Mutual Trust Between Leader and Subordinate and Employee Outcomes

Abstract

Stable and enduring cooperative relationships among people are primarily based on mutual trust. However, little evidence exists about the effects of mutual trust between supervisor and subordinate on work outcomes. To understand better the dynamics of trust in supervisor–subordinate relationships, we examined how mutual trust between supervisor and subordinate is associated with work outcomes. Based on a sample of 247 subordinate–supervisor pairs, multilevel analyses revealed a positive effect of perceived mutual trust on task performance and interpersonal facilitation after controlling for trust in leader and felt trust. In addition, task performance and interpersonal facilitation increased as trust in leader and felt trust or trust in subordinate both increased.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Mutual trust is also different from reciprocal trust, referring to ‘the trust that results when a party observes the actions of another and reconsiders one’s attitudes and subsequent behaviors based on those observations’ (Serva et al. 2005, p. 627). Reciprocal trust is not a distinct type of trust, but rather a dynamic process through which trust grows and diminishes between parties, whereas mutual presents a static picture of complementary trust between parties (Serva et al. 2005).

  2. 2.

    We tested cognitive and affective trust separately due to high correlations among the six trust dimensions (i.e., cognitive and affective trust in leader, cognitive and affective felt trust, and cognitive and affective mutual trust). Collinearity is not necessarily a problem, but may lead us to conclude that an independent variable does not significantly explain a dependent variable when it does, or to conclude that an independent variable significantly explains a dependent variable when it does not (Preacher and Hayes 2008). As a supplementary analysis, we entered both cognitive and affective trust dimensions (i.e., all six trust dimensions) in the same regression equation. The results show that affective mutual trust explains job performance above and beyond other trust dimensions (γ = .15, p < .05). For interpersonal facilitation, no trust dimension is significantly related above and beyond other trust dimensions.

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Correspondence to Junsong Chen.

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Kim, TY., Wang, J. & Chen, J. Mutual Trust Between Leader and Subordinate and Employee Outcomes. J Bus Ethics 149, 945–958 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3093-y

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Keywords

  • Mutual trust
  • Trust in leader
  • Felt trust
  • Task performance
  • Interpersonal facilitation