Purpose A multifaceted implementation strategy was targeted at supervisors to encourage them to apply a participatory approach (PA) in dealing with employees’ work functioning problems due to health concerns. This paper assesses the effect on employees’ perceived social norms regarding the use of the PA to deal with work functioning problems. Methods Three organizations participated in a cluster randomized controlled trial, with randomization at the department level. Supervisors in the PA intervention departments received the implementation strategy consisting of a working group meeting, supervisor training, and optional coaching. Supervisors in the control departments received written information about the PA only. In two of the organizations, employees were invited to complete surveys at baseline and at 6-month follow-up. The primary outcome was perceived social norms regarding the use of the PA to deal with work functioning problems. Secondary measures included attitudes and self-efficacy, and intention regarding joint problem solving, and sick leave data. Effects were analyzed using multilevel analyses to account for nesting of cases. Results At baseline, 273 employees participated in the survey, with follow-up analyses of 174 employees. There were no statistically significant group effects on employee outcome measures. The intervention group showed a larger reduction in mean sick days (from 4.6 to 2.4 days) versus the control group (from 3.8 to 3.6 days), but this difference did not reach statistical significance (p > .05). Conclusion The multifaceted strategy to implement the participatory approach for supervisors did not show effects on outcomes at the employee level. To gain significant effects at the employee level, may require that an implementation strategy not only targets management and supervisors, but also employees themselves. Trial registration: NTR3733.