The Effect of Delegation on Felt Trust

Thumbnail Image
Hanna, Joshua
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Guelph

Trust between leaders and their subordinates is key to successful interpersonal cooperation at work, and has been related to both performance and organizational citizenship behaviour (Colquitt, Scott, & LePine, 2007). Although research suggests that effective leadership improves a subordinate’s trust in their leader, little work has examined whether a leader’s behaviours can improve their subordinate’s felt trust (Brower, Schoorman, & Tan, 2000; Dirks & Ferrin, 2002; Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995). The present study used a between-subjects online vignette experiment to examine how subordinate felt trust may be influenced by a) a leader’s task delegation, b) the probability of negative outcomes and c) the importance of avoiding negative outcomes in the task. Participants were n = 1196 people recruited over CrowdFlower. Results indicate that leader’s task delegation improves subordinate felt trust, d = 0.90, 95% CI = [0.78, 1.03]. The probability of negative outcomes for the delegated task did not affect felt trust, d = 0.03, 95% CI = [-0.14, 0.20]. However, delegating more important tasks had a greater positive effect on felt trust than less important tasks, d = 0.57, 95% CI = [0.4, 0.74]. Findings support the relational leadership model; subordinates perceive leader’s risk-taking actions as indicative of trust.

Leadership, Trust, Attitudes