Topic: Trust and Upward Communication
Author(s), Title and Publication
Roberts, K. H.; & O’Reilly, C. A. III (1974). Failures in upward communication in organizations: Three possible culprits. Academy of Management Journal, 17(2), 205-215.
This classic study examined the impact of subordinates’ trust in their supervisor, perceptions of the supervisor’s influence over their future, and their own mobility aspirations regarding upward communication behavior. Employees (n=429) from a state mental health outpatient facility, a high-tech military unit, a medical center, and a financial institution participated in a survey.
Results showed that among the three factors (trust, influence, and mobility), trust has the greatest influence on upward communication, followed by perceived influence of the supervisor. Subordinates who express high trust in their supervisors and perceive more influence from supervisors tend to 1) believe in the accuracy of the information received from their supervisors, 2) have high desire for interaction with their supervisors, and 3) are more satisfied with the communication. Only in the military unit did subordinates’ mobility aspirations show strong impact on their upward communication behavior. The study also reinforced the crucial nature of frontline supervisors in building employee trust and engagement.
Implications for Practice
To encourage upward communication, supervisors may want to foster an open corporate culture, keep their employees informed, and demonstrate more trust in their employees. Enhanced supervisory listening and communication skills, regular communication sessions with employees, and key messaging strategies can be helpful in doing so.
Location of Article
The article is available online at: http://amj.aom.org/content/17/2/205.short (abstract free, purchase full article)