• care workers;
  • elder care;
  • external pressure;
  • managed markets;
  • organizations;
  • social support;
  • supervisors


Title. Generating support from supervisors to their subordinates in organizations under external pressure: a multilevel, multisource study of support and reciprocation in Danish elder care.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study investigating the association between the support experienced by supervisors from superiors and from fellow supervisors, on the one hand, and the support experienced by subordinates from their supervisors, on the other hand, in organizations under external pressure.

Background.  It is known from studies in other sectors that supervisors’ support of workers is important for retaining them in the organization. From the literature on social exchange in the workplace it can be hypothesized that support from managers is one way to generate supervisor supportiveness towards their subordinates.

Methods.  A survey was conducted in 15 Danish local government services providing care for senior citizens. The data were collected in 2006.

Results.  Multilevel analyses revealed that the more supervisors felt supported by fellow supervisors, the more their subordinates felt supported by them. There was no statistically significant association between how much supervisors felt supported by their immediate superiors and how much supervisors’ subordinates felt supported by them.

Conclusion.  Under conditions comparable to those of Danish elder care today, more is to be gained in terms of generating supportive behaviour towards subordinates from supervisors by empowering them to support each other rather than by increasing support from their superiors. Research is needed to identify methods and structures of mutual support between supervisors in the healthcare sector that will aid them in supporting their subordinates.