How employees define organisational trust: analysing employee trust in organisation

Y. Serkan Ozmen (Izmir Ekonomi Universitesi, Izmir, Turkey)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Publication date: 5 February 2018

Abstract

Purpose

Most business organisations try to create and maintain trustful relationships with their various stakeholders. Among all, sustaining a trustful relationship with employees has been particularly important for organisations. However, due to the multidimensional structure and changing nature of concept across settings, it is difficult to identify what makes an organisation trustworthy for its employees. The purpose of this study is to analyse the concept of organisational trust and identify how employees actually define organisational trust.

Design/methodology/approach

In the study, a survey was conducted on a sample of 104 employees who were working in Turkey. Following a qualitative and quantitative approach, the data were analysed to categorise the definitions of respondents according to the theoretical framework.

Findings

The findings of study closely overlap with the relevant literature, but they also extend the scope of definition with including new factors such as reputation management, strategic management or ethics and values. According to results, the perceptions of employees on organisational trust vary depending on their individual and organisational characteristics.

Practical implications

The study reveals the context depending nature of organisational trust. Developing a wider sense by capturing its full meaning and reflecting the different expectations of employees can increase the trust in organisations.

Originality/value

Based on the detailed review of literature, the study identifies the major dimensions of organisational trust and then reveals the similarities and differences with the literature. The study provides a viable perspective on the concept to capture its meaning in different contexts.

Keywords

Citation

Ozmen, Y. (2018), "How employees define organisational trust: analysing employee trust in organisation", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 21-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGR-04-2017-0025

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

Trust has become a major element of socially responsible and ethical business enterprises. In parallel to its increasing importance, the antecedents and consequences of concept have been largely investigated in the literature. For instance, it reduces the transactions costs in and between organisations (Cummings and Bromiley, 1996) and mitigates the customers’ concerns and doubts about firm (Sharma et al., 1999). While trust can affect “the development of positive customer attitudes, intentions, and behaviour” on firm’s products and services (Swan et al., 1999), the existence of commitment and trust is important to build a successful relationship marketing (Morgan and Hunt, 1994). The studies at the interorganisational level have also supported its critical role in increasing the relationship quality and performance (Seppanen et al., 2007) and influencing the negotiation process and behaviour (McEvily et al., 2017).

Trust is not only critical to establish the longstanding and value-adding relations with the external stakeholders; it is an essential component to strengthen the internal relations. At this level, trust can be viewed as a social capital that reduces transaction costs, increases spontaneous sociability among members and facilitates the suitable forms of defence to organisational authorities (Kramer, 1999). Trust in an immediate supervisor positively affects the employees’ enterprising behaviours (e.g. their creativity, risk taking behaviour, assertiveness) (Costigan et al., 2006). Trust in management promotes the employees’ organisational citizenship behaviour (Mayer and Gavin, 2005; Wong et al., 2003); trust in both top management and plant manager allows employees to focus on productive activities and increases the organisational citizenship behaviours (Mayer and Gavin, 2005).

All these studies clearly indicate that, trust, as an important lubricant of social system (Arrow, 1974), must be embedded into the relationships web in organisations. Although it is important to improve trust in the interpersonal level, an organisation also focus on developing trust within the whole system. Considering its difficulty, the organisations should carefully analyse what makes an organisation trustworthy for its employees. Although the literature provides some useful conceptions on organisational trust, there is still little information on how employees perceive trust in their organisations. Following the recommendation of Luhmann (1979, p. 3) on entering “a dialogue with the everyday understanding of the social world” about trust, this study attempts to explore to what extent the proposed theoretical structures in the literature appears in the real business life. In doing so, the purpose of this study is to analyse the employees’ organisational trust definition and identify the similarities and differences between theory and practice. Based on a qualitative study conducted in Turkey, the study indicated that organisations need to develop a broader understanding on organisational trust by involving the individual expectations into the process.

Organisational trust and its dimensions

Organisational trust has been defined in many ways in the literature (Cummings and Bromiley, 1996; Hodson, 2004; Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2000); while some scholars view trust as an internal matter (Huff and Kelley, 2005), some others define it as a component of social climate (Collins and Smith, 2006; Hubbell and Chory‐Assad, 2005) and analyse within the organisational culture track (Ruppel and Harrington, 2001). Perhaps, one of the best ways to capture its meaning is to analyse its perceived dimensions by employees.

Depending on the complex nature of exchange relations between employees and organisation, an employee might take into account various features to assess the trustworthiness of his or her organisation. In the literature, these dimensions are mostly derived from the conceptualisation of trust at the interpersonal level. For instance, following the previous studies (Jennings, 1971; Gabarro, 1978), Butler (1991) identifies ten conditions of managerial trust as availability, competence, consistency, discreetness, fairness, integrity, loyalty, openness, promise fulfilment and receptivity. On the other hand, Mishra (1996) proposes four dimensions, as competence, openness, concern and reliability, to capture “the content domain of the trust literature”. Based on the analysis of trust definitions in the literature, McKnight and Chervany (2001; 2002) proposed four sub-constructs of trust. Although the authors are particularly interested in trust in the e-commerce transactions, they provide an interdisciplinary typology and identify four most frequently mentioned characteristics of trust literature as competence (20.4 per cent), benevolence (38.8 per cent), integrity (26.5 per cent) and predictability (6.1 per cent) (McKnight and Chervany, 2002). This result is in line with the results obtained in the subsequent studies. By reviewing the measures of trust, Dietz and Hartog (2006) also find that these same four attributes of trustee appear most often in the literature: competence (15.7 per cent), benevolence (28.4 per cent), integrity (25.8 per cent) and predictability (11.3 per cent). Similarly, McEvily and Tortoriello (2011) also reviewed 171 empirical papers which include 207 trust measures in the organisational context. Although trust is usually conceptualised as a multidimensional construct, only 22 per cent of these 207 measures reflect the multidimensional structure of trust. In a similar vein, the most frequently operationalised dimensions of trust literature include integrity (19), ability/competence (14) and benevolence (14).

It can be noticed that these dimensions in the literature closely overlap with each other, and they can be incorporated within a single framework. In their insightful study, Mayer et al. (1995) consolidate these proposed dimensions into three main groups as ability, integrity and benevolence with “arguing that people’s perceptions of others’ ability, benevolence, and integrity explain a major portion of the variance in perceived trustworthiness” (Williams, 2001, p. 379). In the current study, this construct is also used to conceptualize organisational trust because it is “fairly robust across levels of analysis” (Schoorman et al., 2007, p. 345), widely used by scholars (Burke et al., 2007) and empirically confirmed (Mayer and Davis, 1999; Caldwell and Clapham, 2003; Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010) (Table I).

Although the theoretical approach of Mayer et al. (1995) and the following studies (Dietz and Hartog, 2006; McEvily and Tortoriello, 2011; McKnight and Chervany, 2002) help the scholars to conceptualize the major dimensions of trustworthiness, organisational trust should be figured out in terms of its specific components. In the literature, the trust of employees in their organisations has been analysed in many different ways and measures. However, most of these studies treat organisational trust as a unidimensional construct (Begley et al., 2006; Deery et al., 2006; Edwards and Cable, 2009; Kiefer, 2005; Zhang et al., 2008). Among these studies, only a few studies attempt to empirically explore its multidimensional structure. As seen in Table I, while the study of Shockley-Zalabak et al. (2000) follows the theoretical model of Mishra (1996), both the studies of Caldwell and Clapham (2003) and Ingenhoff and Sommer (2010) adopt the framework of Mayer et al. (1995). Incorporating the proposed components in these studies, 13 components of organisational trust can be obtained within the three-dimensional framework of Mayer et al. (1995):

  • Ability: (Mayer et al. 1995, p. 717) explain this dimension as “group of skills, competencies and characteristics that enable a party to have influence within some specific domain”. When trustee becomes an organisation, ability should be defined in line with organisational performance outcomes. As Table 1 shows, the competence is one of the most frequently mentioned components in the literature. For some, this dimension is so important that trust can be solely defined as “belief in a person’s competence to perform a specific task under specific circumstances” (Sitkin and Roth, 1993, p. 373). Although most scholars use competence and ability interchangeably, Mayer et al. (1995, p. 718) distinguish these two concepts and prefer the concept of ability in their own construct. According to the authors, while competence indicates “a set of skills applicable to a single, fixed domain”, “ability highlights the task- and situation-specific nature of the construct”. This domain-specific nature of ability can explain why an individual (or an organisation) may enjoy trust in certain domains, whereas not in others (Bews and Rossouw, 2002, p. 383). In their empirical analysis, Caldwell and Clapham (2003) use the ability in a broader sense by including competence, quality assurance and financial balance as its main indicators. While Ingenhoff and Sommer (2010) consider the importance of quality (as product quality) and performance (as economic success), they add one more component as “detail orientation” to measure organisational ability.

  • Benevolence: Another frequently used dimension of trust is benevolence, which can be viewed as “the expectation that some others in our social relationships have moral obligations and responsibility to demonstrate a special concern for other’s interests above their own” (Barber, 1983, p. 14). Mayer et al. (1995, p. 718) define the benevolence as “the extent to which a trustee is believed to want to do good to the trustor, aside from an egocentric profit motive”. According to Schoorman et al. (2007), while ability and integrity are easily configured in the upper level of analysis, benevolence is received little attention at the macro level until recently. However, when examining the business activities over the past decades, it can be noticed that the concept of benevolence at the organisational level is mostly linked with another construct of literature – corporate social responsibility (CSR). Nowadays, being a “good” company has been very popular among companies and perceived as a path to build trustworthy relations with internal and external stakeholders (Bhattacharya et al., 2009; Pivato et al., 2008; Hansen et al., 2011). Its increasing popularity among companies leads scholars to study benevolence more. Recalling from the studies of both McKnight and Chervany (2002) and Dietz and Hartog (2006), the benevolence becomes the most frequently mentioned (38.8 per cent) and measured (28.4 per cent) dimensions of trust in the literature. Based on the study of Caldwell and Clapham (2003) and Ingenhoff and Sommer (2010), the benevolence can be characterised by the features of openness/transparency, concern (for employees), identification, interactional courtesy, social responsibility, information quality in the organisational system. Among these variables, the impact of concern for employees is relatively well studied and explored by the literature. In a broader sense, the organisational concern for employees can take various forms in the organisations. For instance, the supportive behaviours of immediate managers (Zhang et al., 2008), the employees’ perception of organisational support (Whitener, 2001), or human resource practices (Collins and Smith, 2006; Searle et al., 2011) increase the employee trust in organisation. According to Hodson (2004), together with the managerial competence, the supportive employment practices are the important predictor of organisational trustworthiness and both of them affect worker’s citizenship positively.

  • Integrity: This dimension is defined as “the trustor’s perception that the trustee adheres to a set of principles that the trustor finds acceptable” (Mayer et al., 1995, p. 719). Deriving from the empirical studies, the main components of this dimension include the reliability/consistency, legal compliance, procedural justice (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003; Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010) and predictability. Among these variables, the procedural justice has been frequently studied in the trust literature as well. In an organisational setting, the perception of justice can be classified into three dimensions as procedural, distributive and interactional justice (Colquitt et al., 2001). The results of existing studies indicate that procedural justice is more strongly related with trust in upper level management and organisation than other types of justice (Colquitt et al., 2001; Cropanzano et al., 2002; Folger and Konovsky, 1989; Hubbell and Chory‐Assad, 2005; Mayer and Davis, 1999; Searle et al., 2011). For instance, as an indicator of procedural justice, assessing the employees’ performance through an acceptable appraisal system is likely to increase the employees trust in their top management (Mayer and Davis, 1999). A study, conducted on 181 working adults, show that while interactional justice affects neither organisational nor managerial trust, procedural justice strongly affects both of them and distributive justice affects only managerial trust (Hubbell and Chory‐Assad, 2005). However, some studies yield interesting, but inconclusive results, on the impacts of distributive and interactional justice on organisational trust. In their study, Cohen-Charash and Spector (2001) examine 190 studies through a meta-analysis and found a link between trust and other types of justice. The results of study showed that trust in organisation is related with procedural (weighted mean r .48) and distributive (weighted mean r .43) justice, but it is less related with interactive justice (weighted mean r .35). In more recent studies, it is found that trust in organisation is positively affected by procedural, distributive (Li and Cropanzano, 2009) interpersonal and informational justice (Khazanchi and Masterson, 2011); moreover, the link between trust and former two justice types is also moderated by position of employees in the organisational hierarchy (Begley et al., 2006). However, another study reverses the chain of causality and find that ethical leadership can trigger the employees’ trust in organisation which in turn promotes their perception of justice (Xu et al., 2016).

Although “predictability” was emerged as a separate dimension of trust in the studies of McKnight and Chervany (2002), Dietz and Hartog (2006) and McEvily and Tortoriello (2011), considering the overlapping themes in some components of organisational trust, it is integrated into the integrity dimension. The studies show the importance of this dimension in organisations. For instance, the study of Leroy et al. (2012) find that authentic leadership can promote the behavioural integrity of leaders, which in turn increases the organisational commitment and work role performance. On the other hand, the integrity and ethical behaviours of leaders can affect trust of employees and increase their work engagement (Engelbrecht et al., 2017).

Table I shows that the definitions of “reliability” (Mishra, 1996, p. 8) and “activities in accordance with promises” (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 352) are closely related with the concept of predictability, which is explained as “one believes the other party’s actions (good or bad) are consistent enough that one can forecast them in a given situation (McKnight and Chervany, 2002, p. 49). In this case, consistency can play an a priori role that becomes an antecedent attribute for predictability, and one can predict others’ actions if they are consistent enough in their decisions and actions. Considering the relatively low level of importance of predictability in Table I [6.1 per cent in the study of McKnight and Chervany (2002), 11.3 per cent in the study of Dietz and Hartog (2006) and 4 per cent in the study of McEvily and Tortoriello (2011)], all these overlapping components are integrated within one single component as consistency/predictability.

Methodology

Sample selection and survey design

The sample of current study was drawn from the companies in an organised industry zone. As one of the important industry regions of Turkey, İzmir Atatürk Organised Industry Zone (IAOI) has been operated since 1990 and currently includes 550 firms. During the data collection process, the administration office of IAOI helped to access the respondents via emails. A brief self-administrated questionnaire was delivered to respondents with requesting them to fill the form and return it within two weeks. At the end of this period, data were obtained from a sample of 104 employees working in the various companies in IAOI.

The questionnaire form has two main sections. In the first section, the information about the respondents and their organisations were obtained through some demographic questions. In the second section, the respondents were asked to identify three main features of a trustworthy organisation. Following the Mayer et al.’s (1995) three-dimensional model, only three features of a trustworthy organisation were requested from the respondents. Then, the data were initially analysed in qualitatively through a content analytic procedure by classifying features under the components of theoretical framework. In doing so, a discussion session was organised and three academicians decided upon the classification of each statement. Although some of these components were same with the literature (Table I), some new components were extracted and entitled based on this group discussion. Then, the data were converted for the quantitative tests to investigate the link between trust dimensions and some demographic variables.

Context of study

It can be noticed that the components of organisational trust were taken as broad as possible, based on the available literature. However, because trust has both universal and context-sensitive aspects (Fulmer and Gelfand, 2012; Ferrin and Gillespie, 2010), the perception of trust in organisational setting might vary across cultures and both number and relative importance of given components can change among different cultures. As a country, which is characterised by large power distance and high collectivism (Hofstede, 1983, 2012), and found as high group-oriented, hierarchical, masculine and low on future orientation culture (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002), organisational trust in Turkey can be characterised with different components than Western cultures. Although there are many studies that explore the various aspects of trust in Turkey [e.g. the studies on the trust at the interorganisational level (Wasti and Wasti, 2008), the impact of supervisor’s cognition-based and affective-based trust in employee’s enterprising behaviour (Costigan et al., 2007), the link between cognitive and affect-based trust on the perception of psychological empowerment (Ergeneli et al., 2007) and team performance (Erdem and Ozen, 2003)], only a few of them focused on the antecedent of trust in organisational setting. For instance, the study of Wasti et al. (2007) on supervisor trustworthiness in Turkey, the USA and Singapore support the metric equivalence of integrity dimension of Mayer et al.’s (1995) model but find the differences in some of the ability and benevolence items. Similarly, in their qualitative study, Wasti et al. (2011) find that while the Mayer et al.’s (1995) three-dimensional construct exists in both China and Turkey, the benevolence plays an important role in trust-building across managerial hierarchy in both countries and new components were obtained as intimacy, unselfish behaviour, personalised generosity, protection and common values in Turkish sample. Therefore, despite the existence of some cultural differences, Mayer et al.’s (1995) three-dimensional model makes sense in Turkish context and can be used as a theoretical framework for the current study too.

Descriptive analysis

Table II shows some descriptive statistics about the respondents. While 55.3 per cent of respondents were female, approximately 92.2 per cent had a university or higher degree. In addition, 27.2 per cent of the respondents were working in a managerial position. According to the analysis, the mean value of age was around 34 years. Both work experience and tenure of respondents were measured on monthly basis, and the results show that while the respondents had approximately 145 months (around 12 years) total experience, they have 80 months (around 6.5 years) tenure in their firms. Based on these results, it can be expected that most respondents were experienced enough to develop an understanding on organisational trust as well as knowledgeable about their companies’ activities and trustworthiness.

The respondents’ firms were operating in various sectors (including the production of machine, equipment, packaging, energy, oil, petrochemical products, food and beverages) ranging from micro- to large-scale companies; 4.9 per cent is micro (≤9), 1.9 per cent is small (10-49), 49.5 per cent is medium (50-249), 34.0 per cent is large (≥250) scale companies. While the average number of employees is around 1418 people, the mean value for the firm-age is around 16 years.

Qualitative analysis

Table III shows the composition of organisational trust in terms of three dimensions of Mayer et al. (1995). Relative importance of each dimension was obtained as 25.8, 30.8 and 32.7 per cent for ability, benevolence and integrity, respectively. Although the literature provides 13 components (Table I), some of these components were not found (identification and information quality). However, some new components were obtained and integrated under these three dimensions.

A brief evaluation of each dimension is provided in the following section:

  • Ability: In this dimension of trust, all existing components [competence (7.4 per cent), quality concern (1.6 per cent), financial performance (8.7 per cent) and detail orientation (1.3 per cent)] and some new components [reputation management (4.5 per cent) and strategic management (2.3 per cent)] were derived as given in Table 3. Despite the strong emphasize of literature on competence, financial performance was obtained as the most important component in the evaluation of organisational ability. Respondents stated that the success/performance of an organisation and its various indicators (such as growing sales, organisational size, listed in stock exchange) are important to trust in their organisation. In the study, organisational reputation in the sector, or society at large, was emerged as a new component of ability dimension. Although the link between reputation and interpersonal (Howorth and Moro, 2006) and interorganisational trust (Bennett and Gabriel, 2001) has been known, the findings show that reputation of an organisation in the outside can be an antecedent of organisational trust as well. Despite their relatively low levels of frequency, the quality concern and detail orientation were also identified as the components of ability. The respondents defined the quality aspect in relation to customer-orientedness of their organisation. As a new component, strategic management was also considered as an antecedent of organisational trust.

  • Benevolence: The analysis revealed that benevolence was comprised of openness/transparency (5.8 per cent), concern (for employees) (15.9), interactional courtesy (3.9 per cent), social responsibility (1.3 per cent), ethics and values (3.9 per cent). Although the benevolence of organisation has been usually built on the CSR literature, the current study shows that this component received little attention among the respondents. On the other hand, in accordance with the literature, the concern (for employees) was recognised as the most important component of organisational trust. This component was expanded so as to include a wider perspective on concern for employees. The results show that an employee assesses this component on a broader array of Daft’s (2010, p. 444) job fulfilment examples based on the Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs theory. According to the results, employee trust in organisation can be initiated or improved through considering all employee-related activities from the basic human needs (insurance, job safety, good working conditions) to upper level needs (empowerment, training/career opportunities). In their study, openness and transparency of organisations were also perceived as the important component of benevolence. Employees can trust in their organisations when these organisations follow an open communication policy and share the necessary information with them. Although it was not perceived as important as the components, like the concern (for employees) and openness/transparency, the interactional courtesy and ethics and values can also increase the trustworthiness of an organisation among its employees.

  • Integrity: Integrity was emerged as the most important factors among all three dimensions of organisational trust. The respondents defined integrity as a function of consistency/predictability (9.1 per cent), legal compliance (0.3 per cent), procedural justice (7.1 per cent), distributive justice (5.5 per cent), interactional justice (1.0 per cent), overall justice (5.2 per cent) and stability (4.5 per cent). Although consistency/predictability was emerged as the most important component of this group, it is too weak to be single dimension when comparing the percentage of other dimensions in the analysis. It can be noticed that this dimension is predominantly characterised by justice-related components (aggregate frequency of all justice-related components is 18.8 per cent). In parallel to the literature, procedural justice was perceived as the most important antecedent of trust in organisation. However, both distributive and interactional justice was also emerged as the components of integrity. Therefore, all components of justice should be taken into account when analysing organisational trust. On the other hand, the legal compliance was found as the least important element of this group. Employees might see this dimension as unimportant when evaluating the trustworthiness of their organisations – because they might think that legal obligations should be already met. As a new dimension, stability was also obtained as a component of organisational trust and employees desire to work in more stable businesses.

Quantitative analysis

As it is explained above, at the end of the data collection process, three most important features of a trustful organisation were obtained by respondents and these data were transformed for the further quantitative analysis. The goal was to classify the respondents’ overall tendencies of viewing trust as an ability, benevolence or integrity. Because the respondents’ trust definitions were already classified in the content analysis, at this stage, the researchers assessed the dominance of any dimension in each respondents’ definition. For instance, when a respondent prioritised the ability dimension of trust in his/her definition (at least two out of three features must be regarding with this dimension), it was labelled as ability-oriented; in contrast, if a respondent predominantly mentioned the features that were classified under benevolence, it was coded as a benevolence-oriented and so on. When all three features are equally distributed among ability, benevolence and integrity (one statement for each dimension), it was labelled as balanced distribution. In doing so, it can be possible to analyse whether there is a link between the tendency of defining trust (as ability-oriented, benevolence-oriented, integrity-oriented or balanced manner) and the individual (age, gender, education, position, work experience and tenure) and organisational-level variables (sector and organisational size).

Table IV shows the results of cross-tabulation and inferential statistics. It can be seen that the respondents who were older than 35 years old defined trust in a benevolence (36.8 per cent) and integrity-oriented (34.2 per cent) manner, whereas the younger respondents emphasised the importance of all dimensions. While female respondents prioritised the benevolence (35.8 per cent) and integrity (32.1 per cent) dimensions, male counterparts were more ability-oriented (35 per cent) when defining trust. It seems that the more educated respondents (50 per cent), the respondents working at service sector (36 per cent) and the respondents from the small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (35.8 per cent) valued more on the benevolence dimension. In terms of respondents’ positions, whereas the respondents at the managerial positions assigned the ability (29.6 per cent) and integrity (29.6 per cent) as the equally important features of a trustworthy organisation, for the respondents at the non-managerial positions, the most important dimension is the benevolence (38.8 per cent). In a similar vein, the respondents who had more work experience viewed the benevolence (38.8 per cent) as a key dimension of trustful organisation. While the respondents with less than five years working experience in their organisation defined trust based on the benevolence, the senior respondents gave importance both on the benevolence and integrity dimensions.

The table also shows the results of chi-square and Mann–Whitney U tests as non-parametric test. Despite the existence of some observable patterns, the result of analysis shows that there is no statistically significant relation between the way of defining trust and these individual and organisational-level variables. These results can be linked with the relatively small sample size, which is not equally distributed between groups. In the future, the analysis should be repeated on the larger samples with equal groups.

Conclusion

As business organisations face with the challenge of increasing competition, building and enhancing trust become more important than before. Being a trustworthy organisation is not only important to obtain and sustain a competitive advantage in the external environment. Trustworthiness has become a critical factor when recruiting and retaining the valuable employees in the organisation. The current study reveals that an employee considers the existence of some core organisational dynamics when trusting his or her organisation. Although the overall findings on organisational trust dimensions are highly compatible with the proposed framework of Mayer et al. (1995), the composition of each dimension is different than the previous empirical studies. Based on the results, 18 components of organisational trust was found and built on Mayer et al.’s (1995) framework. Although most of these components were closely overlapping with the existing literature [including competence, quality concern, financial performance, detail orientation, openness/transparency, concern (for employees), interactional courtesy, social responsibility, consistency/predictability, legal compliance, procedural justice), some new components were also obtained [reputation management, strategic management, ethics and values, distributive justice, interactional justice, overall justice, stability]. Considering the relative explanatory strength of these new components (approximately 26.9 per cent of all definition), they should be taken into account when evaluating the employees trust in organisation in the further studies.

The results of quantitative analysis were in line with the findings of content analysis. The ability was not perceived as the most important dimension of trust – except the male respondents, the respondents at the managerial positions and the respondents working at the large organisations. Because many large organisations still have a male-dominant senior management team, this result can provide a basis to understand the discrepancy between the perspectives of management and employees on a trustworthy organisation. Although the results are not statistically significant, the older, female and senior respondents valued benevolence and integrity as more important dimensions of trust, but the respondent who were more educated, working in the service sector, SMEs, non-managerial positions and had more than 10 years experiences and less than five years tenure prioritised the benevolence more. In sum, the benevolence and integrity are the more important dimensions than ability for most respondents. From the employees’ point of view, the features such as having competent managers, being a financially sound firm, providing higher quality products or having a well-known company in the sector/society are important to trust in organisations, but they are not as important as being a benevolent and honest firm. Therefore, the organisations that want to build the trustworthy relations with their employees should not only consider their performance-related outcomes but also focus on the benevolence and integrity dimensions of trust.

Theoretical framework of organizational trust components

Trustworthiness dimensions Organizational trustworthiness dimensions Overall definition
Mayer et al. (1995) McKnight and Chervany (2002) (Definition count %) Dietz and Hartog (2006) (Content distribution %)a McEvily and Tortoriello (2011) Shockley-Zalabak et al. (2000) Caldwell and Clapham (2003) Ingenhoff and Sommer (2010)Existing dimensions
Ability Competence (20.4%) Competence (15.7%) Ability/Competence (14) Competence Competence Competence “A generalised perception that assumes the effectiveness not only of the leadership, but also of the organization’s ability to survive in the marketplace” (Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2000, p. 39); “the level of knowledge and ability to achieve results associated with the purposes of an organization” (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003, p.352)
Quality assurance Product quality Quality concern “The extent to which standards of quality are understood and adhered to on a continuous basis to achieve desired outcomes” (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003, p. 352)
Financial balance Economic success Financial Performance Whether the CEO/company operates economically successful and efficiently (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 352)
Detail orientation Detail orientation Whether the CEO/company works with comprehensive attention to detail (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 352)
Benevolence Benevolence (38.8%) Benevolence (28.4%) Benevolence (14) Openness (and Honesty) Responsibility to Inform Extensive public information Openness/Transparency Openness, honesty, and sincerity when sharing information with employees (Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2000, p. 39); “the level of communication provided to stakeholders who have an interest in organization objectives and outcomes” (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003, p. 352).
Concern (for Employees) Concern (for employees) “Self-interest is balanced by interest in the welfare of others” (Mishra, 1996, p. 7); “occurs when organizational members perceive concern for them from their leadership” (Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2000, p. 39)
Identification Identification “Whether or not organizational members associate with an organization’s goals, values, norms, and beliefs” (Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2000, p. 38).
Interactional courtesy Interactional courtesy “The degree of respect and courtesy shown to others in performing organizational duties” (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003, p. 352)
Social responsibility Social responsibility Whether the CEO/company accepts its social responsibility (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 352)
Information quality Information quality “Regarding its objectivity and factual basis and its factor of intelligibility” (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 344)
Integrity Predictability (6.1%) Predictability (11.3%) Predictability (4) Reliability Activities in accordance with promises Consistency/Predictability “Reliability, dependability, or consistency between words and action” (Mishra, 1996, p. 8); Whether the CEO/company acts in accordance with his/her/its promises (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 352). “One believes the other party’s actions (good or bad) are consistent enough that one can forecast them in a given situation (McKnight and Chervany, 2002, p. 49)
Integrity (26.5%) Integrity (25.8%) Integrity (19) Legal compliance Law-abiding behaviour Legal compliance “the degree to which applicable laws are understood and followed” (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003, p. 352); Whether the CEO/company takes law standards seriously (Ingenhoff and Sommer, 2010, p. 352)
Procedural fairness Procedural justice “the extent to which stakeholders are given the opportunity to participate in fair processes and systems associated with the formal and informal practices of the organization” (Caldwell and Clapham, 2003, p. 352)
Note:

aContent distribution for each characteristics is found based on the sum of all factors count in each measurement, which was examined in the study of Dietz and Hartog (2006).

Descriptive analysis

Variables Frequency (%) Mis. Variables Minimum Maximum Mean SD
Gender 103 100 0 Age 19 65 33.89 7.632
Female 57 55.3
Male 46 44.7
Education 102 99 1 Work Exp. (month) 13 484 145.31 96.446
Higher School 7 6.8
University 76 73.8
Master/PhD 19 18.4
Position 103 100 0 Tenure (month) 1 413 80.37 76.023
Manager 28 27.2
Non-manager 75 72.8

Definition analysis

Trustworthiness Factors Existing dimensions New dimensions Example statements Frequency (%)
(Based on Literature) (Based on Analysis)
Ability Competence Competent board of directors/managers, long-standing company, history, merit, experience, survivability, continuity, decisive/rational management style, managers, professional/competent managers, employee competency 23 7.4
Quality concern Quality, service quality, customer satisfaction, customer-oriented company 5 1.6
Financial performance Financial soundness, soundness, financial sustainability, financial success, success, financial power/structure, strong owners’ equity, investment, power, growth, debt structure, good and timely financial decisions, competitiveness, growing sales, number of employees, organizational size, listed in stock exchange, profit-orientation 27 8.7
Detail orientation Punctuality, updating systems, discipline, organizing, sedulity, controlling tasks 4 1.3
Reputation management Image, trustworthiness in the sector, well-known/leading company in its sector/among customers/in business community, good position, reputation, brand recognition, prestige, references 14 4.5
Strategic management Open to change, innovative, dynamic, having a vision/mission/strategy, business segment, production process, having a promising future 7 2.3
Subtotal 80 25.8
Benevolence Openness/Transparency Transparency, openness, sharing, sharing information/decisions with employees, transparency in all employee-related issues, accessibility, open communication 18 5.8
Concern (for employees) Personnel policy, social rights, providing training/career opportunities, supportive, creating sense of belongingness, treating well to employees, appreciating the value of its employees, caring/protecting employees, good relations with managers, don’t lay off during crisis, working without the fear of job loss, job safety, insurance, good work conditions, trusting to employees, cooperation, sensitivity to employee priorities, listening employees, providing job satisfaction, motivating employees, turnover rate, empowerment 49 15.9
Interactional courtesy Respectful, respecting people, respecting the values of society, sensitivity, sincerity, sensibilities, generosity, developing empathy, concern 12 3.9
Social responsibility Protecting the rights of all parties, contributing to the national economy, social responsibility, philanthropy 4 1.3
Ethics and values Having key values/principles, being ethical, business ethics, corporate culture, cogency, loyalty, sacrifice, trust, sound relations, responsibility 12 3.9
Subtotal 95 30.8
Integrity Consistency/Predictability Keeping its promises, consistency, redemption, good and consistent management, honest and frank managers 28 9.1
Legal compliance Don’t manipulate others, obeying rules 1 0.3
Procedural justice Performance-based payment, performance assessment, clear rules, clear rules of promotion, institutionalism, clear system, same rules for everyone, complying organizational structure 22 7.1
Distributive justice Payment policy, equal payment, payment on time, salary, equal promotion system, equal rights 17 5.5
Interactional justice Treating fair to employees, increasing employee involvement in decision making 3 1.0
Overall justice Fairness, overall company justice, objectivity 16 5.2
Stability Stability, having stabile system 14 4.5
Subtotal 101 32.7
Missing 33 10.7
Total 309 100

Cross-tabulation and inferential statistics

Variables Ability (%) Benevolence (%) Integrity (%) Balanced distribution (%) Total Chi-square (Pearson) Mann–Whitney U Test df Significance level
Individual-Level Variables
Age group
18-34 years 16 29.6 16 29.6 15 27.8 7 13.0 54 944,500 0.50
Above 35 years 7 18.4 14 36.8 13 34.2 4 10.5 38
Gender
Female 9 17.0 19 35.8 17 32.1 8 15.1 53 4.497 2 0.21
Male 14 35.0 12 30.0 11 27.5 3 7.5 40
Education
Undergraduate 19 25.7 21 28.4 24 32.4 10 13.5 74
Graduate 4 22.2 9 50.0 4 22.2 1 5.6 18
Position
Manager 8 29.6 8 29.6 7 25.9 4 14.8 27 1.034 3 0.79
Non-Manager 15 22.7 23 34.8 21 31.8 7 10.6 66
Work Experience
1-9 years 13 29.5 12 27.3 13 29.5 6 13.6 44 1052.500 0.83
Above 10 years 10 20.4 19 38.8 15 30.6 5 10.2 49
Tenure
Under 5 years 15 30.0 17 34.0 14 28.0 4 8.0 50 879.000 0.11
Above 6 years 8 18.6 14 32.6 14 32.6 7 16.3 43
Organizational - Level Variables
Sector
Manufacturing 18 27.3 21 31.8 20 30.3 7 10.6 66 0.944 3 0.81
Service 5 20.0 9 36.0 7 28.0 4 16.0 25
Organizational Size
SMEs 12 22.6 19 35.8 14 26.4 8 15.1 53 808.000 0.39
Large 11 32.4 10 29.4 10 29.4 3 8.8 34
Total 23 30 28 11 92

Note. Dependent variable is trust dimensions

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Corresponding author

Y. Serkan Ozmen can be contacted at: serkan.ozmen@ieu.edu.tr

About the author

Y. Serkan Ozmen is a Lecturer at the Vocational School, Department of Accounting and Tax Applications in Izmir University of Economics. He graduated from Faculty of Business, Department of Business Administration in Dokuz Eylul University in 2000. For 13 years, he worked at the private sector as an Assistant Auditor, Financial Reporting Specialist and Financial Controller, respectively. Ozmen has succeeded to be a CPA in 2008 and graduated from Master of Business Administration at Yasar University in 2012. He has experience on accounting, audit, financial reporting and international accounting.