Family-Supportive Work Environment and Employee Work Behaviors: An Investigation of Mediating Mechanisms

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  • of Management online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206311435103 2013 39: 792 originally published online 22 February 2012Journal of Management

    Samuel Aryee, Chris W. L. Chu, Tae-Yeol Kim and Seongmin RyuInvestigation of Mediating Mechanisms

    Family-Supportive Work Environment and Employee Work Behaviors: An

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    Southern Management Association

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    - Feb 22, 2012OnlineFirst Version of Record

    - Feb 25, 2013Version of Record >>

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  • Journal of ManagementVol. 39 No. 3, March 2013 792-813

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206311435103 The Author(s) 2012

    Reprints and permission:

    Family-Supportive Work Environment and Employee Work Behaviors: An Investigation

    of Mediating Mechanisms

    Samuel AryeeAston University

    Chris W. L. ChuUniversity of Surrey

    Tae-Yeol KimChina Europe International Business School

    Seongmin Ryu Kyonggi University

    This study examined psychological mechanisms that underpin the relationships between perceived organizational family support (POFS) and a family-supportive supervisor (FSS) on employee work behaviors. Based on data from employed parents and their supervisors (N = 230) in 12 South Korean organizations, structural equation modeling results revealed three salient findings: (1) POFS and FSS are indirectly related to contextual performance through control over work time, (2) FSS is indirectly related to both contextual performance and work with-drawal through organization-based self-esteem (OBSE), and (3) control over work time is indi-rectly related to the two work outcomes through OBSE. The authors interpret these findings as indicating support for the focus on informal workplace family support and the need for research to examine the psychological resources they engender if we are to understand why these forms of support have their demonstrated outcomes.

    Keywords: family-supportive work environment; control over work time; organization-based self-esteem; contextual performance; work withdrawal


    Acknowledgment: This article was accepted under the editorship of Talya N. Bauer.

    Corresponding Author: Samuel Aryee, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, England, B4 7ET, UK.


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  • Aryee et al. / Family-Supportive Work Environment 793

    Recognition of employees as a source of competitive advantage has provided a renewed impetus to the perennial efforts of organizational scholars to understand the motivational basis of employee work-related attitudes and behaviors. However, the changing context of the labor market, particularly in terms of demographic shifts such as growth in the number of employees with significant work and family responsibilities, contemporaneous with the prevalence of a long-hours work culture and job insecurity have collectively created a situation in which a significant number of employees have difficulties integrating their work and family responsibilities (Cappelli, 1999; Moen & Roehling, 2005; Watanabe, Takahashi, & Minami, 1997). Research evidence suggests that the resulting workfamily conflict or the interference of work demands with family demands has deleterious consequences not only for the performance of employees but also for their well-being (Allen, Herst, Bruck, & Sutton, 2000; Aryee, Fields, & Luk, 1999; Carr, Boyar, & Gregory, 2008; Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux, & Brinley, 2005; Kossek & Ozeki, 1998). Consequently, a major focus in human resource management in the past two decades or so has been the adoption of family-friendly policies to assist employees to better manage their work and family responsibilities (Anderson, Coffey, & Byerly, 2002; Batt & Valcour, 2003; Glass & Finley, 2002; Grover & Crooker, 1995; Kossek & Nichol, 1992; Lambert, 2000; Wang & Walumbwa, 2007). The literature distinguishes between formal and informal family-supportive practices, with the former focusing on actual practices (Neal, Chapman, Ingersoll-Dayton, & Emlen, 1993) such as policies (e.g., flexible working arrangements), services (e.g., resource and referral information about dependent care options), and benefits (e.g., child care subsidies), while the latter describes a family-supportive work environment defined by a family-supportive organizational culture and a family-supportive supervisor (Allen, 2001; Jahn, Thompson, & Kopelman, 2003; Thompson, Beauvais, & Lyness, 1999).

    While research has shown formal family-supportive practices to be instrumental in ameliorating the negative consequences of workfamily conflict, there is recognition that many of these practices, such as provision of child care, are expensive to implement and that employees tend to be reluctant to use them because of concerns about the career penalties associated with their use (Allen, 2001; Eaton, 2003; Thompson et al., 1999). Consequently, research focus has now shifted from formal to informal practices (Allen, 2001; Hammer, Kossek, Yragui, Bodner, & Hanson, 2009; Kossek, Pichler, Bodner, & Hammer, 2011; Thompson et al., 1999). Although this research stream has enhanced our understanding of informal family supports on employee work outcomes, there are still a number of unanswered questions. First, while research has shown supportive aspects of the work environment to reduce deviant behaviors and promote contextual performance (Baran, Shanock, & Miller, 2011; Ferris, Brown, & Heller, 2009), it is not yet clear whether informal family-specific supports impact these two forms of discretionary behavior. Second, although much of this research has been grounded in organizational support theory, it has not examined socioemotional needs, such as affiliation and esteem needs, as mechanisms through which informal family-specific supports influence employee work behaviors. Consequently, our study seeks to contribute to this stream of research by proposing and testing a model of the mechanisms underlying the influence of family-supportive environment on employee work-related behaviors. Specifically, we examined control over work time and organization-based

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  • 794 Journal of Management / March 2013

    self-esteem (OBSE) as mediators of the influence of a family-supportive supervisor (FSS) and perceived organizational family support (POFS) on the work behaviors of contextual performance and work withdrawal. Additionally, we posit control over work time as indirectly influencing these work behaviors through OBSE.

    Our study contributes to the literature in three significant ways. First, by examining socioemotional needs as mechanisms that underpin the influence of a family-supportive environment on its documented outcomes, we provide a more complete test of organizational support theory by tapping into the socioemotional content of workplace social exchange (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005). Furthermore, we extend previous research by proposing the demonstrated influence of control over work time on employee work outcomes (Lapierre & Allen, 2010; Thompson & Prottas, 2005) to be indirect through OBSE, and more generally, we extend the antecedents of OBSE to include workplace informal family supports (Pierce & Gardner, 2004). The criticality of self-esteem to psychological functioning was underscored by Locke, McClear, and Knight:

    Self-esteem is a requirement of a healthy consciousness in the same way that food and water are requirements of a healthy body. . . . Many people live for a long time with some self-doubt but none can long tolerate a conviction of total worthlessness. (1996: 1)

    Understanding why informal workplace family supports influence employee outcomes will provide actionable knowledge to create an environment that will foster employee behaviors that are critical to the recognition of employees as a source of competitive advantage. Second, although a family-supportive work environment has been defined in terms of FSS and POFS, research has focused primarily on either FSS or POFS. By simultaneously examining the influence of both forms of informal support on these two work-related behaviors, our study provides an insight into potential differences in the mechanisms through which these forms of informal workplace family supports influence employee outcomes. This knowledge will be beneficial in helping organizations decide how to foster family-supportive work environments. Lastly, by examining two work-related discretionary behaviors (Bagger & Li, 2011; Lambert, 2000; Muse, Harris, Giles, & Field, 2008), we extend previous research that has focused predominantly on employee well-being indicators. Although we acknowledge the importance of employee well-being, the business case for implementing workfamily initiatives can be strengthened by research that examines work-related behaviors (Jahn et al., 2003). Our focus on contextual performance and withdrawal behaviors provides a more complete conceptualization of the discretionary behaviors that underpin the definition of job performance (Rotundo & Sackett, 2002).

    Theory and Hypotheses Development

    Organizational support theory draws its conceptual heritage from March and Simons (1958) conceptualization of the employment relationship as one of exchange whereby employees exchange their contributions for inducements offered by the organization.

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  • Aryee et al. / Family-Supportive Work Environment 795

    Underpinning these contributions and their interpretation is the tendency of employees to anthropomorphize the organization by assigning to it humanlike traits that enable them to infer the extent to which the organization and its representatives care about them and are concerned about their well-being (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986; Rhodes & Eisenberger, 2002). To the extent that organizational support meets the needs of employees and enhances their psychological functioning, it is akin to workplace social support, which House (1981) describes as an interpersonal transaction that may include instrumental assistance, emotional expression of concern, or information. Increasingly, workplace social support has been conceptualized in terms of general support and workfamily-specific support (Hammer et al., 2009; Kossek et al., 2011). In the context of this study, we focus on workfamily-specific support, or the degree to which employees perceive supervisors or employers care about their ability to experience positive workfamily relationships and demonstrate this care by providing helpful social interaction and resources (Kossek et al., 2011: 292). Underpinning workplace support is the idea that it constitutes a resource for enhancing individual psychological functioning (Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999; Hobfoll, 1989; Ng & Sorensen, 2008; Voydanoff, 2004). As workfamily-specific forms of support and given their resource implications, POFS and FSS should enhance employees control over work time and OBSE, leading to contextual performance and work withdrawal behaviors. As a psychological resource, control over work time may enable employees to experience self-determination at work, which should have implications for their self-concept, leading to enhanced levels of OBSE. In addition to its predicted direct influence on work outcomes, we predicted that control over work time would indirectly influence these work outcomes through OBSE. These relationships are depicted in Figure 1.

    Family-Supportive Work Environment and OBSE

    As previously noted, we conceptualized family-supportive work environment in terms of POFS and FSS, which describe informal rather than formal family-supportive practices. We followed Kossek and colleagues and defined POFS in terms of an employees perception that the organization (a) cares about an employees ability to jointly effectively perform work and family and (b) facilitates a helpful social environment by providing direct and indirect workfamily resources (2011: 293). POFS conveys a message regarding the organizations interest in helping employees integrate their work and family roles. The perception of the organization as care centered reflects a deep underlying value system geared toward fulfilling employee desires to balance their work and family roles and can be growth enhancing, thereby implicating POFS in the formation of the self-concept of employees.

    FSS describes supervisors who empathize with the employees desire to seek balance between work and family responsibilities (Thomas & Ganster, 1995: 7). Examples of FSS behaviors include accommodating an employees flexible schedule, being understanding when an employee occasionally leaves early to pick up a child from child care, and allowing personal calls from home after a child returns from school. While organizations may adopt family-friendly policies, it is the immediate supervisor who is responsible for the actual

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  • 796 Journal of Management / March 2013

    enactment of these policies; therefore, the supervisor has a critical role in the effectiveness of these policies. A supervisors role in promoting an informal family-supportive work environment is even more critical when an organization does not have these formal policies (Bagger & Li, 2011). As an instrumental and emotional resource, FSS should enable employees to integrate their work and family roles. Because integration of work and family roles will lead to an improvement in an employees psychological functioning, FSS should improve his or her self-concept.

    We conceived of self-concept in terms of OBSE and defined it as the self-perceived value that individuals have of themselves as organizational members acting within an organizational context (Pierce, Gardner, Cummings, & Dunham, 1989: 625). Thus, OBSE describes an individuals perception of himself or herself as important, competent, and capable within his or her employing organization: High-OBSE employees have come to believe I count around here (Pierce & Gardner, 2004). Although the influence of a family-supportive work environment on OBSE has not been examined, there is a strong theoretical rationale for expecting them to be related. From a so...


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