Burnout and Perceived Organisational Support among Front-Line Hospitality Employees

By Walters, Gabrielle; Raybould, Mike | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2007 | Go to article overview

Burnout and Perceived Organisational Support among Front-Line Hospitality Employees


Walters, Gabrielle, Raybould, Mike, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


This article describes research designed to investigate the relationship between burnout and perceived organisational support (POS) among front-line hospitality employees, Three hundred front-line employees of a multisite hospitality firm were surveyed using an instrument comprising the general survey version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory and the 17-item version of the Survey of Perceived Organisational Support (POS). Significant relationships were found between POS and each of the three burnout dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism and personal efficacy. The findings of this study contribute to the existing academic literature and provide hospitality managers with a better understanding of the factors that contribute to the problem of front-line employee turnover.

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Research suggests that a common flaw in hospitality organisations is that they fail to address the issues associated with employee wellbeing, such as the experience of work-related burnout and the extent to which their employees feel they are supported and valued (Anderson, Provis, & Chappel, 2001; Tabacchi, Krone, & Farber, 1990; Zohar, 1994). Work-related burnout in employees is believed to result in physiological, psychological and behavioural consequences which are detrimental to the health of the employee and the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation (van Dierendonck, Schaufeli & Buunk, 1998). On the other hand, a high level of perceived organisational support (POS) has been associated with many positive implications for both employees and management, such as increased organisational commitment, job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates (Eisenberger, Cummings, Armeli, & Lynch, 1997).

A study by Zohar (1994) found that the hospitality industry is recognised as one of the most stressful professions. Buick and Thomas (2001) described the hospitality industry as one that faced labour shortages, high levels of staff turnover, unsociable working hours and high pressure working conditions. Although previous research has addressed the occurrence of work-related burnout in the hospitality industry (see for example, Reynolds & Tabacchi, 1993; Tabacchi, Krone & Farber, 1990), past research efforts have predominantly focused on middle and upper level management as opposed to front-line employees. Furthermore, research to date has not investigated the relationship between burnout and POS within a hospitality setting. The aim of this study was to address this research gap through an exploratory quantitative study of front-line hospitality employees. The findings of this study contribute to the existing academic literature and provide hospitality mangers with a better understanding of the factors that contribute to the problem of front-line employee turnover.

Burnout and its Organisational Consequences

The term burnout has been used widely since the 1970s to describe the stresses experienced by people working in human services industries. The term's most common use was to define the relationship that people have with their work and the difficulties that may surface when that relationship breaks down (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001). Vallen (1993) described this condition as a collection of problems experienced in the workplace that result in a negative interface between individuals and their environment. Maslach (1982) identified three common dimensions of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation or cynicism, and reduced personal accomplishment--otherwise known as reduced personal efficacy. Further research on these dimensions led to the development of the Multidimensional Theory of Burnout (Maslach, 1982). Figure 1 presents a conceptual model of the burnout phenomenon.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

According to Perlman and Hartman (1982), exhaustion is the most commonly experienced symptom of burnout. They found that exhaustion was associated with both psychological and physiological strain and was characterised by symptoms such as tension, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. …

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