Dr. Sharon Sheridan presented her research “Who Moved The Big Cheese? Trust Transference, Social Influence, and the Development of Trust in a New Executive Leader” at The First International Network on Trust Conference in January 2019 in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Authors on the paper included Cecily Cooper (University of Miami), Craig Crossley (University of Central Florida), and Sharon Sheridan (University of North Dakota).
In this research we examine how front-line employees develop trust in a new executive leader. The preponderance of research on trust development focuses on close relationships and, in doing so, fails to clarify the processes that will influence the development of trust in a distant leader whom employees cannot directly observe. To investigate this phenomenon, we collected data from front-line employees and their direct supervisors at two points in time in an organization that had recently experienced a leadership succession event. Results suggest that supervisors play an instrumental role in shaping how employees develop trust in an executive via two unique processes, trust transference and social influence. Notably, we also observed a negativity bias in that supervisors who had less trust in the executive leader tended to have more influence on employees than those who had more positive views of the leader. The present research contributes to our knowledge of trust development in organizations by conceptually refining the notion of supervisor trust transference and testing it alongside the similar but distinct process of supervisor social influence. Taken together, these processes illuminate how employees form trust judgments of distant leaders and the inherent connection between supervisors and executive leaders as two key referents of trust.