Work-Unit Structure and Processes and Job-Related Stressors as Predictors of Managerial Burnout1


  • 1

    An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1990 meeting of the Academy of Management, San Francisco. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The study was conducted while the first author was a research fellow at the College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs, Wayne State University. Financial Support for the Study was provided in part by a Dissertation Research Support Grant from the Graduate School, Wayne State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Raymond Lee, Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Management, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2


Research on the antecedents of burnout has focused largely on such job-related stressors as role conflict, ambiguity, and overload. The present study expands the focus by also examining the role of organizational structure and processes, notably work-unit standardization, formalization, and communication. It is hypothesized that the effect of organizational structure and processes on burnout is in fact largely mediated by job-related stressors. Self-report data from supervisors and managers in a public welfare setting provide strong support. More broadly, these findings suggest that the impact of “macro” variables on the individual is at least partially mediated by “micro” variables. Specific associations between aspects of structure/process and stressors and between stressors and dimensions of burnout are also examined.