SUBORDINATE TRUST IN SUPERVISOR AND ORGANIZATION: EFFECTS ON SUBORDINATE PERCEPTIONS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL EMPOWERMENT
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT STUDIES
SUBORDINATE TRUST IN SUPERVISOR AND ORGANIZATION: EFFECTS ON SUBORDINATE PERCEPTIONS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL EMPOWERMENT
JEL Classification: M 0 1 2
0 Fatih SEMERCIOZ School of Business, Istanbul University , Istanbul TR-34320 , Turkey
1 Adem GULDEN Management and Organization, Institute of Social Sciences, Istanbul University Istanbul , TR-34452 , Turkey
2 Mine Afacan FINDIKLI Management and Organization, Institute of Social Sciences, Istanbul University Istanbul , TR-34452 , Turkey
This research examines the relationship between psychological empowerment and trust in organization and supervisor. In order to find out about the relationship among study variables, a research group has been formed among the employees of three companies operating in the field of infertility treatment in medicine industry and supplying hormones for follicular development. First, variables of trust in organization and supervisor have been dealt with regarding demographic factors. It has been investigated that there is no significant difference in terms of position, experience and age, whereas, given trust in supervisor, there is a significant difference in terms of gender and education. Then, relationships between the variables have been focused on. The findings have revealed there is a strong and positive relationship between trust in supervisor and the subordinate perceptions of psychological empowerment in terms of meaning and competence factors. Trust factor as an intervening variable is thought to have an effect on the perceptions of psychological empowerment.
psychological empowerment; trust; supervisor; organization
In an environment of ever-increasing competition, it is vital that employees incorporate their
creative and innovative skills for the accomplishment of organizational goals
Pfeffer ,1999; Laschinger et al., 2001; Chan et al., 2008)
. Empowerment is one of the concepts
taken into consideration in order to construct such an organizational context. Having internalized
organizational goals, empowered employees go beyond formally defined roles, feel eager to follow
and adapt to changes, and become successful
(Berlew, 1986; Conger, 1989; Cole, 1995;Randolph,
1995; Dobbin, 1999; Day, 1999; Kotter, 1999)
. Another concept is trust which plays a vital role in
employees utilizing the knowledge and competencies they possess so as to realize organizational
goals. Furthermore, it is necessary for proper interaction and cooperation between supervisors and
subordinates as well as for the proper operation of the organization as a whole (Costa ve
Literature review indicates that previous research mainly focused on the effects of empowerment
on trust and the relationship between them from the perspectives of managers for organizational
(Gomez&Rosen, 2001; Laschinger& Finegan, 2005; Moye&Henkin, 2005)
Therefore, these two concepts should also be considered from subordinate perspectives in order to
clarify their relationship with each other. It is also vital to understand the nature of empowerment
and how it functions and relates to trust for the success of empowerment efforts. Therefore, this
research focuses on the relationship between empowerment and trust, and the effects of trust on
empowerment. The purpose of this research is to analyze the relationships between subordinate
trust in supervisor and organization, and their perceptions of psychological empowerment.
2. THEORATICAL BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESES
Empowerment is examined from relational and motivational aspects
(Conger& Kanungo, 1988)
Relational empowerment can be regarded as a process in which leaders or managers share the
power they have with their subordinates. Feeling empowered, employees start to play their part
(Lin, 1998; Herrenkohl et al., 1999)
. Thus, empowerment helps them focus on goals,
making them concentrate more on their roles, communicate with one another more effectively and
. Motivational empowerment refers to the motive to influence and
. Individuals’ need for power – motivational power – has
its essence in an internal need for self-determination or feeling of self-efficacy. Having therefore
addressed this need, employees can be motivated in such a way that they contribute to company
(Borowski, 1998; Willis, 1999; Arslantaş, 2008)
Thomas&Velthouse (1990) stresses that empowerment involves giving power or energy. In their
cognitive model they focus on the question whether employees feel empowered or not, coming up
with four cognitive elements to answer this question: sense of impact, competence,
meaningfulness, and choice. Spreitzer (1995) uses similar dimensions to those of Thomas and
Velthouse: meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact. Meaning, in terms of
individual’s own ideals and standards, is the value attached to the goal of the task carried out
(Thomas ve Velthouse, 1990). Furthermore, meaning is the harmony between what the role of a
task requires and beliefs, values, and behaviors (Spreitzer, 1995). Competence is the equivalent of
the concept of self-efficacy in the model Conger&Kanungo (1988) have proposed. It is the belief
that an individual has as to the capability of carrying out a task skillfully. Self-determination is
individual’s sense of choice in what path to take and how to make way. Impact points to the degree
to which an individual can affect strategic, managerial and operational outcomes (Spreitzer, 1995).
Research shows that practices of employee empowerment contribute to managerial and
(Conger&Kanungo, 1988; Laschinger et al., 2001; Chan et al., 2008)
and increase commitment, having employees assume more responsibility and work for higher
quality goods and services
(Lin, 1998; Hellinghausen & Myers, 1998)
. Furthermore, empowered
employees, in the long term, help to reduce the costs of organization and increase quality, while in
the short term they contribute to improving customer satisfaction, thus helping the organization
gain a place in today’s global business world (Hellinghausen& Myers,1998). By this way, it is
observed that organizations acquire flexibility for responding quickly to changes around them
(Willis, 1999), and sales figures are seen to increase and less compensation demanded by
employees (Day, 1999).
Among the factors affecting psychological empowerment are organizational rank, leader
approachability, group value, group effectiveness
(Koberg et al., 1999)
(Houghton&Yoho, 2005), ethical leadership behaviors (Zhu et al., 2004), leader-member exchange
(Kim&George, 2005), cultural values (Kirkman &Shapiro, 2001). Trust is regarded as another
factor affecting psychological empowerment
(Tjosvold et al., 1998; Gomez&Rosen, 2001;
Ergeneli et al., 2007; Chan et al., 2008; Arslantaş&Dursun, 2008)
Trust is a concept which many researchers tried to come up with a definition (Lewicki et al.,
2006). In one of them Mayer et al. (1995:712) define trust as “the willingness of a party to be
vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a
particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other
party.” In another,
Rousseau et al. (1998
:395) define trust as “a psychological state comprising the
intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of
Lewicki et al. (1998)
define trust as confident, positive expectations regarding the action
of the other party. Ellis&Shockley-Zalabak (2001) also regard trust as a positive expectation based
on the other party’s behavior as to their roles, relationships, experiences, and interdependence.
Shapiro et al. (1992) depict trust from an interactional perspective, i.e. in terms of
interdependence, risk and vulnerability.
Based on some trust definitions and models proposed, it can be said that trust involves at least two
parties and a variety of factors affecting the trust relationship between them: ability, benevolence
(Mayer et al., 1995)
, organizational leadership and organizational competence,
openness and integrity, concern and reliability the leader shows for the members of the
organization, trustworthiness, and identification
Shockley-Zalabak state that trust consisting of these factors increases employee identification with
the organization, improving organizational performance. Moreover, trust-based relationship
between subordinates and supervisors plays an important role in acting for the accomplishment of
organizational goals in cooperation, increasing efficiency and productivity in the organization as a
(Semerciöz et al., 2010, Brower et al., 2009)
. This research focuses on subordinate trust in
supervisor and organization.
2.2.1. Subordinate trust in supervisor
That a subordinate trusts his/her supervisor increases work performance and contributes to
organizational citizenship behavior, encouraging the subordinate to maintain the relationship and
remain with the organization
(Colquitt et al., 2007; Brower et al., 2009)
and make an extra effort to
create value for the organization (Mayer&Gavin, 2005). Tan&Tan (2000) state that there is a
positive relationship between trust in supervisor and the factors of ability, benevolence and
integrity. Moreover, when a trust-based environment is composed and maintained, subordinate’s
sense of responsibility (Cropanza&Mitchell, 2005) and commitment improve
(Brower et al.,
Such a trust also increases subordinates’ future expectation of benevolence, leading extra
motivation on their side and making them do their best
(Dirks& Ferrin, 2002)
subordinates with no trust in their supervisor will not feel encouraged to make any extra effort to
carry out their role properly or assume extra responsibility in an excessively structured
environment with too much external control and lack of trust and care
. In this research, it is hypothesized that subordinate trust in supervisor will
affect subordinate perceptions of psychological empowerment:
H1: There is a positive and significant relationship between subordinate trust in supervisor and
subordinate perceptions of psychological empowerment.
2.2.2. Subordinate trust in organization
As organizations grow larger in terms of human resources, so does organizational trust rather than
interpersonal trust gain importance; for social relations becomes more complex and differentiation
more noticeable, making interpersonal trust insufficient
(Lewis&Weigert, 1985; Shamir&Lapidot,
.Organizational trust can be defined as what employees perceive as to organizational
(Gambetta, 1988; Tan& Tan, 2000)
and it affects organizational perceptions
. Trust in organization plays an important role in organizational stability and
employee welfare (Cook&Wall, 1980). When perceived trustworthy, organizations are thought to
be supportive, constructive and at least harmless. Organizations treating employees unfairly, not
appreciating their contributions can decrease employee trust, commitment and job satisfaction,
(Driscoll, 1978; Tan&Tan, 2000)
To create organizational trust it is vital that organizations make employees feel supported by the
organization, providing them with such material rewards as increasing their income and autonomy
at work (Tan&Tan, 2000; Kim et al., 2004). Creating a trust-based environment is also functional
for organizations themselves as it improves organizational effectiveness and the ability to survive
(Whitener et al., 1998; Gilbert&Tang, 1998)
. Hubbell&Chory-Assad (2005) propose that
organizational trust can be improved through fair assessments based on fair organizational
procedures. In this research, it is hypothesized that subordinate trust in organization will positively
affect subordinate perceptions of psychological empowerment:
H1: There is a positive and significant relationship between subordinate trust in organization and
subordinate perceptions of psychological empowerment.
The population of the research consists of companies operating in medicine industry in Turkey and
supplying hormones for follicular development in the field of infertility treatment. In this field
there are totally five companies, three of which have been focused in this research, and they are
also international companies with a highly institutionalized level. The three companies had 112
personnel in the marketing of the products at the time this research was being conducted. The
participants were qualified managers and employees specialized in their fields, as their target is
made up of specialist doctors. Their demographic information can be found in “findings” section.
Survey technique was used for data collection and totally 86 survey forms were returned with the
percentage of 76%, all of which were considered appropriate for the analysis.
3.2. Research scales
Psychological Empowerment Scale: The empowerment scale developed by Spreitzer (1995) was
used in order to measure the perceptions of psychological empowerment of the participant. The
scale was translated from English into Turkish and used as it is. It has four dimensions – meaning,
competence, self-determination and impact – with a total of 12 statements. Statements were
responded through a five-point Likert-type scale – 1, being completely disagree; 5, being
completely agree. As the survey was a translated version, a factor analysis was conducted to check
its validity. As a result of the analysis, one of the questions was omitted from the survey. The four
factors of the original scale were reduced to three, combining self-determination and impact as
one: (1) meaning, (2) competence, and (3) self-determination&impact. Meaning factor, whose
explained total variance is 27.87, consists of three statements. The factor loads vary from .925 to
.753. Competence factor, whose explained total variance is 24.44, consists of five statements. The
factor loads vary from .864 to .670. Self-determination& impact factor, whose explained total
variance is 20.57, consists of three statements. The factor loads vary from .875 to .755. As a result
of the reliability analysis Cronbach alfa coefficient is found to be .77. As a result of the reliability
analyses of the sub- factors, their Cronbach alfa coefficients are as follows: that of meaning factor:
.88; competence: .80; self-determination&impact: .81.
Trust Scale: The trust scale developed by Erdem&Özen (2009) was partly used (trust in
supervisor part of their organizational trust scale) in order to measure subordinate trust in
supervisor. This part of the scale consists of 19 statements, one of which was left out as its factor
loads were overlapped. The Cronbach alfa coefficient of the scale is found to be .97. Considering
the sub-factors of the scale, the Cronbach alfa coefficient of the competence factor with eight
statements is .97. The explained total variance of the competence factor is 33.49. The factor loads
vary from .883 to .622. The Cronbach alfa coefficient of the mentorship factor with seven
statements is .91 and the explained total variance is 32.45. The factor loads vary from .861 to .707.
The Cronbach alfa coefficient of the fairness factor with tree statements is .91. The explained total
variance of the fairness factor is 17.91. The factor loads vary from .818 to .595.
Organizational trust scale: The organizational trust scale developed by
Nyhan & Marlowe
was used in order to measure subordinate trust in organization. This scale has four
statements. The Cronbach alfa coefficient of the scale is found to be .87, indicating that the scale is
reliable. As a result of the explanatory factor analysis the explained total variance is 72.54. One
factored construct has been confirmed and the factor loads vary from .867 to .818.
The collected data have been classified and analyzed in SPSS version 13. Means and standard
deviation have been calculated; and correlation, regression analyses and t-test have been
The demographic information of the 86 respondents involved in the analysis is as follows: female
54.7% (N=47), male 45.3% (N=39); regarding age ranges: ages 19-25 8.1% (N=7), ages 26-30
25.6% (N=22), ages 31-40 62.8% (N=54), ages 41-50 3.5% (N=3); regarding average job
experience: 1-5 years 26.7% (N=23), 6-10 years 24.4% (N=21), 11-15 years 48.8% (N=42);
regarding tenure: 0-5 years 89.5% (N=77), 6-10 years 9.3% (N=8), 11-15 years 1.2% (N=1);
regarding positions: sales managers 40.7 (N=35), product managers 10.5% (N=9), sales
representatives 30.2% (N=26), HR specialists 8.1% (N=7), sales assistants 10.5% (N=9); regarding
education: high school graduates 2.3% (N=2), graduates 74.4% (N=64), postgraduates 11.6%
(N=10), PhDs 11.6% (N=10).
First, data as to trust in supervisor and organization, meaning, competence, and
selfdetermination&impact were analyzed in terms of means, standard deviation and correlations
As a result of the correlation analyses, this research has found a positive and significant
relationship between trust in supervisor and organization (r=.37, p<.01). There is also a positive
and significant relationship between meaning and trust in supervisor (r=.41, p<.01) as well as
between competence and trust in supervisor (r=.86, p<.01). Therefore, it partially supports our first
hypothesis that there is a positive and significant relationship between subordinate trust in
supervisor and subordinate perceptions of psychological empowerment in terms of meaning and
competence factors of subordinate. On the other hand, correlation matrix shows that there is a low
level of positive and significant relationship between self-determination&impact and trust in
organization (r=.29, p<.01); consequently it does not support our second hypothesis that there is a
positive and significant relationship between subordinate trust in organization and subordinate
perceptions of psychological empowerment.
1.Trust in organization 4.26
2. Trust in supervisor
* p< .01
Then, t-test has been conducted to find out the differences among the participants in terms of
demographics such as gender, position, education, job experience, and age (Table 2). Regarding
demographical variables, it has been found that there is a significant difference among groups in
terms of gender and education as to the level of trust in supervisor.
According to the t-test results, the research has found no significant difference in terms of position,
experience, and age of the respondents’ demographics and trust in supervisor and organization. On
the other hand, considering trust in supervisor there is a significant difference in terms of gender
(p: .001)** and education (p: .034)*. In light of these results, it can be said that female employees
trust their supervisors more than male ones, and employees of bachelor level trust their supervisors
more than those of graduate level.
Table 3 shows the results of the regression analysis conducted as to the effects of trust in
supervisor and organization on the “meaning” factor of psychological empowerment. Regression
model is significant (F= 8.58, p< .01). The variables account for 15% of the total variance.
Considering trust factors there is a positive and significant relationship only between trust in
supervisor and meaning factor (β = .42, p<.01). Trust in supervisor affects psychological
empowerment in terms of meaning.
empowerment. Regression model is not significant. Trust in supervisor and organization does not
affect psychological empowerment in terms of self-determination&impact.
According to the results of the analyses, on testing the hypotheses it is seen that Hypothesis 2 has
been rejected. There is not a significant relationship between subordinate trust in organization and
psychological empowerment. Hypothesis 1 has been partly accepted. Trust in supervisor affects
psychological empowerment in terms of meaning and competence.
5. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
According to the research carried out by Chan et al. (2008:461), “subordinates’ trust has been
found to be a significant psychological state which relates positively to the extent of perceived
empowerment by employees”. Furthermore, another study by Ergeneli et al. (2007:41) revealed “a
significant relationship between cognition-based trust in immediate managers and overall
psychological empowerment”. Ergeneli and her colleagues found that cognition-based trust related
to meaning and competence aspects whereas affect-based trust related to impact only; but no
relationship was identified between any types of trust in immediate manager and
Having analyzed the relationships between the variables, Hypothesis 2 has been rejected while
Hypothesis 1 has been partially accepted. According to the results of the analysis, trust in
supervisor positively affects the participants’ psychological empowerment in terms of meaning
and competence, which has been consistent with the results of the research done by
Gomez&Rosen (2001). They investigated the relationship between managerial trust and employee
empowerment, revealing that managerial trust affected perceived empowerment via
manageremployee relationships. In this context, managers of the companies in which this research was
conducted play a vital role in raising the employees’ awareness of the importance of their
responsibilities for and contributions to the achievement of the organizational goals. Thus,
employees attach more importance and meaning to their roles.
Also, it has been revealed that trust in supervisor affects psychological empowerment in terms of
competence. Considering that the mean of long terms of job experience and competence is high
(mean: 4.40), it is understood that they rely on their adeptness. It is conveyed that employees who
trust their supervisor and think they have the self-efficacy will be able to use their competencies
and focus on their roles more effectively to create value for their organizations
(Tan& Tan, 2000;
Dirks&Ferrin, 2002; Mayer&Gavin, 2005; Cropanza&Mitchell 2005; Colquitt et al.,2007; Brower
et al., 2009)
. The results of the research can also be said to be consistent with above-mentioned
views. Employees who trust their supervisor’s knowledge of their work, self-discipline and
fairness, and feel that they are valued become more responsible toward their supervisor. Thus, they
use their skills more effectively to carry out their roles properly.
This research has found no significant relationship between trust in supervisor and
selfdetermination&impact factor, which was grouped as one factor. According to the research data,
despite high means of the responses as to self-determination& impact factor there is no significant
relationship between this factor and trust in supervisor, which may be an outcome of the
acquisition and merger experienced by the companies subject to this research as well as policies
and rules made by the top management. Cultural changes might also bear such consequences in the
process of badly managed mergers causing uncertainty on the part of employees
Stressing the importance of creating an atmosphere of trust, Whitener et al. (1998), propose that
organizations be designed in a way that supports trust and managers be encouraged to develop
trust-based relations. In addition, a reward system should be developed so that they can respond to
such a design. Creating an atmosphere of trust allows employees to feel psychologically
Shamir&Lapidot (2003) stated that subordinate trust in supervisor depends not only on the
personal traits and interpersonal skills of the leader, but also on subordinate trust in the system.
Lack of organizational trust reduces employees’ job satisfaction
and affects their
(Gilbert& Tang, 1998)
. In this research it was considered that subordinate
trust in organization would positively affect subordinate perceptions of psychological
empowerment, thus relationships were analyzed. In spite of high means of subordinate trust in
organization (mean: 4.26) and long tenure (mean: 44.31), this research has found no significant
relationship between trust in organization and perceptions of psychological empowerment.
Considering the companies involved in this research are international, one of the main reasons why
employees work for them is thought to be the trust they have in the institutional nature of these
companies. According to the result in question, it is considered that respondents have already had
the trust in their companies but they do not relate this trust to their psychological empowerment. In
light of their cultural characteristics employees tend to trust their supervisors as they are in a
oneto-one relationship with them. It is assumed that employees focus on organizational trust at the
moment of getting the job but then they turn their focus onto their supervisors’ attitudes towards
them; and the more consistent, fair and supportive their managers’ attitudes, the more empowered
Empowerment practices improve employee commitment, managerial and organizational
effectiveness, the quality of goods and services, and performance, thus enabling organizations to
adapt to environmental changes
(Conger& Kanungo, 1988; Lin, 1998, Willis, 1999)
. Trust factor
as an intervening variable is also thought to be effective on the perceptions of psychological
empowerment. Therefore, this research is thought to contribute to literature clarifying the
relationship between trust in supervisor and organization from the perspective of subordinates.
However, it is not aimed to reach any generalization through this research, as the scope of the
research is limited to a small industry in Turkey. Therefore, it is suggested that the relationships
between the variables in questions be further analyzed in other fields.
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