Social support serves as a buffer for the negative consequences of workplace stress. However, social support is not well understood. Sometimes the effect is positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes there is no effect at all.
We’re working to tease apart what makes social support truly supportive. Benefits of social support depend on the content of supportive communication, source and type of stressor, and one’s position in the organizational hierarchy.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a consistent finding in our research is that an employee’s supervisor is more influential than the coworkers or subordinates when it comes to being a source of both stress and support. It seems simply establishing a dialogue with subordinates can have strong positive effects on well-being.
However, perhaps surprising to some, while complaining to coworkers about workplace stress might seem cathartic it can actually decrease well-being. Complaining may serve to amplify already existing stress.
We’re continuing to investigate what makes a workplace truly supportive of well-being.
Monnot, M. J. & Beehr, T. A. (2014). Subjective well-being at work: Disentangling source effects of stress and support on enthusiasm, contentment, and meaningfulness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 85, 204-218.
Park, H., Monnot, M. J., Jacobs, A., & Wagner, S. W. (2011). Moderators of the relationship between person-job fit and subjective well-being among Asian employees. International Journal of Stress Management, 18(1), 67-87.