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Relationships between superior support, work role stressors and work-life experience

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Wee Chan Au


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PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of superior support, in the presence of a range of work role stressors, on both conflict and enrichment aspects of work-life interface simultaneously. The paper frames the research narrative of superior support by contextualizing it within superior’s dichotomous and opposing roles of organizational performance driver and support provider.Design/methodology/approachSurvey data was collected from Malaysian work adults. Drawing on a sample of 1,051 cases, structural equation modeling technique is used to examine the effect of superior support, with the presence of work role stressors, on individuals’ work-life experience. Three alternate models are compared: superior support as moderator of stressors-strain relationship; both superior support and work stressors as direct antecedents of work-life experience; and superior support as indirect antecedent (mediated by work role stressors) of work-life experience.FindingsFindings evidence the favorable model of superior support as indirect antecedent (mediated by work role stressors) of work-life experience. In addition, superior support has significant impact on work role ambiguity and work-life enrichment, however, its effect on work role conflict, work role overload and work-life conflict is not significant. Findings of the study also demonstrate the distinct effect of work role stressors on work-life experience in terms of direction and strength of impact.Practical implicationsWhile superior support promotes greater work-life enrichment, its effect on work-life conflict is limited. Therefore, instead of superior support, employers have to identify alternate resources to assist employees to deal with conflict and interference of work-life interface. Distinctiveness of various work role stressors and interaction between these work role stressors offer practical implications to employer that all stressors at workplace should not be treated as identical and common to each other. Distinct effort should be taken to address different forms of work role stressors so that work-life conflict (resource depletion) can be minimized while work-life enrichment (resource gaining) can be enhanced.Originality/valueThe research investigates superior support in relation to work stressor and work-life experience by scrutinizing the role of supervisors from the vantage point of supervisors as performance drivers as well as support providers. This provides a balanced narrative as compared to previous research focussing solely on either the support perspective or the employee effort extraction perspective. In its execution, the research incorporates enrichment aspect of work-life experience, in addition to the conflict and negative effect. Drawing on the Conservation of Resources Theory, the study teases out important implication for employers and researchers to show that superior support and work role stressors come together to shape individuals’ work-life experience by depleting resources (work-life conflict) and gaining resources (work-life enrichment) simultaneously, as well as drawing out the dilemma of supervisors as performance drivers and support providers at the same time.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Au WC, Ahmed PK

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Personnel Review

Year: 2016

Volume: 45

Issue: 4

Pages: 782-803

Online publication date: 06/06/2016

Acceptance date: 25/06/2015

ISSN (electronic): 0048-3486


DOI: 10.1108/PR-08-2014-0175


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