Original Research

The impact of coachee personality traits, propensity to trust and perceived trustworthiness of a coach, on a coachee’s trust behaviour in a coaching relationship

Nicolaas H.D. Terblanche, Marita Heyns
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 46 | a1707 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v46i0.1707 | © 2020 Nicky H.D. Terblanche, Marita Heyns | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 July 2019 | Published: 24 February 2020

About the author(s)

Nicolaas H.D. Terblanche, Business School, Faculty of Economic and Management, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Marita Heyns, Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Orientation: Coaching continues to grow in importance as a learning and developmental intervention in organisations. It is therefore important to understand what makes coaching successful.

Research purpose: The coaching relationship is a known predictor of coaching success, and trust is a key ingredient of a high-quality coach–coachee relationship. This study investigated whether coachee characteristics influence trust in a coaching relationship.

Motivation for the study: Research on trust from the coachees’ perspective is sparse, and specifically it is not known which characteristics of the coachee influence trust behaviour (TB) in the coaching relationship.

Research approach/design and method: This study used a cross-sectional survey (n = 196) to measure coachees’ propensity to trust, perception of the trustworthiness (TW) of their coach, TB and their Big Five personality traits. Structural equation modelling was used for analysis.

Main findings: Results revealed that neither personality traits nor propensity to trust are predictors of coachee TB. Only the extent to which the coachee perceives the coach to be trustworthy predicts coachee TB. No indirect and moderation effects were observed.

Practical/managerial implications: Coaches can actively work towards increasing their TW and by implication the TB of the coachee by demonstrating competence, integrity and ability.

Contribution/value-addition: This study makes an important contribution to the under-researched field of the role of coachees’ characteristics in successful coaching engagements, in the process contributing to the understanding of what affects coaching efficacy.


trust; trust propensity; trustworthiness; trust behaviour; executive coaching relationship; coaching; personality traits.


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