Beware the Weary Boss? Exploring the Effect of Supervisor Emotional Exhaustion on Employee Emotional Exhaustion



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I investigated the hypothesis that a supervisor’s emotional exhaustion has a strong, positive relationship with his or her employees’ emotional exhaustion. Using crossover theory and the JD-R model, I theorized that employees with exhausted supervisors become emotionally exhausted through emotional contagion and inadequate supervisor support and that emotional stability moderates the indirect effect of supervisor emotional exhaustion on employee emotional exhaustion through perceptions of supervisor support. Data collected from 242 public sector workers revealed that supervisors’ emotional exhaustion had no relationship with the support they provided to employees, nor did their exhaustion relate directly or indirectly (through support) to employee emotional exhaustion. However, both supervisor support and employee emotional stability were negatively related to employee emotional exhaustion. These findings sustain the notion that support from supervisors provides a meaningful benefit to employee well-being and suggests that supervisors provide support despite their own emotional exhaustion. Additionally, the interaction between supervisor support and employee emotional stability predicted employee emotional exhaustion; however, contrary to theory, the supervisor support-emotional stability relationship was stronger among employees higher than lower in emotional stability.



Emotional exhaustion, Supervisor support, Emotional stability, Crossover