Employee Attachment: Implications for Supervisor Trustworthiness and Trust

M. Lance Frazier, Janaki Gooty, Laura M. Little, Debra L. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of adult attachment on perceptions of trustworthiness and trust in one’s supervisor. Specifically, we cast trustworthiness perceptions as the cognitive mechanisms by which attachment influences trust, which then influenced work outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: Data on attachment, trustworthiness, and trust were obtained from employees, and performance ratings were provided by the employees’ direct supervisor (n = 353, 157 supervisors). Findings: Secure and counterdependent attachment had a significant impact on trustworthiness perceptions, and secure attachment was also significantly related to trust, even in the presence of trustworthiness perceptions. Overdependent attachment had no significant influence on trustworthiness or trust perceptions. Implications: Adult attachment influences one’s regulatory processes in interpersonal relationships and will certainly influence trust in one’s supervisor. Understanding the process by which attachment influences trust in one’s supervisor via trustworthiness perceptions provides a more comprehensive picture of how trust develops. This study provides evidence that adult attachment influences trustworthiness and trust simultaneously, which may be helpful in the selection process but also in managing the interpersonal aspect of the employee–supervisor relationship. Originality/value: Though trust has been linked to attachment in the literature, no research has examined adult attachment and its influence on trustworthiness perceptions. Our paper provides an examination of attachment and its role in a comprehensive model of interpersonal trust. In addition, we examine attachments influence on trustworthiness and trust beyond the influence of propensity to trust, a commonly studied dispositional variable in the trust literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-386
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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