Social Support and Employee Well-Being

Seeking to explain divergent empirical findings regarding the direct effect of social support on well-being, the authors posit that the pattern of supportive exchange (i.e., reciprocal, under-, or over-reciprocating) determines the impact of receiving support on well-being. Findings generated on the basis of longitudinal data collected from a sample of older blue-collar workers support the authors’ predictions, indicating that receiving emotional support is associated with enhanced well-being when the pattern of supportive exchange is perceived by an individual as being reciprocal (support received equals support given), with this association being weaker when the exchange of support is perceived as being under-reciprocating (support given exceeds support received). Moreover, receiving support was found to adversely affect well-being when the pattern of exchange was perceived as being over-reciprocating (support received exceeds support given). Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.