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J Appl Psychol. 2018 Dec;103(12):1335-1357. doi: 10.1037/apl0000339. Epub 2018 Jul 30.

The trickle-down effects of perceived trustworthiness on subordinate performance.

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Cambridge Judge Business School.
Erasmus Center of Behavioral Ethics, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
Department of Management, University of Central Florida.
WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management.
Work, Organisational and Personnel Psychology, KU Leuven.


We study when and why perceptions of trustworthiness trickle down the organizational hierarchy to influence the performance of subordinates. Building on social learning theory, we argue that when supervisors perceive their managers as trustworthy, subordinates are more likely to also perceive their supervisor as trustworthy, which in turn enhances subordinate performance. We further argue that this trickle-down effect of trustworthiness perceptions emerges especially when the manager invites the supervisor to participate in decision-making. Finally, we propose that social learning processes that lead to supervisors exhibiting more trusting behavior toward their subordinates mediate this trickle-down effect. We find support for our predictions across one multisource field study (Study 1) and two experiments (Studies 2 and 3) that both use a yoked design. This research represents the first attempt to examine trickle-down effects related to trustworthiness, its impact on performance, and the mediating mechanisms by which those effects emerge. This research also provides the first empirical evidence about the role that social learning processes play in explaining trickle-down processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

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