Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Perceived Organizational Family Support: A Longitudinal and Multilevel Analysis *

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Perceived Organizational Family Support: A Longitudinal and Multilevel Analysis *

Article excerpt

Although substantial literature has accumulated regarding specific work-life practices and their effects, until recently little systematic attention has been paid to the overall climate of organizational work-life support and consequent employee attitudes and behaviors (Allen, 2001; Thompson et al., 1999). In addition, most research has failed to go beyond the individual level of analysis, obtain independent measures of work-life practices, or collect data longitudinally. The present research addresses these deficiencies.

Using a multilevel, longitudinal research design, we examined the following questions: Are employees who perceive family support from their supervisors and organizations more committed to their firms? Do they experience less work-family conflict and engage in lower levels of job search behavior? Do the relationships hold over time? Are employee perceptions of organizational and supervisory family support, when aggregated at the group level to capture climate, related to the outcome variables? Finally, are human resource managers' descriptions of their organization's work-life programs related to employees' perceptions of such practices and to employee perceptions of organizational family support?

The present research is grounded in theories of social support (House, 1981) and perceived organizational support (Eisenberger et al., 1986). House (1981) described three categories of social support: instrumental (providing actual aid and programs), informational (communicating what resources are available), and emotional (acknowledging an employee's non-work needs). These categories parallel Greenhaus and Parasuraman's (1986) strategies for reducing work-family conflict (i.e., providing greater flexibility, accurate information and support services), and Wethington and Kessler's (1986) typology that includes the actual transfer of advice, aid, and affect. Nelson and Quick (1991) proposed a similar framework that includes emotional support, informational support, and instrumental support, as well as appraisal support (i.e., affirmations and evaluative feedback). Although we generally think of support as coming from friends and family, Erera (1992) suggested that individuals will increasingly seek and expect social support from the work domain, partly to offset a reduction in its availability from the non-work domain. Hochschild (1997) noted that some employees consider their work community to be the center of their lives and, in fact, get more support from their co-worker friends than from their family and friends outside of work.

Organizational Family Support (what the media and work-life industry have called "family friendliness") is a global construct that encompasses the work-family policies and practices offered by an organization, the totality of which convey a message regarding the organization's interest in helping employees achieve a viable balance between work and family life. However, simply offering work-life programs does not necessarily mean that employees find the organization supportive of their work-life needs (Mien and Russell, 1999; Thompson et al., 1999). It is important to measure employee perceptions of organizational support. Thus, the construct of Perceived Organizational Family Support (POFS) was developed to measure employees' perceptions of how supportive the organization is of their work-life needs (Jahn et al., 2003). This construct is a subset of perceived organizational support (POS), which has been defined as the global beliefs that employees form "concerning the extent to which the organization values their contributions and cares about their well-being" (Eisenberger et al., 1986: 500). However, we focus more narrowly on the support an organization provides employees in dealing with their non-work life demands. By recognizing that employees face such demands, and by offering programs designed to facilitate integration of work and non-work roles, organizations demonstrate to employees that they value the "whole person," not just the person qua employee. …

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