The impact of perceived organizational support on the relationship between job stress and burnout: a mediating or moderating role?

  • Zhihua XuEmail author
  • Fu Yang


Compared to social support, organizational support in the job stress–burnout relationship has received little attention. Drawing on perceived organizational support (POS) theory and the notion of support as a stress buffer, this study examines the mediating and moderating effects of POS on the relationships between job stress and the three components of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy) using a sample of 351 teachers in China. We found that job stress had significant main effects and indirect effects via POS on exhaustion and inefficacy, but not cynicism. The hypotheses of POS moderating effects of job stress on the three components of burnout were not supported. Moreover, job stress had a stronger effect on exhaustion among head teachers compared to non-head teachers and a stronger effect on inefficacy among non-head teachers. Exhaustion predicted cynicism, which predicted inefficacy. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.


Job stress POS Exhaustion Cynicism Inefficacy 



This study was funded by The Lingnan Normal University Special Project for Talents (grant numberZW1803).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Author Zhihua Xu has received grant from Lingnan Normal University Special Project for Talents (grant number ZW1803). Author Fu Yang declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Adriaenssens, J., Hamelink, A., & Bogaert, P. V. (2017). Predictors of occupational stress and well-being in first-line nurse managers: A cross-sectional survey study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 73, 85–92.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhanthumnavin, D. (2003). Perceived social support from supervisor and group members’ psychological and situational characteristics as predictors of subordinate performance in Thai work units. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 14, 79–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chang, S. J., van Witteloostuijn, A., & Eden, L. (2010). From the editors: Common method variance in international business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 41, 178–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, K. (2007). Research on the present situation of secondary school teachers’ burnout and its characteristics under the different demographic variables. Journal of Hubei Normal University (Philosophy and Social Science), 27, 123–125.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, Y., & Ding, J. (2014). The relationships of job stress with job burnout and social support among the police: Police in Zhejiang province as an example. Journal of Chinese People's Public Security University (Science and Technology), (4), 40–46.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310–357.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cropanzano, R., Howes, J. C., Grandey, A. A., & Toth, P. (1997). The relationship of organizational politics and support to work behaviors, attitudes, and stress. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 18, 159–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cynthia, B. E., Jeff, P. B., Linnea, C. L., Sherry, M. W., Gary, A. T., John, F., Alexis, D. A., & David, W. F. (2009). Social support, organisational support, and religious support in relation to burnout in expatriate humanitarian aid workers. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 12, 671–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunham, J., & Varma, V. P. (1998). Stress in teachers: Past, present and future. New Jersey: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Eisenberger, R., Huntington, R., Hutchison, S., & Sowa, D. (1986). Perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 500–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ekehammer, B. (1974). Interactionism in personality from a historical perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 81, 1026–1048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Etzion, D. (1984). Moderating effect of social support on the stress-burnout relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69, 615–622.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Farh, J. L., Hackett, R., & Liang, J. (2007). Individual–level cultural values as moderators of perceived organizational support–employee outcome relationships in China: Comparing the effects of power distance and traditionality. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 715–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. George, J. M., Reed, T. F., Ballard, K. A., Colin, J., & Fielding, J. (1993). Contact with aids patients as a source of work-related distress: Effects of organizational and social support. Academy of Management Journal, 36, 157–171.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. He, L. (2011). A survey on primary and secondary school teachers’ burnout. Chinese Journal of Public Health, 27, 507–508.Google Scholar
  18. Hendrix, W. H., & Cantrell, R. S. (1988). Effect of social support on the stress-burnout relationship. Journal of Business and Psychology, 3, 67–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hobfoll, S. E., & Freedy, J. (1993). Conservation of resource: A general stress theory applied to burnout. In W. B. Schanfeli, C. Maslach, & T. Marek (Eds.), Professional burnout: Recent developments in theory and research (pp. 115–129). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  20. Huang, C., Zhou, H., Xian, Y., & Zhang, B. (2009). Career commitment as a moderator of stress and burnout: A study with primary school teachers from countryside. China Journal of Health Psychology, 17, 71–74.Google Scholar
  21. Hui, C., Lee, C., & Rousseau, D. M. (2004). Employment relationships in China: Do workers relate to the organization or to people? Organization Science, 15, 232–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jamal, M. (2013). Job stress among hospital employees in Middle East: Social support and type a behavior as moderators. Middle East Journal of Business, 8, 7–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jia, X., & Lin, C. (2013). Relationship of university teachers’ stress and coping style with job burnout. Studies of Psychology and Behavior, 11, 759–764.Google Scholar
  24. John, T. D., Manuel Jr., B., & Stephen, G. W. (1986). Occupational stress, social support, and burnout among correctional officers. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 177–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kim, A., & Barak, M. E. M. (2015). The mediating roles of leader-member exchange and perceived organizational support in the role stress-turnover intention relationship among child welfare workers: A longitudinal analysis. Children and Youth Services Review, 52, 135–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kyriacou, C., & Sutclisse, J. (2001). Teacher stress: Prevalence, sources, and symptoms. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 48, 159–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Le Fevre, M., Kolt, G. S., & Matheny, J. (2006). Eustress, distress and their interpretation in primary and secondary occupational stress management interventions: Which way first? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21, 547–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lee, R. T., & Ashforth, B. E. (1996). A meta-analytic examination of the correlates of the three dimensions of job burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 123–133.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Leiter, M. P. (1993). Burnout as a developmental process: Consideration of models. In W. Schaufeli, C. Maslach, & T. Marek (Eds.), Professional burnout: Recent developments in theory and research (pp. 237–250). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  30. Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (1988). The impact of interpersonal environment on burnout and organizational commitment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 9, 297–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (2004). Areas of worklife: A structured approach to organizational predictors of job burnout. Research in Occupational Stress & Well Being, 3, 91–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li, Z., Ren, X., Lin, L., & Shi, K. (2008). Stressors, teaching efficacy, and burnout among secondary school teachers. Psychological Science, 31, 218–221.Google Scholar
  33. Li, Q., Wang, S., & Zhang, Y. (2009a). Effect of occupational stress on occupational burnout of teachers: A path analysis. Journal of Educational Studies, 5, 78–82.Google Scholar
  34. Li, R., Ling, W., & Liu, S. (2009b). The mechanisms of how abusive supervision impacts on subordinates’ voice behavior. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 41, 1189–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liao, H., Joshi, A., & Chuang, A. C. (2004). Sticking out like a sore thumb: Employee dissimilarity and deviance at work. Personnel Psychology, 57, 969–1000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ling, W., Fang, L., & Huang, H. (2004). The exploring on job stress. Journal of Guangzhou University (Natural Science Edition), 3, 76–79.Google Scholar
  37. Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Liu, X. (2004). Relationships between professional stress, teaching efficacy and burnout among primary and secondary school teachers. Psychological Development and Education, (2), 56–61.Google Scholar
  39. Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1996). Maslach burnout inventory manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  40. Mutkins, E., Brown, R. F., & Thorsteinsson, E. B. (2011). Stress, depression, workplace and social supports and burnout in intellectual disability support staff. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55, 500–510.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Qin, H., & Liu, X. (2015). The impact of the action control on the relationship between job stress and job burnout in rural teachers: A perspective from the theory of personality systems interactions. Psychological Development and Education, 31, 633–640.Google Scholar
  43. Rhodes, L., & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: A review of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 698–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Richardson, H. A., Yang, J., Vandenberg, R. J., DeJoy, D. M., & Wilson, M. G. (2008). Perceived organizational support’s role in stressor-strain relationships. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23, 789–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Russell, D. W., Altmaier, E., & Velzen, V. D. (1987). Job-related stress, social support, and burnout among classroom teachers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 269–274.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Schneider, B. (1983). Interactional psychology and organizational behavior. In L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 5, pp. 1–31). Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  47. Settoon, R. P., Bennett, N., & Liden, R. C. (1996). Social exchange in organizations: Perceived organizational support, leader-member exchange, and employee reciprocity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 219–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shi, L., Cheng, J., Deng, C., & Liu, L. (2005). Workout of work pressure questionnaires of teachers in primary and middle schools. Theory and Practice of Education, 25, 37–39.Google Scholar
  49. Siemsen, E., Roth, A., & Oliveira, P. (2010). Common method bias in regression models with linear, quadratic, and interaction effects. Organizational Research Methods, 13, 456–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stinglhamber, F., & Vandenberghe, C. (2003). Organizations and supervisors as sources of support and targets of commitment: A longitudinal study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24, 251–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Villanueva, D., & Djurkovic, N. (2009). Occupational stress and intention to leave among employees in small and medium enterprises. International Journal of Stress Management, 16, 124–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wu, X., Zeng, L., Qing, X., & Zheng, Q. (2003). The current situation and related factors of Chinese teachers’ burnout. Studies of Psychology and Behavior, 1, 262–267.Google Scholar
  53. Wu, M., Peng, X., & Feng, T. (2016a). Effect of organizational stressor on athlete burnout: Regulatory effect of perceived social support. Journal of Xi'an Physical Education University, 33, 463–471.Google Scholar
  54. Wu, X., Qi, Y., Yu, R., & Zang, W. (2016b). Revision of Chinese primary and secondary school teachers’ job burnout questionnaire. Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology, 24, 856–860.Google Scholar
  55. Xu, F., Zhu, C., & Huang, W. (2005). A study on the relationship between teachers’ job burnout and their job stress, self -esteem, locus of control in primary and secondary school. Psychological Exploration, 25, 74–77.Google Scholar
  56. Xu, B., Wang, Y., & Li, Y. (2013). The moderating effects of social support on relationship between job stress and job burnout among teachers in vocational colleges. Zhejiang Preventive Medicine, 25, 1–3.Google Scholar
  57. You, L. (2013). Moderation of social support on work stress and burnout among enterprise employees. Chinese Preventive Medicine, 14, 896–900.Google Scholar
  58. You, L., Jin, D., Yang, H., & Liu, T. (2014). Moderating effect of coping style on the job pressure and job burnout. China Journal of Health Psychology, 22, 571–574.Google Scholar
  59. Zhang, G., Bian, Y., & Dong, Q. (2012). On the relationship between teachers’ teaching literacy, work pressure, and subjective well-being. Chinese Journal of Special Education, (4), 89–92.Google Scholar
  60. Zhao, Y., & Bi, C. (2003). Job burnout and the factors related to it among middle school teachers. Psychological Development and Education, (1), 80–84.Google Scholar
  61. Zheng, H. (2008). A study of the relationship between burnout and self-efficacy of primary and secondary school teachers in western China. Journal of Yangtze Normal University, 24, 151–155.Google Scholar
  62. Zhu, X., Yan, Y., Yan, Y., & Yang, S. (2010). Relationship between teachers’ job burnout and their social support in the rural primary school. China Journal of Health Psychology, 18, 27–29.Google Scholar
  63. Zhang, K., Lu, G., & Wang, J. (2014). Job stress and job burnout: The path model of mediating effect of psychological capital. Studies of Psychology and Behavior, 12 91–96.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law and PoliticsLingnan Normal UniversityZhanjiangChina
  2. 2.School of Business AdministrationSouthwestern University of Finance and EconomicsChengduChina

Personalised recommendations