Trust in engineering management, leadership practices and the influencing role of nation culture in the Saudi petrochemical sector.

  • Abdulllah Algarni

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Trust is understood to be widely associated with a range of positive outcomes and the same is true of transformational leadership practices though the precise nature of the relationship between these two variables is still a matter of debate. Furthermore, with the increasing prevalence of multicultural workforces the influencing effect of national culture in this relationship has also become an important consideration. This thesis reports research examining the relationships between trust, transformational leadership practices and culture in the context of Saudi petrochemical engineering companies with multicultural workforces. Using a mixed methods approach, this research combines a survey study of both leaders and followers at these companies with an interview study aimed at probing deeper into the issues raised by the survey. Survey respondents and interview participants included and compared local Saudis and expatriates from the UK and the USA. The survey included the Leadership Practices Inventory and McAllister’s affective/cognitive trust scale.Among the findings were that employees at Saudi petrochemical firms with multicultural workforces report lower levels of both cognitive and affective trust in their leaders, than the leaders do in their own leaders. Overall trust at these firms is broadly in line with other studies using the same survey instrument. Furthermore, the employees at Saudi petrochemical firms with multicultural workforces report lower levels of transformational leadership practices used by their direct leaders than the leaders report about themselves. The employee/observer scores are also lower than a global database of Leadership Practices Inventory scores. On the trust-culture relationship, for both affective and cognitive forms of trust in leader, high collectivism and high power distance are associated with a statistically significantly higher level of trust. The interview data showed a marked contrast in the nature of the trust with Saudi participants having a more automatic, relationship based ‘in-group’ form of trust while the expatriates framed it more as an instrumental trust. In evaluating the findings, the thesis considers the relative influences of engineering and national culture upon trust and leadership practices and considers the advantages and disadvantages of multicultural engineering workplaces. The thesis makes important contributions to the understanding of the relationships of interest that are significant for researchers and leadership practitioners in the engineering sector and beyond. The research focus on the Saudi Arabian context is also an important contribution because the study of these relationships in other parts of the world is not matched in Saudi Arabia or the wider Middle East.
Date of AwardJan 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrian Price (Supervisor)


  • engineering
  • management
  • leadership
  • trust
  • culture

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