Interpersonal trust can be defined as "the extent to which a person is confident in, and willing to act on the basis of, the words, actions, and decisions of another" (McAllister, 1995: 25). Considerable research has explored the importance of trust in an organizational context (e.g., Becerra and Gupta, 2003; Mayer et al., 1995; Schoorman et al., 2007; Scott, 1980; Yang and Mossholder, 2010). Researchers have found that interpersonal trust is positively related to several outcomes, such as job performance (Earley, 1986), knowledge-sharing among employees (Abrams et al., 2003) and organizational citizenship behavior (Konovsky and Pugh, 1994; Mayer and Gavin, 2005).
Researchers have also explored the factors that may affect the development of interpersonal trust. For example, ability, benevolence, and integrity have been found to be positively related to interpersonal trust (Mayer and Gavin, 2005). Additionally, procedural justice (Konovsky and Pugh, 1994) and interaction frequency among members (McAllister, 1995) are positively related to interpersonal trust. Gender and age have also been found to be related to the development of interpersonal trust (Scott, 1983; Scott and Cook, 1983).
Although much literature exists on the nature of interpersonal trust, less attention has been given to the role of top management communication and employee involvement in the development of trust directed towards top management. For this study, top management communication can be defined as the degree of clarity and completeness in the messages sent by top management to employees (Slnidts et al., 2001), and employee involvement as the degree to which employees provide meaningful inputs into organizational decisions (Leana and Florkowski, 1992; Thomas et al., 2009). (2) Top management communication and employee involvement are helpful in the coordination of employee efforts and in steering employees to achieve organizational objectives (Buckley et al., 1998).
Research has found top management communication reduced employee anxiety, especially during a stressful event such as an acquisition (Gopinath and Becker, 2000). Furthermore, Smidts et al. (2001) found that a communication climate encouraging employee openness and participation helped employees to better identify with their organization. Similarly, research on employee involvement indicates that adoption of such practices increases organizational performance (Lawler et al., 1995; Vandenberg et al., 1999) and enhances positive employee attitudes (Riordan et al., 2005).
Clearly, top management communication and employee involvement are important factors in developing positive employee attitudes; however, the mechanism through which these factors operate is not clear. Some research indicates that top management communication is directly related to organizational commitment (Postmes el al., 2001), whereas other research indicates that top management communication is related to organizational commitment indirectly through its relationship with two mediators: organizational efficacy and person-organization fit (Vuuren el al., 2007).
In a similar vein, research into the relationship between employee involvement and organizational commitment has yielded mixed results. While Workman and Bommer (2004) found that high involvement work processes were positively related to organizational commitment, a longitudinal study by Guest et al. (1993) indicated that employee involvement did not increase organizational commitment. Other research found that organizational commitment is an important element of employee involvement (as opposed to being related to employee involvement; Hoel, 2004). It is not clear whether top management communication and employee involvement directly affect organizational commitment or affect it indirectly through an intervening variable or variables. This study addresses this gap in the literature and contends that top management communication and employee involvement help in building employee trust in top management, which, in turn, affects employee commitment towards the organization. …