Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Supervisor Health and Safety Support: Scale Development and Validation

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Supervisor Health and Safety Support: Scale Development and Validation

Article excerpt


Employee health can substantially affect an organization's operating costs, productivity, and competitiveness (Bellingham & Pelletier, 1995). According to the National Coalition on Health Care, total health care spending was $2.4 trillion in 2007 ($7,900 per person). Further, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that average premiums for family coverage have increased by 1 19% since 1999 ( Along with increasing insurance costs, organizations incur additional costs when employees take time off to deal with illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2002) reported that employers can lose 4 work days per person per year due to illness or injury, or approximately 637 million work-loss days. Organizations are also affected when employees suffer from psychological disorders. For example, the cost of depression has exceeded over $40 billion, with over half of that amount attributed to workplace costs such as reduced productivity and absenteeism (Truax & McDonald, 2002).

While managers realize the financial consequences of poor health in the workplace, they may be less aware of the steps they can take to improve the health of their employees. This may be a function of the traditional approach to health promotion, focusing primarily on large-scale interventions targeting general health and well-being (e.g., smoking cessation). These health promotion programs remain largely ineffective (Heaney, 2003), perhaps because organizational interventions only offer formal services to employees, whereas other more informal means of health promotion, such as support from one's supervisor, may be more readily available and applicable. In fact, training of managers in recognizing subordinates' psychological strain and underlying risk factors is a cornerstone of NIOSH's strategy for controlling stress in the workplace (Sauter, 1992). Informal support may also be important with respect to workplace safety issues. Although historically managers have been more concerned with traditional safety and environment-related issues such as compliance and conservation rather than enhancing employee well-being (Bellingham & Pelletier, 1995), simply discussing safety issues with employees may have a meaningful impact on both employee health and behavioral outcomes.

Meta-analytic findings highlight the importance of social support from managers as an important predictor of psychological strain (Lee & Ashforth, 1996). However, researchers note the existing literature gives little guidance as to the behaviors that actually constitute healthspecific support from supervisors (Beehr, 1995). That is, existing measures of general support fail to operationalize the specific health and safety support behaviors in which supervisors might engage to benefit employees. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to develop and provide initial validity evidence for a measure of supervisor health and safety support (SHSS).

Supervisor Health and Safety Support

Decades of psychological research support main and buffering effects for social support in predicting well-being and performance (e.g., Lee & Ashforth, 1996; Nieuwenhuijsen, Bruinvels, & Frings-Dresen, 2010; Rhodes & Eisenberger, 2002). However, in the organizational literature, support is often examined based on the referent, such as one's supervisor or coworker. Most of these measures are very general. For example, supervisor emotional support is measured with items such as "How would you rate your immediate supervisor/manager on 1) providing you with the support you need to do a quality job and 2) treating you with respect as an individual" and coworker instrumental support is measured by responses to "How would you rate each of the following 1) teamwork between your department and other groups you depend on and 2) the quality of work you receive from other associates you depend upon" (Glazer, 2006).

Although the positive effect of supervisor support on individual reactions, attitudes, and outcomes is generally accepted, questions remain with regard to which types of supervisor support may be most beneficial to employees and in what situations. …

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