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Effects of benevolence, integrity, and ability on trust‐in‐supervisor

June M.L. Poon (Graduate School of Business, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Malaysia)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 21 June 2013




This study aimed to examine the predictive effects of trustworthiness attributes (i.e. benevolence, integrity, and ability) on trust‐in‐supervisor.


A field survey using a structured questionnaire was used to gather data from 107 white‐collar employees from diverse organizations in Malaysia. The data were analysed using hierarchical multiple regression analysis.


The results showed that perceptions of supervisor benevolence, integrity, and ability predicted trust‐in‐supervisor both directly and interactively. Further analysis revealed that integrity and ability interacted in a compensatory manner to predict trust‐in‐supervisor when benevolence was high but not when it was low.

Research limitations/implications

Study limitations include the use of self‐report cross‐sectional data. The findings underscore the importance of looking beyond statistical models that test only for main and two‐way interaction effects in research examining trustworthiness attributes. Researchers should consider examining three‐way interaction effects or run the risk of having a misspecified model. Also, research to determine the relative importance of trustworthiness attributes and the conditions under which one attribute is given more weight than another is needed.

Practical implications

Supervisors should be made aware of the importance of treating their subordinates with benevolence. Nevertheless, because benevolence is a necessary but insufficient condition for fostering trust, employers must ensure that their supervisors have high integrity and ability or, at the very least, one of these attributes.


This study highlighted the importance of examining higher order effects in research examining trustworthiness attributes and provides what is perhaps the first empirical test of how benevolence, integrity, and ability interact to predict trust‐in‐supervisor.



Poon, J.M.L. (2013), "Effects of benevolence, integrity, and ability on trust‐in‐supervisor", Employee Relations, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 396-407.



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