Trust in change managers: the role of affect

Roy K. Smollan (Department of Management, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Publication date: 28 June 2013



The purpose of this paper is to explore what meanings organizational actors and researchers invest in the term trust, to provide insights from a qualitative perspective of employees' trust in their supervisors and in organizational management when change occurs, and to highlight the affective components of trust in this context.


A social constructionist platform is used to explore how organizational actors form perceptions of the trustworthiness of managers of change and what emotions result. In total, 24 participants from different organizations and hierarchical positions were interviewed on a variety of change experiences.


Positive and negative emotions were related to trust in the ability, benevolence and integrity of immediate supervisors and more senior change managers. The emotions were more intense for distrust than for trust. Some participants referred to challenges to their own integrity. Perceptions of organizational justice during change were important contributors to the creation and erosion of trust in management.

Research limitations/implications

The relevance of propensity to trust and pre‐existing levels of trust were not investigated and researching these factors, particularly in longitudinal studies, will provide a clearer picture of emotional responses to the perceived trustworthiness of change managers. Exploring cross‐cultural issues in the trustworthiness of change leaders would add depth to the field.

Practical implications

Developing trust in management though transparency, other fair practices and a positive organizational culture will help to gain commitment to organizational change.


This study adds to the scant literature on qualitative investigations of trust, emotions and organizational change by presenting insights from an analysis of employees' trust in the ability, benevolence and integrity of their own supervisors and those of more senior management in a range of organizations and types of change.



Smollan, R. (2013), "Trust in change managers: the role of affect", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 725-747.

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