Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Types of Workplace Social Support in the Prediction of Job Satisfaction

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Types of Workplace Social Support in the Prediction of Job Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Research on social support and job satisfaction has yielded mixed results, partly because studies have rarely examined different types of workplace social support, such as collegial support, task support, coaching, and career mentoring. This study identified the relative contributions of different types of social support to job satisfaction and explored the relationship between social support and job tenure. Overall, social support accounted for approximately 17% of the variance in job satisfaction and 9% of the variance in job tenure. Career mentoring and task support were the types of social support most predictive of job satisfaction. Coaching and task support were the types of social support most predictive of job tenure.

Workplace social support has been defined as the "actions of others that are either helpful or intended to be helpful" (Deelstra et al., 2003, p. 324). It includes a variety of interpersonal behaviors among workers that enhance individuals' psychological or behavioral functioning. These may include mentoring, providing emotional support, assisting others with assigned tasks, and teaching about social power structures (Hill, Bahniuk, Dobos, & Rouner, 1989). Beginning with the earliest need-fulfillment theories of job satisfaction, workplace social support has been identified as a predictor of job satisfaction (Orpen & Pinshaw, 1975; Smithcr, 1988; Stamps, 1997; Vroom, 1964). Most research has found workplace social support to be positively predictive of job satisfaction and other positive outcomes (Harris, Moritzen, Robitschek, Imhoff, & Lynch, 2001; Smith & Tziner, 1998; Winstead, Derlega, Montgomery, & Pilkington, 1995). However, there are exceptions to this rule in the research literature (Ducharme & Martin, 2000). Workplace social support also predicts a variety of negative outcomes, including absenteeism and turnover (Winstead et al., 1995), burnout (Myung-Yong & Harrison, 1998), and depression and anxiety (El-Bassel, Guterman, Bargal, & Su, 1998; Olson & Shultz, 1994).

Findings may be mixed because the construct of workplace social support is multifaceted (Bahniuk, Dobos, & Hill, 1990). The source of support may be a supervisor, mentor, or colleague; the content of the support may include information, appraisal, assistance with tasks, or emotional support (Bahniuk et al., 1990; Deelstra et al., 2003). Hill et al. (1989) defined four types of workplace social support: Task support focuses on sharing and exchanging work assignments and ideas. Career mentoring refers to parentlike or adviser relationships with other individuals who have more experience. Coaching involves teaching organizational/professional rules and goals, including organizational politics. Collegial social support includes sharing friendships, personal problems, and confidences. Bahniuk et al. found that, among business managers, instrumental support from colleagues and mentoring both predicted higher levels of job satisfaction, along with perceived success, managerial level, and income. However, coaching and collegial support had no effect on job satisfaction.

The relationship between workplace social support and the length of time an employee chooses to remain at the same job (i.e., job tenure) has recently been explored. Positive relationships with supervisors have been reported to strongly predict job tenure (Buckingham & Coflman, 1999; Van Breukelen, Van Der Vlist, & Steensma, 2004; Vecchio & Boatwright, 2002). Positive organizational social climates and me presence of friends or family at a particular work site have also been reported to predict employee retention (Van Breukelen et al., 2004; Milman, 2003; Pizam & Ellis, 1999). Given the importance of supervisor support and access to friends or family at work, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that career mentoring (i.e., support from the supervisor) and collegial support and task support (both of which may be more readily available from friends and family) may be types of workplace social support that strongly predict job tenure. …

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