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The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at




Co-worker trust as a social catalyst for constructive employee attitudes

Natalie Ferres

School of Management, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, Australia

Julia Connell

Graduate School of Business, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

Anthony Travaglione

Asia Pacific Graduate School of Management, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia

of Management, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol. 19 No. 6, 2004

Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol. 19 No. 6, 2004 pp. 608-622 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited


DOI 10.1108/02683940410551516

Keywords Trust, Employee attitudes, Organizational behaviour

Abstract Research into interpersonal trust within organisational contexts tends to concentrate on managers as a referent, largely ignoring the potential social benefits of trust amongst co-workers. Hence, the aim of this study is to investigate the influence of co-worker trust on selected organisational perceptions and attitudes. Results provided empirical support for the fundamental role of co-worker trust. Co-worker trust was found to be a significant predictor of perceived organisational support, lowered turnover intention, and greater affective commitment. In view of these results, it is suggested that there may be opportunities for organisations to improve individual and organisational effectiveness by engendering trust throughout peer levels.

Introduction Recent organisational developments reflect the importance of trust in interpersonal relationships for sustaining individual and organisational effectiveness (McAllister, 1995). Researchers have recognised that interpersonal trust between employees enhances the development of social capital within organisations (Spagnolo, 1999). In this context, social capital refers to the inherent value found in constructive human relationships and connections within the workplace (Cohen and Prusak, 2000). As such, it is understood that social capital is aligned with sustained competitive advantage (Barney, 1991; Naphapiet and Ghosal, 1998), reduced transaction costs (Barney and Hanson, 1994), organizational learning (Bouty, 2000), knowledge sharing (Cohen and Prusak, 2000), innovation (Cooke and Wills, 1999) and improved financial performance (Waddock and Graves, 1997). These outcomes are evident as coordinated action is only possible when interdependent employees work effectively together through trust (McAllister, 1995). Put simply, trust can facilitate effective relationships and attitudes that impact on an organisation’s bottom line. A renaissance of interest into trust research has directed attention to its fundamental influence in the social environment of the organisation (Carnevale and Weschler, 1992; Mayer et al., 1995; Tyler and Kramer, 1996). As members of organisations, we are inclined to trust those with whom we work to take actions that lie outside contractual obligations (McLain and Hackman, 1999). The realm of interpersonal trust studies tends to concentrate on trust in management, or the reciprocal trust inherent in manager-subordinate relationships as the organisational

trust referent (Albrecht and Travaglione, 2003; Laschinger et al., 2000). This focus is understandable considering the documented impact of trust in management on many performance-related factors (Kramer, 1996). According to Tyler and Degoey (1996), managers play a crucial role in the development of trust since they control the flow of information through either sharing or not sharing key information. The degree of trust within an organisation depends somewhat on managerial philosophy, organisational actions and structures, and employees’ expectations of reciprocity. However, studies that focus on a “trust in management” perspective often ignore trust relationships at the co-worker level. This may be an unfortunate oversight, as according to Cohen and Prusak (2001) investing in social capital requires the development of trust both within and between management layers. Although the importance of co-worker or peer trust has been acknowledged (Chattopadhyay and George, 2001; Cook and Wall, 1980; McAllister, 1995), the matter of its effect has not yet received systematic theoretical attention. Thus, the present study was designed to contribute to the understanding of co-workers’ interpersonal relationships by examining the extent to which co-worker trust influences perceived organisational support (POS), intention to leave and affective commitment. These constructs were chosen as they were identified through earlier qualitative findings as important outcomes of trust both within and across peer levels (Connell et al., 2003). The following theoretical propositions provide an explanatory framework for investigating the role of co-worker trust in influencing these workplace variables with the concepts of trust and co-worker’s trust outlined first.





Theoretical background The trust concept Trust is conceptualised in a variety of ways. GuIbert and McDonough (1986, p. 175) contend that “trust pertains to whether or not one individual is able to value what another is up to and demonstrate respect for him or her particularly when the individual’s need and those of the person taking the action momentarily compete”. Carnevale and Weschler (1992, p. 473) find that trust is the expectation of “ethical, fair, and non-threatening behavior, and concerns for the rights of others”, while Cook and Wall (1980, p. 39) suggest that trust is “the extent to which one is willing to ascribe good intentions to and have confidence in the words and actions of other people”. Furthermore, Mishra (1996, p. 265) argues that trust is “one party’s willingness to be vulnerable to another party based on the belief that the latter party is (a) competent, (b) open, (c) concerned, and (d) reliable”. Definitions offered by Albrecht and Travaglione (2003), Currall and Judge (1995) and Mayer and Davis (1999) extend these propositions by positing the “willingness to act” as a defining feature of trust. McAllister’s (1995, p. 25) definition consolidates these ideas identifying interpersonal trust as “the extent to which a person is confident in, and willing to act on the basis of the words, actions, and decisions of another”. Consistent with this definition, the measure employed in the present study looks at ratings of the trustworthiness of individuals as well as employees’ willingness to act on perceptions of trustworthiness.

The influence of dispositional trust Trust as a dispositional personality trait is concerned with an individual’s inclination to believe that others will be prepared to act in the trustor’s best interests




(Kramer, 1999). These individuals are informally called “trusting persons” (McLain and Hackman, 1999, p. 153). To explain the origins of such dispositional trust, Rotter (1971, 1980) proposed that people project their early trust-related experiences to build-up general beliefs about other people. Although a number of organisational theorists have acknowledged the existence of dispositional trust there has not been a great deal of interest shown in exploring the effect of dispositional trust on trust on attitudes (Kramer, 1999). Yet abundant evidence exists to suggest that individuals vary greatly in their inclination to trust other people (Gurtman, 1992; Sorrentino et al., 1995). Based on this estimation, Albrecht (2001) notes that it is constructive to measure dispositional trust as an individual difference variable when exploring trust within organisational environments. This is consistent with Mayer and Davis’s (1999) assertion that dispositional trust would be likely to explain a significant amount of variance in organisational trust scores over and above situational or organisational variables. Hence, a measure of dispositional trust is included in this study as a control variable.

Consequences of trust To determine the value of promoting trust within organisations, it is important to first review the potential consequences of trust on attitudes. Studies by Laschinger et al. (2000) and Tan and Tan (2000) suggested that trust influences affective and continuance commitment. Studies by Andersson and Bateman (1997), Butler (1999) and Rousseau and Tijoriwala (1999) suggested that attitudes toward change are a likely outcome of trust. Trust is also thought to operationalise citizenship behaviours (Robinson and Morrison, 1995), job satisfaction (Cunningham and MacGregor, 2000), and reduce non-need fulfillment (Cook and Wall, 1980). The link between trust and intention to turnover is also supported in the literature (Konovsky and Cropanzano, 1991; Mishra and Morrisey, 1990). However, with a notable exception (Cook and Wall, 1980), the trust research literature does not appear to provide a great deal of insight into whether co-worker trust has similar benefits.

Co-worker trust Consistent with the earlier mentioned trust conceptualisations (Cook and Wall, 1980; McAllister, 1995; Mishra, 1996), co-worker trust concerns confidence that one’s colleagues are competent and will act in a fair, reliable and ethical manner. It assumes that co-workers will support their peers and will not take advantage of them by withholding information. Co-worker trust also leads employees to act on the basis that they have faith in the words and actions of their peers. When developing an instrument that measured trust in management and trust in peers, Cook and Wall (1980) found that job satisfaction also had a positive relationship with trust at the peer level, as did organisational identification and organisational involvement. The current research aims to extend knowledge of the effects of co-worker trust by exploring its effects on certain organisational variables. As stated earlier POS, affective commitment and intention to leave were selected after initial qualitative investigations (Connell et al., 2003) uncovered these as potential consequences of trust between co-workers. An overview of the hypothesis development follows.

Perceived organisational support and co-worker trust Eisenberger et al. (1986) proposed that employees form global beliefs about the extent to which an organisation values their contributions and cares about their well-being. They named this set of beliefs POS. POS can be viewed as a measure of an organisation’s concern for its employees (Shore and Tetrick, 1991). Based on social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) and the norm of reciprocity (Settoon et al., 1996), it is likely that an employee’s POS contributes to his or her subsequent commitment to the organisation (Shore and Tetrick, 1991), lowers intentions to leave (Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002), promotes superior performance (Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002) and leads to greater leader-member-exchange (Settoon et al., 1996; Wayne et al., 1997). Moorman et al. (1998) argued that POS would be explained by factors that affect the evaluation of the discretionary actions taken by an organisation or people within them. However, with few exceptions (Moorman et al., 1998; Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002; Wayne et al., 1997) very little research has attempted to identify the factors that explain the development of POS. Though never explored as an antecedent to POS, co-worker trust is possibly one factor. In a recent meta-analysis of the related literature, Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002) argued that POS depends greatly on socioemotional need fulfillment. Even though POS often stems from managerial/supervisor support, co-worker trust can aid in satisfying employees’ socioemotional needs (Cohen and Prusak, 2001). The implication of this idea is that co-worker trust could contribute to employees’ perceptions of support from the organisation as a whole. Employees are likely to feel more positive about the support received from the organisation if co-worker trust is in place. In contrast, having a low level of trust in co-workers is likely to impact negatively on one’s perception of organisational support. This conceptualisation leads to the study’s first exploratory hypothesis:

Co-worker trust will be positively related to, and predictive of, perceived organisational support.






Intention to leave and co-worker trust Intention to leave is probably the most important predictor of actual turnover and is defined as the strength of an individual’s conviction that he or she will stay with or leave the organisation in which she/he is currently employed (Elangovan, 2001). Although some forms of turnover are desirable (e.g. losing poorly performing employees), most practitioners and researchers use the term as the loss of valued employees, and thus, as a negative index of organisational effectiveness (Staw, 1980). Identifying the antecedent conditions for intention to leave is important for understanding, and thus, controlling turnover behaviour (Vandenberg and Nelson, 1999). Although approaches to the study of turnover differ, most include the possibility that turnover is motivated by the disaffection of the individual with some aspect of the work environment including the job, co-workers, or organisation (Lee and Mitchell, 1994). A number of studies conducted in a variety of settings support a relationship between organisational trust and intention to leave (Costigan et al., 1998; Cunningham and MacGregor, 2000; Mishra and Morrisey, 1990; Tan and Tan, 2000). It seems that when trust exists within an organisation, then motivational and decision-making processes result in felt support, attachment and a willingness to stay (Tan and Tan, 2000). Earlier studies have generally used managers, supervisors or the organisation




itself as their trust referent. To date there has been a marked lack of attention given to the exploration of co-worker trust and intent to leave. Co-worker trust may be associated with lowered intention to leave for similar reasons as organisational trust motivates people to stay. The increased collaboration, connection, and effective communication stemming from trust in co-workers would presumably lead to positive social networks, feelings of support, greater attachment and socioemotional satisfaction. These outcomes could conceivably be manifested in lowered intention to leave. The second hypothesis draws on this reasoning:

Co-worker trust will be negatively related to, and predictive of, intention to leave.


The role of co-worker trust in affective commitment For an employee, the foundational concept of workplace commitment is identified along multiple foci, including commitment to one’s work, career, job, union and organization (Mueller et al., 1992). Organisational commitment can be further divided into three principal dimensions: affective, continuance and normative commitment. Affective commitment can be referred to as “the employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization” (Meyer and Allen, 1991, p. 67). This component of commitment represents the degree to which the individual wants to stay with the organisation (Meyer and Allen, 1991). Continuance commitment represents the cost to the employee associated with leaving the organisation. Finally, normative commitment refers to the bond that occurs when an employee feels as though he or she ought to remain with the organisation. More than continuance or normative commitment, affective commitment has been shown to positively influence a number of variables related to organisational well-being, such as job satisfaction (Meyer et al., 2002) and POS (Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002). Owing to its positive relationship with job involvement, job performance, and organizational citizenship behaviours (Allen and Meyer, 1996), employees with strong affective commitment also contribute more to the accomplishment of organisational goals. Affective commitment may enter into a motivational and decision-making process that produces an intention to leave. Conceptually, higher commitment implies weaker desire (or motivation) to leave the company and results in lower intention to leave. Indeed, the empirical evidence speaks clearly on this point (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990). There is significant theoretical and empirical support for the existence of a linkage between organisational commitment and trust (Albrecht and Travaglione, 2003; Cook and Wall, 1980; Hrebinak and Alutto, 1972; Laschinger et al., 2000; Tan and Tan, 2000). Matthai (1989) specifically evaluated the relationship of trust and affective commitment and found a strong, positive relationship concluding that trust may be a predictor of organisational commitment. Moreover, Nyhan (1999) notes that Blake and Mouton’s (1984) view of trust is synonymous with mutual respect and a key to developing affective commitment. Conversely, Diffie-Couch (1984) concludes that mistrust leads to decreased commitment, “and an unquantifiable cost in untapped potential”. Nonetheless, limited attention has been given to co-worker trust in detailing affective commitment outcomes. Based on the extant trust literature, it would seem that co-worker trust may be closely aligned with affective commitment. Processes of reciprocation that exist due to

social exchanges at work serve to initiate, strengthen and maintain interpersonal relationships. Consequently, a co-worker may begin to see a colleague as predictable and dependable, and respond by developing trust. If the co-worker responds benevolently (is trustworthy) then commitment to the relationship and the organisation could be fostered (Holmes and Rempel, 1989). Cook and Wall (1980)

offer evidence to support this position, as they found that trust in peers correlated significantly with organisational identification and organisational involvement. Thus

the final hypothesis is advanced:

Co-worker trust will be positively related to, and predictive of, affective commitment.








The sample consisted of 299 employees from a large public health organisation. While 306 questionnaires were originally returned, the exclusion of relevant missing data (i.e. incomplete trust in peers, POS, intention to leave and affective commitment items) reduced the number of included cases. One thousand two hundred questionnaires were sent to employees within the organisation, yielding a response rate of approximately

26 per cent.

Of the participants, 12 per cent were in management or senior management positions, while 88 per cent labeled their position as non-management. Of the

respondents, 87 per cent were female and 13 per cent were male. Of the respondents, 31.6 per cent were aged less than 36 years and 46.2 per cent were aged between 37 and


years. Of the respondents, 48 per cent had been with the organisation between


months and 10 years, with 42 per cent being employed for over 10 years. The

distribution of position level, gender, age and tenure in the sample was representative

of the demographics of the authority where the study was conducted.

Questionnaire measures Twenty-six items were implemented to obtain information on several organisational

variables and propensity to trust. Demographic information for gender, organisational tenure, position level, work facility and age were collected via five single items.


seven-point Likert response format (ranging from 1 ¼ strongly disagree to


¼ strongly agree) was used to measure the following constructs.

Trust in co-workers Trust in co-workers was measured with a 12-item subscale obtained from the three-factor workplace trust questionnaire (trust in organisation, trust in manager, trust in co-workers) developed by Ferres (2002). This scale was psychometrically

evaluated through recent research in Australia and South Africa (Ferres et al., 2004). The items were constructed via qualitative investigations (Ferres, 2002) and a review

of the available literature (Albrecht and Sevastos, 1999; Cook and Wall, 1980;

McAllister, 1995; Rotter, 1971, 1980). Items deal with co-worker trustworthiness and related behavioural trust (i.e. the willingness to act based on perceptions of co-worker trustworthiness). An example item is “I behave on the basis that my co-workers will not disclose personal information”. The results of the psychometric evaluation as




found when administered to Australian and South African samples ðn ¼ 685Þ follows in Table I (Ferres et al., 2004). It can be seen that the coefficients of internal homogeneity are substantial in both studies. While the high coefficient as may indicate some redundancy in items, the employed scale could be said to be a reliable indicator of co-worker trust.

Dispositional trust (control variable) Five items measure trust as a personality trait. These questions were taken from the trust subscale in the revised NEO personality inventory (Costa and McCrae, 1985). Three negatively worded items from the original scale were not included. These were omitted because strong arguments have been forwarded suggesting that it may be imprudent to think of distrust as the reverse of trust (Kramer, 1996). The use of reverse coded trust items, being framed in terms of distrust, may not be tapping into trust (Albrecht and Sevastos, 1999). The alpha reliability of the original NEO subscale was 0.90 (Costa and McCrae, 1985). The reliability coefficient of the scale employed in this study is 0.85. An example item is “My first reaction is to trust people”.

POS The three questions that measured POS were extracted from the short version of the survey of perceived organisational support (SPOS) instrument devised by Eisenberger et al. (1986). The reliability of the SPOS has been reported as 0.93 (Eisenberger et al., 1986). The internal reliability of the three-item construct used for the current study was 0.92. The three items were chosen from confirmatory factor analysis results (Travaglione, 1998), which purified the POS instrument. Three items are sufficient to define a construct and meet the requirements for the identification of confirmatory factor analytic measurement models (Kline, 1998). Items are: “This organisation is willing to help me when I need a special favour”, “The organisation values my contribution to its well-being”, and “The organisation cares about my opinions”.

Intention to leave Three questions that measured intention to leave were adapted from the intention to turnover scale contained in the Michigan organisational assessment questionnaire (Cammann et al., 1979). The internal reliability of this scale was reported by these researchers as 0.83. The internal reliability of this scale in the present study is 0.73. An example item is: “I will actively be seeking a job in the coming year”.

Affective commitment The three questions on affective commitment (AC) were extracted from the affective component of the three-dimensional Allen and Meyer (1990) commitment instrument.

Trust in co-workers

Australian sample (n ¼ 299)

South African sample (n ¼ 386)

Table I. Results of psychometric evaluation of co-worker trust scale across two international samples

Mean item-whole correlation Coefficient a Mean score (range ¼ 1-7) SD









The three items were selected based on confirmatory results that drew out the most parsimonious AC measure (Travaglione, 1998). Items are: “I would be very happy to spend the rest of my career with this organisation”, “This organisation has a great deal of personal meaning for me” and, “I really feel as if this organisation’s problems are my own”. The internal reliability of the scale is 0.80 for the current study.

Procedure Copies of the survey were distributed to the organisation’s payroll service, each with a cover letter and return envelope. Payroll staff attached the questionnaire to the pay slips of employees within the target sample. Participant anonymity and confidentiality was assured by having the completed questionnaires directed to the researchers.

Results Analysis All organisational variables were screened for normality, homogeneity of variance and outliers. One outlier was detected and deleted from subsequent analysis. The measure for dispositional trust was moderately positively skewed. This measure was transformed using the formula NEWX ¼ SQRTðk 2 XÞ; where k is the largest value for the variable (Tabachnick and Fidell, 1996). H1-H3 were explored through correlational and MLR techniques. Employee’s disposition towards trust, age, gender, and tenure in their current jobs was also included in the correlations and MLR models as control variables. Each of these factors may impact on organisational trust (Mayer and Davis’s, 1999) and influence employee attitudes in general (Tsui et al., 1992).

Correlation and MLR analysis Means, standard deviations and intercorrelations for the organisational and control variables are presented in Table II. In support of each hypothesis proposing a connection between co-worker trust and positive workplace attitudes, the table highlights significant moderate relationships between trust and each organisational attitude. Although all of the correlations involving co-worker trust were sizeable, given














1. Co-worker trust



2. POS





3. Intention to leave






4. Affective commitment 5. Dispositional trust














6. Age






7. Gender







8. Tenure








Notes: *Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed); **correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed); means (standard deviations) appear in bold in the diagonal

Table II.

Means (standard

deviations) and

intercorrelations of

organisational and

control variables




that they were lower than r ¼ 0:80; they did not suggest that respondents could undoubtedly differentiate between the constructs (Christiansen et al., 1996). Standardised regression analyses were conducted to ascertain the unique influence of co-worker trust on organisational outcomes. Results shown in Table III further substantiate the study’s hypotheses. Co-worker trust was the strongest predictor of POS, intention to leave and affective commitment, explaining between 15 and 23 per cent of the variance in scores for each variable. These effects were evidenced after controlling for the effects of age, gender, tenure, and dispositional trust. Relative to co-worker trust, the control variables had a small impact on the attitudes investigated in the study, including dispositional trust.

Discussion This study examined the relationship between co-worker trust and a set of organisational outcomes. Broadly, the results provide empirical support for the essential role of co-worker trust in positive workplace attitudes and perceptions. Beyond dispositional and demographic factors, co-worker trust had the most significant influence on the employee attitudes studied. Results suggest that co-worker trust enhances the perception of support at an organisational level (H1). These findings also imply that employees are less likely to want to leave (H2), and are more likely to be emotionally attached to the organisation (H3) when greater trust in co-workers is evident. In view of these results and the considerable social capital reported to develop from trusting relationships in the workplace, it is proposed that there is likely to be opportunities for organisations to improve individual and organisational effectiveness by engendering trust throughout peer levels.

Theoretical implications Tan and Tan (2000) imply that studying trust from different levels of analysis may produce dissimilar antecedents and outcomes depending on the trust referent. In the case of this study, the relationships between co-worker trust, POS, turnover intention, and affective commitment were similar to those found in studies, detailing the consequences of “trust in management” or “trust in organisation” (Albrecht and Travaglione, 2003; Laschinger et al., 2000; Mishra and Morrisey, 1990; Tan and Tan, 2000; Whitener, 2001; Whitener et al., 1998). This study also extended that of Cook and Wall’s (1980) investigations into the correlates of peer trust. Similar to Cook and Wall’s findings, the results found a link

Table III. MLR for co-worker trust and controls predicting POS, intention to leave and affective commitment


Intention to leave

Affective commitment




Co-worker trust
















Dispositional trust






¼ 0.48

R ¼ 0.44

R ¼ 0.39 R 2 ¼ 0.15 F ¼ 10.28**


2 ¼0.23

R 2 ¼ 0.18 F ¼ 12.1**

F ¼ 17.24**

Notes: *p , 0.05; **p , 0.001

between trust at the co-worker level and organisational commitment. While the current results are not comparable to the majority of the extant trust literature, it is suggested that it is acceptable to posit that co-worker trust also facilitates support, commitment and a desire to stay with an organisation. Another theoretical implication involves the POS construct. Although POS has been measured as an antecedent of organisational trust or trust in managers (Tan and Tan, 2000; Whitener, 2001; Whitener et al., 1998), the findings presented here indicate that POS could also be an outcome of trust, at least at the co-worker level. This indicates that trust amongst peers could well contribute to employees’ perceptions of support from the organisation as a whole. Employees who consider their co-workers to be trustworthy, and are willing to act on the basis of the words, actions, and decisions of their co-workers, may be more likely to feel positive about the support received from the organisation. This position differs from traditional views of exchange relationships in the workplace, which customarily consider trust as offered in exchange for organisational support. The strength of these findings is enhanced because they emerged after controlling for dispositional trust. The limited influence of dispositional trust on co-worker trust bears further investigation. Though Mayer et al. (1995) concluded that propensity to trust should contribute to the explanation of variance in trust if used as part of a more complete set of variables, our results imply otherwise. Specifically, organisational trust is likely to be above and beyond a person’s personality when viewed from a co-worker level. The direct experience of knowing one’s co-workers might well override employees’ basic predisposition to trust or mistrust (Payne and Clark, 1996). However, as Payne and Clark argue, trust ratings will be more significant with generalised forms of trust where employees have more limited contact with the people they are rating.





Limitations and directions for future research As the present study is, to our knowledge, one of the only studies that have investigated the effect of co-worker trust, there are certain advantages to be gained. However, in common with much initial research in a given area, this study also draws attention to certain methodological issues. For instance, the use of the term “co-worker” may have been ambiguous to some respondents. Some employees may have interpreted “co-worker” to mean both their peers and the managers with whom they work. Furthermore, while the management and gender distribution was representative of the population within the organisation where the study was conducted, care must be taken when generalising these results to other organisations and industries, especially those in the private sector. Another concern involved single method variance of self-report data; random responding could have impacted on results due to the use of just one Likert scale for all but five questions. Non-response bias, where people who respond differ from those who do not, also could not be controlled. Collectively, the study suggests that co-worker trust may contribute to factors that aid individual and organisational performance. However, this notion should be approached with caution. As the results are exploratory in nature, replication with diverse samples is certainly warranted. The cross-sectional design was a significant limitation and precluded causal inferences about the effects of co-worker trust. Longitudinal designs and the use of structural equation modelling are required in future to refine possible relationships and distinguish causal directions. The effect of




co-worker trust could also be tested in an intervention study where co-worker trust is measured, and conditions under which employees are working are changed to promote peer trust. The employees’ trust levels, attitudes and behaviours could then be compared to baseline data and also weighed against a control group that was not involved in the intervention. Additional outcomes of co-worker trust might also be explored in future studies, for example, in relation to organisational citizenship behaviour, absence, and performance. Gender differences and differences between management and non-management employees might also usefully be researched.

Conclusions and practical implications The current research was not focused on how to develop co-worker trust, but was more concerned with why co-worker trust should be cultivated. Earlier studies have revealed that when employees work for supportive managers, where trust and respect are the dominant characteristics of the relationship, less stress and greater productivity are reported (Davis and Landa, 1999). As this study focused on the additional dimension of co-worker trust it was found that trust is likely to be fostered between subordinates and managers, and between co-workers themselves, where organisations provide access to information and resources and the culture is perceived as supportive, encouraging an empowering management style (Kanter, 2003). The positive aspects of co-worker trust have implications for organisational leaders and human resource professionals – particularly where teamwork and collaboration are necessary. An essential component of self-directed teams and other forms of horizontal collaboration is the sharing of knowledge and information throughout the organisation. The creation of such a culture requires organisational leaders to build social capital through collaboration and mutual support which may require them to adopt socioemotive roles such as facilitating participation, showing concern for team members feelings and reducing conflict (Daft, 2002). These results suggest that an investment in the promotion of co-worker trust and social capital may contribute to the development of a stable, committed workforce that feels they are being supported by the organisation. In summary, this paper has outlined some of the benefits of co-worker trust, suggesting that its development be incorporated into new ways of thinking about management. Although the development and maintenance of trust within workplace relationships is challenging, especially where existing levels of trust are low, there is every indication that it is an important feature of organisational life that will result in worthwhile outcomes.

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Further reading Cornelious, N. (2002), Building Workplace Equity, Thomson, London. Eisenberger, R., Fasolo, P. and Davis-La Mastro, V. (1990), “Perceived organizational support and employee diligence, commitment, and innovation”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 75, pp. 51-9. Moorman, R.H., Niehoff, B.P. and Organ, D.W. (1993), “Treating employees fairly and organizational citizenship behaviors: sorting the effects of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and procedural justice”, Employees Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Vol. 6, pp. 209-25. Mowday, R.T., Porter, L.W. and Steers, R.M. (1982), Employee-Organization Linkage: The Psychology of Commitment, Absenteeism, and Turnover, Academic Press, New York, NY.