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Center Publication

Supervisor Supportiveness: Global Perspectives — Quick Insights

by Rucha Bhate

June 2013—A new report by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College finds that supportive supervisors care about employees’ career goals, give credit for work well done, and help employees develop job-relevant skills and competencies. A supervisor like this can make all the difference in employees’ everyday work experiences.

Strong supervisor support improves the quality of employment and is associated with increased job satisfaction, perceptions of a better fit between the employee and the organization, and reduced turnover.

A significant connection exists between employees’ perceived supervisor support (PSS) and employees’ perceptions of organizational support (POS), overall.2 Supervisors are the agents of the organization. As such, they are responsible for monitoring the performance of their subordinates, conducting periodic assessments of their subordinates’ work, and giving feedback to enhance their subordinates’ contributions and commitment to the organization. Therefore, it is natural for employees to interpret their interactions with their supervisors as indicators of the organization’s judgment of their work and career promise.

Evidence suggests that supervisor support can mitigate the degree of work/family conflict that employees experience and the consequences of such conflict. Research has shown that employees who have highly demanding jobs and family responsibilities and who also have supportive supervisors tend to experience greater job satisfaction, stronger job commitment, more loyalty to the organization, and a better balance between work and family life. Supervisors act as effective mediators as well as “primary implementers of work and family policies initiated by various organizations.” Given the prominence of work/family issues among employees today, having a supportive supervisor is a characteristic of effective family-friendly workplaces.

In this brief, we present findings about supervisor support drawn from data that we collected from 8,784 employees working in seven countries: Brazil, China, India, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

We highlight:

  • Cross-national differences in employees’ perceptions of supervisor support.
  • Key sociodemographic indicators related to variations in employees’ perceptions of supervisor support .
  • The relationship between the presence of a supportive supervisor and the degree of satisfaction with work/family balance that employees report.

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