ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (12): 1376-1392.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2021.01376

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


卢海陵1, 杨洋2, 王永丽2(), 张昕3, 谭玲4   

  1. 1南京理工大学经济管理学院, 南京 210094
    2中山大学管理学院,广州 510275
    3香港中文大学管理学系, 香港 999077
    4广东工业大学管理学院, 广州 510520
  • 收稿日期:2020-06-08 出版日期:2021-12-25 发布日期:2021-10-26
  • 通讯作者: 王永丽
  • 基金资助:

Does distrust motivate or discourage employees? The double-edged sword of feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors

LU Hailing1, YANG Yang2, WANG Yongli2(), ZHANG Xin3, TAN Ling4   

  1. 1School of Economics and Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing 210094, China
    2School of Business, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    3Department of Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China
    4School of Management, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou 510520, China
  • Received:2020-06-08 Online:2021-12-25 Published:2021-10-26
  • Contact: WANG Yongli


感知能力不被领导信任是信任研究的重要内容。已有研究普遍认为感知不被领导信任会对员工的自我产生不利影响。相反, 传统领导方式“激将法”则认为领导的不信任可以刺激员工展现更好的自我。为了解释上述矛盾, 本研究基于自我评价理论和心理逆反理论, 采用实验研究和多源多时间点问卷调查研究方法, 探讨了感知能力不被领导信任对员工自我的“双刃剑”效应及边界条件。研究结果表明, 当员工感知领导能力较强时, 感知能力不被领导信任会通过降低员工的工作效能感削弱员工的工作努力和绩效表现; 当员工感知领导能力较弱时, 感知能力不被领导信任会通过增强员工证明自我能力动机提升员工的工作努力和绩效表现。

关键词: 感知能力不被领导信任, 感知领导能力, 工作自我效能感, 证明自我能力动机, 工作努力


Feeling trusted by supervisors is not only beneficial for employees’ job attitude and performance, but also for organizational effectiveness. Feeling ability-distrusted, defined as “the extent to which a subordinate perceives that their leader evaluates their ability to be untrustworthy”, is a crucial part of trust research. Previous research has revealed that feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors is detrimental to employees’ self-concept. Nevertheless, this prevailing assumption leaves our understandings of trust incomplete. Traditional Chinese management practice (e.g., “Jijiangfa”) has suggested that supervisors’ distrust may encourage employees to exhibit their better self. However, limited attention has been paid to the potential positive influence of employees' feeling ability- distrusted by their supervisors on their self-concept. For example, when employees perceive ability-distrust from their supervisors, they may lose their confidence in their abilities, or, on the other hand, may be motivated to prove their abilities. Thus, an important question is: Does feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors have both positive and negative effects on subordinates’ self-concept, and if so, why?
To address this question, drawing from self-evaluation and psychological reactant theories, we examine the effects of feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors on employees’ job self-efficacy and desire to prove their abilities, which in turn influence employee work effort and job performance. Furthermore, we examine the moderating effect of perceived supervisor competence on the relationship between feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors and employees’ job self-efficacy or employees’ desire to prove their abilities.
We conducted one experiment and two multi-wave field studies to test our hypothesis. In Study 1, we designed a 2 × 2 experiment, with 4 different scenarios. The scenarios described the interaction at work between a fictional employee named Wang Chen and his supervisor. We recruited 164 undergraduates from a university and assigned participants randomly to each of the scenarios. Each participant read the scenario and took on the role of Wang Chen. Next, participants reported their job self-efficacy, desire to prove their abilities, manipulation check, and demographics. In Study 2, we initially recruited 227 employees and their immediate supervisors from an insurance company in southern China. Employees were asked to report on their feeling ability-distrusted by their supervisors, job self-efficacy, desire to prove abilities, work effort, perceived supervisor competence, and demographics. One week later, supervisors were asked to report their subordinates’ job performance. Before responding to the surveys, participants were informed that the survey data would be confidential and only used for academic research., There were 195 pairs of matched and usable data for our final sample. In Study 3, we surveyed 266 employees and their supervisors across 65 workgroups. The employees reported on feelings of ability-distrust by their supervisors, perceived supervisor competence, and their demographics. One month later, employees were required to assess self-efficacy on the job, desire to prove their abilities and work effort. Supervisors were then invited to rate employees’ job performance.
Results showed that when perceived supervisor competence was high, feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors was negatively associated with job self-efficacy, which in turn, decreased employee work effort and task performance. On the other hand, when perceived supervisor competence was low, feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors was positively associated with employee’s desire to prove their abilities, which in turn increased employee work effort and task performance.
This study makes several theoretical contributions. First, we contribute to the literature on trust by challenging the consensus that feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors is unequivocally detrimental to employees’ self- concept. Second, we contribute by identifying an important boundary condition for the effects of feeling ability- distrusted by supervisors. From the perspective of perceived credibility of evaluation information, we found that perceived supervisor competence moderated the effects of feeling ability distrusted. Finally, we contribute to the literature on work effort by identifying an important but neglected antecedent of employee work effort. We suggest that beyond leaders’ positive behavior, their negative behaviors (e.g., expressed distrust) may also lead to employees’ increased work effort when employees perceive supervisor competence to be low.

Key words: feeling ability-distrusted by supervisors, perceived supervisor competence, job self-efficacy, desire to prove ability, work effort