This study aims to explore how gender influences the impact of interpersonal trust among subordinates on spontaneous work behaviors such as sharing responsibility and knowledge and engaging in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). The goal is to understand factors that contribute to the effectiveness of women as supervisors and subordinates in the manufacturing sector.
Data were gathered from 308 subordinates and 71 supervisors working in the manufacturing sector in mainland China using a survey methodology. Descriptive statistics, correlation, confirmatory factor analysis and hierarchical moderated regression were the statistical techniques used.
Results indicate that both affect- and cognition-based trust among subordinates positively impact responsibility- and knowledge-sharing behaviors, OCB-individual (OCB-I) and OCB-organization (OCB-O). For female subordinates, the gender of the supervisor alters the relationship between both forms of trust and responsibility-sharing behavior and OCB-O, but not knowledge-sharing behavior and OCB-I. Cognition-based trust plays a dominant role for male subordinates, while affect-based trust is more relevant to female subordinates. Finally, while the gender of the supervisor moderates the impact of both affect- and cognition-based trust, it is significant for female subordinates only.
This study is not without limitations. First, the authors had access to a limited sample of female supervisors and female subordinates, which is not uncommon in the manufacturing sector that is mostly composed of male employees. Second, the cross-sectional nature of the study does not allow the capture of the impact of change in trust over time. However, it is believed that the multi-source design, the novelty of the study’s findings and their implications to interpersonal trust theory and supervisory practice compensate for the limitations. For starters, this study endorses the crucial role of interpersonal trust among employees in predicting important organizational behaviors. It corroborates the conceptual distinction between affect- and cognition-based trust and empirically validates the concepts of affect- and cognition-based trust, RSB, KSB and OCB in China. It uses multi-source data and measures behavioral outcomes of workers as observed by their immediate supervisors. These contributions speak to the empirical viability of our theoretical framework that may be useful to those contemplating cross-cultural research.
The study started with the question, does gender matter. The answer is that it does and that it has implications for human resource management. The gender of both supervisors and subordinates affect the way interpersonal trust among workers elicit desirable organizational behaviors such as sharing responsibilities, sharing knowledge and other forms of citizenship behavior. Female supervisors need to build trust among their female employees before they can expect effective organizational behavior. The story is different for male supervisors and male employees. This has implications in the way male and female supervisors are trained. It also has implications for work group formation and composition. What the study does not know is whether these findings are limited to the manufacturing sector or unique to China. It is recommended that a cross-cultural comparative research be undertaken to address those questions.
In light of the study’s findings, it is proposed that supervisory training and development programs should take into consideration that female supervisors encounter more challenges in eliciting favorable behaviors on the part of female subordinates in a work environment that is male-dominated.
The unique value contribution of the study pertains to the role of gender – the gender of the supervisor and the gender of the subordinate in shaping organizational behavior. Specifically, the authors show that the supervisor’s gender influences the relationship between affect-based trust and RSB, KSB and OCB-O and the relationship between cognition-based trust and OCB-O. Their point is that these relationships are significant only for female supervisors. In addition, they show that gender similarity between the supervisor and the supervised matters, only when both are female. These findings limit the role of interpersonal trust in eliciting favorable organizational behavior across the board and question the portability of interpersonal trust theory across industries and cultures.