The Central Role of Communication in Developing Trust and its Effect on Employee Involvement

Topic: Employee Involvement and Trust

Author(s), Title and Publication

Thomas, G., Zolin, R., & Hartman, J. L. (2009). The Central Role of Communication in Developing Trust and its Effect on Employee Involvement. Journal of Business Communication, 46(3), 287-310.


Research has shown that communication plays an important role in developing trust within an organization, and many researchers have studied the relationship between trust and communication. However, little is known about the specific links among quality of information, quantity of information, trust (of coworkers, supervisors, top management), organizational openness, and outcomes (e.g., employee involvement). This study tested these relationships by analyzing data from an International Communication Association (ICA) survey, which was completed by 218 employees in the oil industry.

Using mediation analysis and structural equation modeling, the researchers found that timeliness, accuracy, and the usefulness of information influenced employees’ trust of their coworkers and supervisors, while the adequacy of information affected employees’ trust of top management. Moreover, employees’ trust of coworkers, supervisors, and top management influenced their perceptions of organizational openness, which affected employees’ ratings of self-involvement or engagement in achieving organizational goals. The study confirms that the relationship between communication and trust is complex, and simple strategies focusing on adjusting either the quality or quantity of information may be ineffective for dealing with all members in an organization.

Implications for Practice

Timely, accurate and useful information helps build trust among employees, co-workers, and supervisors. To encourage greater employee engagement and enhance trust of top management, however, practitioners and organizational leaders should provide enough information to employees. This refers to the context and rationale for organizational decisions and changes, or explaining “why” things are changing, in addition to “what” is changing and “when” it will change.

Location of Article

The article is available online at:

Posted in [Research Library], Employee / Organizational Communication, Employee Engagement, Employee Trust and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

Join the Discussion