A qualitative meta-analysis of trust in supervisor-subordinate relationships

Ann-Marie Nienaber, Philipp D. Romeike, Rosalind Searle, Gerhard Schewe

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    Purpose: - Interpersonal trust is often considered as the “glue” that binds supervisors together with their subordinates, and creates a positive organisational climate. The purpose of this paper is to investigate factors affecting subordinates’ trust to their supervisor, and the consequences of such a trusting relationship. Design/methodology/approach: – The authors conducted a qualitative meta-analysis of the trust literature between 1995 and 2011, to identify 73 articles and review 37 theoretical propositions, 139 significant model parameters and 58 further empirical findings. Findings: – Four distinct clusters of trust antecedents are found: supervisor attributes; subordinate attributes; interpersonal processes and organisational characteristics. Similarly, the authors identify three categories of trust consequences: subordinates’ work behaviour; subordinates’ attitude towards the supervisor; and organisational level effects. Research limitations/implications – The authors find a bias towards studying supervisor attributes and interpersonal processes, yet a dearth of attention on subordinate attributes and organisational characteristics. Similarly, the conceptual attention on trust between supervisors and subordinates has been limited, with empirical work reporting predominantly significant findings. Social exchange has dominated as the theoretical perspective, and cross-section as the main research approach. In order to advance this important field more heterogeneity is needed, utilising a range of different theoretical schools and employing different methodologies. Originality/value – This seems to be the first qualitative meta-analysis explicitly directed to understanding trust between supervisors and subordinates. The authors contribute to the field of trust by revealing current gaps in the literature and highlighting potential areas of future research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)507 - 534
    JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2015

    Bibliographical note

    This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here https://curve.coventry.ac.uk/open/items/71e98a45-9ed4-4c0c-b184-71fb6b5d8bd3/1/ . Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


    • Supervisor
    • Antecedents
    • Review
    • Consequences
    • Interpersonal trust
    • Leader


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