The Overwhelming Effect of Job Demands on Spillover

Topic: Stress,Work-Life Balance
Publication:Journal of Vocational Behavior (JUN 2010)
Article: The costs of today’s jobs: Job characteristics and organizational supports as antecedents of negative spillover
Authors:A.R. Grotto and K.S. Lyness
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Negative work-to-nonwork spillover occurs when employees’ negative moods, behaviors, etc. from workspill over into other parts of their lives (e.g., family life).  Grotto and Lyness (2010) recently investigated several factors that lead employees to experience negative spillover, including job demands and the availability of organizational support.

Based on a representative sample of 1178 working adults in the U.S. (from “the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce”), Grotto and Lyness found that high degrees of autonomy on the job and opportunities to develop one’s skills were associated with a reduction in negative spillover – that’s the good news.  The bad news, however, is that job demands such as the degree to which employees are required to take work home, time demands, (e.g., excessive work hours) and strain-based work demands (e.g., heavy workload, difficulty of the work) were associated with an increase in negative spillover.

Interestingly, Grotto and Lyness note that while much of the research on spillover has focused on the possible buffering effects of various organizational supports, their results suggest that job demands were by far the biggest contributor to spillover.

In fact, while autonomy and opportunities to develop skills do indeed predict less spillover, the effects were very small in comparison to the negative effects of job demands such as time- and stress-based demands and work at home requirements.

Grotto and Lyness conclude that organizational supports and favorable job characteristics (i.e., autonomy) are not enough to offset the negative effects of excessive job demands.  Thus, organizations must take another look at the demands placed on their employees.  Such demands can be particularly harmful to employees and can cause major problems for them and their employing organizations in the long run (physiological and psychological health problems, turnover, etc.). The bottom line:  While organizational supports are important and do reduce negative spillover, they do not appear to come close to buffering employees from the negative effects of excessive job demands.

Grotto, A. R., & Lyness, K. S. (2010). The Costs of today’s jobs: job characteristics and organizational supports as antecedents of negative spillover. Journal of Vocational Behavior , 76, 395-405.