During a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, what managers communicate to their employees can greatly impact important organizational attitudes, such as organizational trust. There is, however, very little research focusing on the mechanisms explaining how managers’ messages during a crisis can influence employees’ organizational trust. To address this gap, the current study examined the role that emotions play in developing organizational trust using a 2 (following CDC norms vs. ignoring CDC norms) by 2 (employee focus vs. bottom-line focus) between-subjects factorial experiment, with COVID-19 as the context. The results showed that a manager’s communication that followed the CDC social norms made employees feel grateful, whereas communication that ignored CDC social norms enhanced fear and anger toward the organization. The feelings of gratefulness and fear influenced organizational trust. These results provide important theoretical and practical implications for understanding organizational trust during a crisis.