Workplace social support, supervisor-subordinate support, interpersonal relationships, employee performance.


         Interpersonal relationships among employees in the global workplace are facing challenges that could adversely affect employee performance. The retail sector of the South African economy is one of the largest employer of labour in the country. Employees in the South African retail sector found in a ‘rainbow’ environment are not excused from arduous interpersonal relationships, which positions them to be in need of social support. Although organizations realise that employees need social support, few studies have examined the role that supervisor/subordinate social support plays on an employee’s performance in the South African retail sector.
        This article investigates the presence or otherwise of interpersonal relationships through available support among categorized employees and its effect on their performance at work. A non-experimental research design was adopted and concurrent transformative mixed method research approach was used to examine bivariate connections among the variables. 163 supervisors and 147 subordinate employees in 4retail companies in South Africa were sampled. The findings of the quantitative data revealed that there was no significant connection between social support and employee performance, but the qualitative data findings unveiled the reasons for the dissociation between support and performance.
         The findings further indicated that supervisors’ and subordinate workers’ relationships were at low levels of relational attachment and social interaction. This validates the position of previous studies on social support. Participants purported that communication, training, teamwork, friendliness, respect for individuals, and information sharing were important factors that should assist employees to improve interpersonal relationships at work. The understanding of the knowledge of social support has been deepened by this study as it points to the possibility of mediation in future studies.

Full Text : PDF

  1. Baumeister, R.F., Ainsworth, S.E. and Vohs, K.D. (2016). Are groups more or less than the sum of their members? The moderating role of individual identification. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39.
  2. Berscheid, E. (1999). The greening of relationship science. American Psychologist, 54(4), p.260.
  3. Berscheid, E.S. and Regan, P.C. (2016). Psychology of interpersonal relationships. Psychology Press.
  4. Boren, J.P. (2014). The relationships between co-rumination, social support, stress, and burnout among working adults. Management Communication Quarterly, 28(1), pp.3-25.
  5. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss v. 3 (Vol. 1). Random House. Furman, W. & Buhrmester, D. (2009). Methods and measures: The network of relationships inventory: Behavioural systems version. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 33, pp.470-478.
  6. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Separation (vol. 2).
  7. Bowlby, J. (1988). Attachment, communication, and the therapeutic process. A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development, pp.137-157.
  8. Chen, X.-P., Eberly, M. B., Chiang, T. J., Farh, J. L. & Cheng, B. S. (2014). Affective trust in Chinese leaders linking paternalistic leadership to employee performance. Journal of Management, 40, 796–819.
  9. Cheng, C.F., Chang, M.L. and Li, C.S. (2013). Configural paths to successful product innovation. Journal of Business Research, 66(12), pp.2561-2573.
  10. Chipeta, E., Bradley, S., Chimwaza-Manda, W. and McAuliffe, E. (2016). Working relationships between obstetric care staff and their managers: Acritical incident analysis. BMC health services research, 16(1), p.441.
  11. Chung, J.E. (2014). Social networking in online support groups for health: How online social networking benefits patients. Journal of health communication, 19(6), pp.639-659.
  12. Cohen, S. (2004). Social relationships and health. American psychologist, 59(8), p.676.
  13. Das Nair, R. and Dube, S.C. (2016). The Expansion of Regional Supermarket Chains and Implications for Local Suppliers: A Comparison of Findings from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  14. Coyne, J.C. and DeLongis, A. (1986). Going beyond social support: The role of social relationships in adaptation. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 54(4), p.454.
  15. Deci E.L. and Ryan, R.M. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), p.68.
  16. Diestel, S., Wegge, J. and Schmidt, K.H. (2014). The impact of social context on the relationship between individual job satisfaction and absenteeism: The roles of different foci of job satisfaction and work-unit absenteeism. Academy of Management Journal, 57(2), pp.353-382.
  17. Eagly, A.H. (2013). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Psychology Press.
  18. Erdogan, B. and Enders, J. (2007). Support from the top: Supervisors' perceived organisational support as a moderator of leader-member exchange to satisfaction and performance relationships. Journal of applied psychology, 92(2), p.321.
  19. Feeney, B.C. and Collins, N.L. (2015). A new look at social support: A theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19(2), pp.113-147.
  20. Frazier, M.L., Tupper, C. and Fainshmidt, S. (2016). The path (s) to employee trust in direct supervisor in nascent and established relationships: A fuzzy set analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior.
  21. Frey, M.J. (2016). An Investigation of the Importance of Health Locus of Control as a Mediator between Social Support and Health Status: AComparison of Latino vs. Non-Latino Populations (Doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati).
  22. Gleason, M.E. and Masumi,L. (Ed), (2015). Social Mikulincer, Mario (Ed); Shaver, Phillip R. (Ed); Simpson, Jeffry A. (Ed); Dovidio, John F. (Ed). APA Handbook of personality and social psychology. Interpersonal relations. Washington DC. US, vol.3 pp. 351-370.
  23. Graen, G.B. and Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), pp.219-247.
  24. Greenhaus, J.H., Parasuraman, S. and Wormley, W.M. (1990). Effects of race on organisational experiences, job performance evaluations, and career outcomes. Academy of management Journal, 33(1), pp.64-86.
  25. Henderson, S. (1977). The social network, support and neurosis. The function of attachment in adult life. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 131(2), pp.185-191.
  26. Henderson, S. (1981). Social relationships, adversity and neurosis: An analysis of prospective observations. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 138(5), pp.391-398.
  27. Henderson, S., Byrne, D.G. and Duncan-Jones, P. (1981). Neurosis and the social environment (Vol. 27). Academic Press.
  28. Holt‐Lunstad, J. and Smith, T.B. (2012). Social relationships and mortality. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(1), pp.41-53.
  29. Isaac, I.A. and Roger, B.M. (2016). The role of individual interpersonal relationships on work performance in the South African retail sector.
  30. Keyes, C.L. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 73(3), p.539.
  31. Keyes, C.L. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: Acomplementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62(2), p.95.
  32. Ko, J. and Hur, S. (2014). The impacts of employee benefits, procedural justice, and managerial trustworthiness on work attitudes: Integrated understanding based on social exchange theory. Public Administration Review, 74(2), pp.176-187.
  33. Lakey, B. and Cronin, A. (2008). Low social support and major depression: Research, theory and methodological issues. Risk factors for depression, pp.385-408.
  34. Li, A., Shaffer, J. and Bagger, J. (2015). The psychological well-being of disability caregivers: Examining the roles of family strain, family-to-work conflict, and perceived supervisor support. Journal of occupational health psychology, 20(1), p.40
  35. Lin, N., Dean, A. and Ensel, W. M. (Eds.). (2013). Social support, life events, and depression. Academic Press.
  36. Lloyd, K., Bilous, R., Clark, L., Hammersley, L., Baker, M., Coffey, E. and Rawlings-Sanaei, F. (2017). Exploring the reciprocal benefits of community-university engagement through PACE. In Learning through Community Engagement Springer (pp. 245-261)..
  37. Loi, R., Chan, K.W. and Lam, L.W. (2014). Leader–member exchange, organizational identification, and job satisfaction: A social identity perspective. Journal of Occupational and Organizational psychology, 87(1), pp.42-61.
  38. Loi, R., Lam, L.W., Ngo, H.Y. and Cheong, S.I. (2015). Exchange mechanisms between ethical leadership and affective commitment. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 30(6), pp.645-658.
  39. Methot, J.R., Lepine, J.A., Podsakoff, N.P. and Christian, J.S. (2016). Are workplace friendships a mixed blessing? Exploring tradeoffs of multiplex relationships and their associations with job performance. Personnel Psychology, 69(2), pp.311-355.
  40. Methot, J.R., Melwani, S. and Rothman, N.B. (2017). The Space between Us: A Social-Functional Emotions View of Ambivalent and Indifferent Workplace Relationships. Journal of Management, p.0149206316685853.
  41. Miller, D. (2005). New regional imaginaries in post-apartheid Southern Africa–Retail workers at a shopping mall in Zambia. Journal of Southern African Studies, 31(1), pp.117-145.
  42. Morse, J.M. (2016). Mixed method design: Principles and procedures. Routledge.
  43. Ostroff, C. and Bowen, D.E. (2016). Reflections on the 2014-decade award: Is there strength in the construct of HR system strength? Academy of Management Review, 41(2), pp.196-214.
  44. Mowday, R. T., Porter, L. W. and Steers, R. M. (2013). Employee-organization linkages: The psychology of commitment, absenteeism, and turnover. Academic Press.
  45. Pallant, J. (2015). SPSS survival manual. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
  46. Pierce G.R., Sarason, I.G., Sarason, B.R., Solky-Butzel, J.A. and Nagle, L.C. (1997). Assessing the quality of personal relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 14(3), pp.339-356.
  47. Pierce, G. R., Lakey, B. and Sarason, I. G. (Eds.). (2013). Sourcebook of social support and personality. Springer Science & Business Media.
  48. Sarason, I. G., Levine, H. M., Basham, R. B. and Sarason, B. R. (1983). Assessing social support: The social support questionnaire. Journal of personality and social psychology, 44(1), 127.
  49. Sarason, B. R., Sarason, I. G. and Pierce, G. R. (1990). Social support: An interactional view. Oxford England: John Wiley & Sons.
  50. Sarason, I. G. (Ed.). (2013). Social support: Theory, research and applications (Vol. 24). Springer Science & Business Media.
  51. Scott, K.L., Zagenczyk, T.J., Schippers, M., Purvis, R.L. and Cruz, K.S. (2014). Coworker exclusion and employee outcomes: An investigation of the moderating roles of perceived organizational and social support. Journal of Management Studies, 51(8), pp.1235-1256.
  52. Seligman, M.E. (2008). Positive health. Applied psychology, 57(s1), pp. 3-18.
  53. Sheldon, P. and Li, Y. (2013). Localized poaching and skills shortages of manufacturing employees among MNEs in China. Journal of world Business, 48(2), pp.186-195.
  54. Siddiqi, M.A. and Ahmed, O. (2016). Perceived Organizational Support and Employee Citizenship Behaviors an Intermediating Variable between LMX and Service Performance. Asian Journal of Management, 7(1), pp.27-35.
  55. Sonnentag, S. and Fritz, C. (2015). Recovery from job stress: The stressor detachment model as an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1), pp.S72-S103.
  56. Spielberger, C. D. (Ed.). (2013). Anxiety and behavior. New York & London: Academic Press.
  57. Spielberger, C. D. and Sarason, I. G. (Eds.). (2013). Stress and emotion: Anxiety, anger, & curiosity. Washinton D.C.: Taylor & Francis. Publishers, Washinton DC, US, vol. 16, pp 3-22
  58. Street, B.V. (2014). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography and education. Routledge.
  59. Stroebe, W., Stroebe, M., Abakoumkin, G. and Schut, H. (1996). The role of loneliness and social support in adjustment to loss: Atest of attachment versus stress theory. Journal of personality and social psychology, 70(6), p.1241.
  60. Tepper, B.J. (2007). Abusive supervision in work organizations: Review, synthesis, and research agenda. Journal of management, 33(3), pp.261-289.
  61. Treiman, D.J. (2014). Quantitative data analysis: Doing social research to test ideas. John Wiley & Sons.
  62. Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Kubzansky, L.D., Poole, E.M., Ichiro, K. and Tworoger, S.S. (2015). Demand, control, and social support in the workplace: The role of job strain on ovarian cancer risk. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, 84, p.74.
  63. Tsui, A, Egan, T and O'Reilley C. A. (1992). Being different: Relational demography and organizational attachment. Administrative Science Quarterly 37 (4): 549-79.
  64. Tsui, A.S., Pearce, J.L., Porter, L.W. and Tripoli, A.M. (1997). Alternative approaches to the employee-organization relationship: Does investment in employees pay off? Academy of Management journal, 40(5), pp.1089-1121.
  65. Uhl-Bien, M., Graen, G.B. and Scandura, T.A. (2000). Implications of leader-member exchange (LMX) for strategic human resource management systems: Relationships as social capital for competitive advantage. Research in personnel and human resources management, 18, pp.137-186.
  66. Uhl-Bien, M., Riggio, R.E., Lowe, K.B. and Carsten, M.K. (2014). Followership theory: A review and research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), pp.83-104.
  67. Walker, C.O. and Greene, B.A. (2009). The relations between student motivational beliefs and cognitive engagement in high school. The Journal of Educational Research, 102(6), pp.463-472.
  68. Weiss, R.S. (1973). Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation.
  69. Weiss, R. S. (1974). The provisions of social relationships. In Rubin, Z. (Ed.).Doing Unto Others. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
  70. Wong, C.A. and Laschinger, H.K.S. (2015). The influence of frontline manager job strain on burnout, commitment and turnover intention: A cross-sectional study. International journal of nursing studies, 52(12), pp.1824-1833.
  71. Youyou, W., Kosinski, M. and Stillwell, D. (2015). Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(4), pp.1036-1040.
  72. Zhang, X.A., Li, N. and Harris, T.B. (2015). Putting non-work ties to work: The case of guanxi in supervisor–subordinate relationships. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(1), pp.37-54.