthermore, we show that this increased trust has a positive effect on the subsequent level of cooperation among collaborators. Taken together, the results suggest an increasing marginal benefit of control system strength arising from the trust that control-induced cooperation engenders. The implication is that firms will choose to implement a stronger control system than previous research would seem to suggest.

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