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Trust and Signals in Workplace Organization: Evidence from Job Autonomy Differentials between Immigrant Groups

van Hoorn, Andre (2016): Trust and Signals in Workplace Organization: Evidence from Job Autonomy Differentials between Immigrant Groups.

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Abstract

Trust involves a willingness to be vulnerable to other agents’ actions as well as an assessment of these agents’ trustworthiness. This paper seeks to unpack the relationship between trust and workplace organization, focusing on signals of (un)trustworthiness guiding employers’ trust decisions. While much research finds that societal trust norms affect workplace organization, particularly the granting of autonomy to employees, the underlying process remains essentially a black box. Integrating extant literatures, I posit that employers use group-level traits to infer (un)trustworthiness and decide on how much job autonomy to grant to specific employees. I test this prediction in a large cross-national sample comprising migrant employees originating from home countries that differ in the degree to which corruption has been institutionalized in society. Confirming my prediction, empirical results reveal a strong negative relationship between homecountry corruption and job autonomy. Results are robust to controlling for a range of potential confounders, including personal income and home-country level of economic development as proxies for unobserved skill differentials. Key contribution of the paper is to reveal important real-world features of trust governing exchange in the context of workplace organization.

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