Purpose To study the effectiveness of a multifaceted strategy to implement the participatory approach (PA) for supervisors to increase their self-efficacy in addressing risk of sick leave of employees. Methods Supervisors from three organizations were invited to participate. Randomization was performed at department level. Supervisors (n = 61) in the intervention departments received the implementation strategy consisting of a working group meeting, supervisor training in PA application, and optional supervisor coaching. Supervisors in the control departments (n = 55) received written information on PA. The primary outcome was supervisors’ self-efficacy to apply the PA, measured at baseline and 6 months’ follow-up. The number of employees with whom supervisors discussed work functioning problems or (risk of) sick leave was also assessed. Effects were tested using multilevel analyses. Results The strategy did not increase self-efficacy to apply the PA. Subgroup analyses showed that self-efficacy increased for supervisors who at baseline reported to have discussed (risk of) sick leave with less than three employees during the last 6 months (B = 1.42, 95 % CI 0.34–2.50). Furthermore, the implementation strategy increased the number of employees with whom supervisors discussed work functioning problems or risk of sick leave (B = 1.26, 95 % CI 0.04–2.48). Conclusion Although the implementation strategy cannot be recommended for all supervisors, for supervisors who less frequently discuss (risk of) sick leave with employees the implementation strategy might be helpful. Trial registration NTR3733.