Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Correlates of Work Exhaustion for Medical Technologists

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Correlates of Work Exhaustion for Medical Technologists

Article excerpt

In a sample of 196 medical technologists followed over a 4-year period, this study investigated if work-related demand and resource variables were related to subsequent work exhaustion. As hypothesized, increased levels of perceived work interference with family and task load and lower organizational support were related to higher subsequent work exhaustion. Distributive justice, as an intervening variable, had direct and partially mediating effects on work exhaustion. Distributive justice partially mediated the effects of work interfering with family and organizational support on work exhaustion. Distributive justice also mediated the impact of procedural justice on work exhaustion. Study limitations and future research issues are discussed. J Allied Health. 2003; 32:148-157.

INCREASING CHANGES at work, such as global competition, increased demand for services, increased use of technology, the corporate trend toward mergers, and micromanagement, have helped to create a more demanding work environment for many employees.1 Such changes have resulted in increased levels of employee exhaustion, including recent high levels of burnout among health care providers such as nurses and radiology technologists.1-3 Employee burnout has been defined as a three-component response syndrome consists of exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.4 Exhaustion is characterized by a lack of energy and feelings of frustration and tension.

Two types of exhaustion have been examined in the literature on burnout, emotional exhaustion4-6 and more recently, work exhaustion.7 Emotional exhaustion is primarily due to extensive job-required interpersonal contact, whereas general work exhaustion has wider application to jobs with lower interpersonal contact. Moore7 has defined work exhaustion as "the depletion of emotional and mental energy needed to meet job demands." Therefore, work exhaustion is broader and encompasses emotional exhaustion.8

The purpose of this study was to propose and longitudinally test correlates of work exhaustion, using "demand"4,9 and "resource" variables.10,11 When resources (i.e., valued conditions or personal characteristics11) are lost or inadequate to meet work demands or pressures, exhaustion occurs.4 Leiter and Maslach12 have suggested that both work demands and resources directly affect employee exhaustion.

Many researchers consider emotional or work exhaustion to be the key component in employee burnout,7,13-17 as well as the first stage of the burnout process.18 Moore7 has argued that work exhaustion should be studied as a "stand alone" outcome. Work exhaustion has been empirically linked to a higher intention for job turnover in information technology professionals.19 Lee and Ashforth's4 meta-analysis showed that emotional exhaustion was significantly related to increased turnover intention and reduced organizational commitment.

Before the relevant studies on work exhaustion are reviewed, it is important to note that in general, prior exhaustion research has focused on emotional, not work, exhaustion and been cross-sectional (i.e., it gathered independent and dependent variables at the same time).4 These studies of emotional exhaustion have sampled occupations with higher levels of interpersonal contact, teachers, social workers, counselors, nurses, police officers, and salespeople. 4,7,13,14,20,21 Maslach22 distinguished different dimensions of interpersonal contact, including frequency (how often) and intensity (how emotionally charged). Using higher/lower distinctions within these two dimensions (i.e., higher/lower frequency of interpersonal contact and higher/lower intensity of interpersonal contact), Cordes and Dougherty9 created a 2 x 2 matrix. Inspection of this matrix shows that one cell within this matrix has been "neglected" in prior empirical research: lower frequency/ lower intensity interpersonal contact. For such a cell, it is more appropriate to focus on work, rather than emotional, exhaustion. …

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