Supervisor support can tip work/family balance into equilibrium

Topic: Work-Life Balance
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (online pre-publication)
Article: A comparison of types of social support for lower-skill workers: Evidence for the importance of family supportive supervisors.
Authors: Muse, L. A., Pichler, S.
Reviewed by: Larry Martinez

Most of what we know from organizational research is based off of samples of either convenience samples (mostly college students) or white-collar employees (e.g., nurses, accountants, managers).  Most research does not specifically target blue-collar or lower level employees, despite the fact that the majority of jobs are at lower levels. 

This is especially true in work/family balance literature. In addition, few studies examine simultaneously how work interferes with family AND how family interferes with work.  However, Muse and Pichler (in press) focused on these issues directly. 

Lower skilled workers may be especially prone to not being able to utilize public and/or organizational policies that could help relieve stress between work and family obligations because they often face lower job stability and less bargaining power than highly skilled workers.  However, the results of this study suggest that these types of support are also critical for lower skilled workers. 

Specifically, social support from one’s supervisor was related to more positive work to family and family to work balance.  Supervisor support was also related to higher task and contextual performance.  Thus, supervisors were especially helpful in relieving stress between work and family obligations and increasing performance.  This type of support was instrumental in these relationships over and above the effects accounted for by utilizing supportive policies and having family support (which was actually negatively related to balance between work and family).

In short, lower skill workers greatly benefit from having caring and compassionate supervisors that take into account that these workers have responsibilities not only to their jobs, but to their families as well. 

Muse, L. A., & Pichler, S. (in press). A comparison of types of social support for lower-skill workers: Evidence for the importance of family supportive supervisors. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

 

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management