Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Is the Path to Burnout and Turnover Paved by a Lack of Supervisory Support? A Structural Equations Test

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Is the Path to Burnout and Turnover Paved by a Lack of Supervisory Support? A Structural Equations Test

Article excerpt

Several studies have shown that low levels of supervisory support contribute to job burnout and turnover. We used structural equations modeling to test the hypotheses that low levels of supervisory support will have both direct and mediated effects on job burnout and turnover intentions of nurses working in a large New Zealand hospital. Specifically, we hypothesized that low supervisory support will have a direct effect on a)emotional exhaustion, b) depersonalization, and c) turnover intentions, and mediated effects on depersonalization and turnover intentions, transmitted through emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. The proposed theoretical model was supported by the data from 250 NZ nurses. The direct effect of low supervisory support on emotional exhaustion was -. 18, on depersonalization -. 15, and on turnover intentions -.30. The indirect effects of low supervisory support on depersonalization mediated through emotional exhaustion was .39 and .21 on turnover intentions. The mediated effects of depersonalization on turnover intentions was .27. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Nurses are frequently exposed to intense and emotionally draining life-and-death situations, which over time can take a toll on them personally (Chiriboga & Bailey, 1986; Keane, Ducette, & Adler, 1985). Research has shown that a lack of social support contributes to higher burnout (Constable & Russell, 1986; Leiter & Maslach, 1988; Pines & Maslach, C., 1978). Among various types of social support available to nurses in a work setting, the support of one's supervisor is probably more important than other support variables (Constable & Russell, 1986). The effects of low levels of supervisory support on burnout experiences of nurses and other categories of employees in human service organizations are well documented in the literature (Eastburg, Williamson, Gorsuch, & Ridley, 1994; Lee & Ashforth, 1993; Leiter & Maslach, 1988). However, no direct structural test has been undertaken to investigate the relationship of low levels of supervisory support on job burnout and intentions to quit among nurses. The present study investigates the impact of low supervisory support on job burnout experiences of nurses and on their intent to quit their jobs.

The central variable in the present study is job burnout. We used the three component conceptualization of burnout proposed by Maslach and Jackson (1981; 86). According to Maslach and Jackson, "Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do "people work"" (1986, p. 1). More fully, burnout is "... the gradual loss of caring about the people they work with. Over time they find they simply cannot sustain the kind of personal care and commitment called for in the personal encounters that are the essence of their job" (Maslach, 1978, p58). Maslach states that there are three components to the experience of burnout that have implications for individuals who do "people work". These are: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and diminished personal accomplishment. Each component of burnout needs to be understood in the context of what happens to the caregivers such as nurses in the process of caring.

Emotional Exhaustion: The first component is generally considered to be the core symptom of burnout, and it is strongly related to other burnout dimensions as well. Emotional exhaustion refers to the feelings of being emotionally over-extended and exhausted by one's work (Maslach & Jackson, 1986). Emotional exhaustion is characterised by a lack of energy and a feeling that one's emotional resources are used up (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Maslach (1982a) describes it as a response to the overwhelming emotional demands of other people. Individuals who are emotionally exhausted lack enough energy to face another day, and often report that they are filled with dread at the prospect of returning to work for another day. …

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