Date of Award

Fall 12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. H. Quincy Brown

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Heather M. Annulis

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. John J. Kmiec

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 School



A highly engaged workforce provides numerous organizational and individual benefits (Shuck et al., 2016), the culmination of which leads to a competitive advantage difficult to emulate (Burke et al., 2013). It remains challenging to understand how engagement develops, with little research available explaining the process (Shuck, 2020). High employee engagement levels provide a competitive advantage, but stagnant engagement levels remain a significant obstacle (Shuck, 2020).

Shuck (2020) recommends further research focusing on methods to increase engagement. Trustworthiness and trust are antecedents and drivers of engagement (Chughtai & Buckley, 2008; Federman, 2010; SHRM, 2017). A lack of trust has negative impacts on engagement, decreasing engagement levels (Folkman, 2021). Considering the impact of trustworthiness and trust on engagement, this study investigated the relationships between the concepts. This study determined if increasing trustworthiness and trust are strategies to develop employee engagement.

This study utilized a quantitative, non-experimental, predictive, cross-sectional research design to examine the relationship between coworker trustworthiness, coworker trust, leader trustworthiness, leader trust, and employee engagement. The researcher used partial least squares structural equation modeling to investigate the research objectives. Data were collected using convenience and purposive sampling to target Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers. MTurk and Qualtrics were utilized to disseminate the internet-based survey.

The results indicate that coworker ability is the primary driver and predictor of employee engagement, followed by leader ability. Coworker trustworthiness and leader trustworthiness have positive, significant relationships with employee engagement. Coworker trust has a negative, significant relationship with employee engagement and leader trust has no relationship with employee engagement. Understanding how to increase coworker and leader abilities through the development and display of knowledge, skills, competencies, and characteristics can lead to increases in employee engagement. Understanding the relationships between trustworthiness, trust, and employee engagement aids organizations in concluding which trustworthiness subdimension best influences employee engagement. Knowing which trustworthiness factor best predicts employee engagement reveals how to cultivate employee engagement levels and drive organizational success, thereby creating and sustaining a competitive advantage. Human resources practitioners may use these findings to develop organizational interventions designed to increase trustworthiness and cultivate employee engagement to achieve a competitive advantage.

Keywords: employee engagement, trustworthiness, trust, human capital development, competitive advantage