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The Journal of Social Psychology, 2010, 150(3), 238257

Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ARTICLES
0022-4545
VSOC
The Journal of Social Psychology
Psychology, Vol. 150, No. 3, Mar 2010: pp. 00

Perceived Organizational Support


and Turnover Intention: The Mediating
Effects of Personal Sacrifice and Job Fit
DAVID DAWLEY
The Journal
Dawley, Houghton,
of Social&Psychology
Bucklew

JEFFERY D. HOUGHTON
NEIL S. BUCKLEW
West Virginia University

ABSTRACT. This study examines the mediating role of job fit on the relationship between
perceived supervisor support (PSS) and perceived organizational support (POS), and the
mediating role of personal sacrifice on the relationship between POS and turnover intention.
We use structural equation modeling (SEM) with a data set consisting of a sample of 346
individuals in a manufacturing firm to test our proposed model of PSS, POS, and turnover
intention. Consistent with prior literature, our hypothesized model confirms that PSS is a
predictor of POS and that POS is a predictor of turnover intention. By testing two additional
competing and theoretically derived nested models, our findings indicate that job fit partially
mediates the relationship between PSS and POS, and that personal sacrifice partially medi-
ates the relationship between POS and turnover intention. Our study is among the first to
examine job fit and personal sacrifice as mediators within the POS-turnover intention model.
Keywords: job fit, perceived organizational support, perceived supervisor support, turnover
intention, personal sacrifice

MODERN ORGANIZATIONS ARE LIKELY to face unique and unprecedented


staffing challenges in the first few decades of the 21st century. By the year 2020,
more than 46 million baby boomers with training and education beyond high
school will be over the age of 57, resulting in a potential labor shortage of
approximately 20 million skilled workers by some estimates (Carnevale, 2005). Not
only will recruiting qualified employees become a priority, retaining knowledgeable

Address correspondence to David Dawley, West Virginia University, College of Business


and Economics, P.O. Box 6025, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA; david.dawley@
mail.wvu.edu (e-mail).

238
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 239

workers will be equally important. Organizations that can find ways to proac-
tively reduce voluntary turnover in their present workforce will be much better
prepared to meet these challenges.
Not surprisingly, the antecedents of employee turnover and turnover inten-
tions have represented a key area of research in the organizational literature (e.g.,
Griffeth, Hom, & Gaertner, 2000; Hom, Caranikas-Walker, Prussia, & Griffeth,
1992). In particular, researchers have focused significant attention on the concept
of perceived organizational support (POS) as a key predictor of turnover inten-
tions (e.g., Maertz, Griffeth, Campbell, & Allen, 2007). POS is founded on the
supposition that employees form opinions regarding the extent to which an orga-
nization values their contributions and cares about their well-being based on their
perceptions of how readily the organization will reward their job performance
and meet their socio-emotional needs (Rhoades & Eiseberger, 2002). Since
Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, and Sowas (1986) groundbreaking research
on POS was published, numerous studies have hypothesized and empirically
tested a number of antecedents and consequences associated with POS. Some of
the antecedents include organizational justice (Ambrose & Schminke, 2003), politics
(Andrews & Kacmar, 2001), participation in decision making (Allen, Shore, &
Griffeth, 2003), and supervisor support (Settoon, Bennett, & Liden, 1996). Out-
comes of POS include increased job satisfaction (Eisenberger, Cummings,
Armeli, & Lynch, 1997), performance (Shanock & Eisenberger, 2006), commit-
ment (Hochwarter, Kacmar, Perrewe, & Johnson, 2003), and reduced turnover
(Allen et al., 2003; Rhoades & Eiseberger, 2002).
Employees also tend to form general beliefs regarding the extent to which
their supervisors value their contributions and show concern for their well-
being (Kottke & Sharafinski, 1988). Like POS, perceived supervisor support
(PSS) has been shown to be negatively related to employee turnover (e.g.,
Eisenberger, Stinglhamber, Vandenberge, Sucharski, & Rhoades, 2002). Build-
ing upon the significant relationships between both types of perceived support
and employee turnover intentions, researchers have attempted to further iden-
tify the supporting mechanisms through which support affects turnover (e.g.,
Maertz et al., 2007). For example, studies have shown that the effects of PSS
on turnover are fully mediated through POS (Eisenberger et al., 2002; Rhoades,
Eisenberger, & Armeli, 2001). Likewise, research suggests that the effects of
POS on turnover are mediated through affective commitment (Rhoades et al.,
2001), job satisfaction (Allen et al., 2003), and normative commitment (Maertz
et al., 2007).
Recently, Maertz and his colleagues suggested that researchers must look
beyond organizational attitudes to other mechanisms through which support
influences turnover (Maertz et al., 2007, p. 1060). The primary purpose of the
present study is to further increase our knowledge and understanding of POS and
PSS in the context of employee turnover intentions by examining the potential
mediating effects of two often-overlooked organizational constructs: job fit and
240 The Journal of Social Psychology

personal sacrifice (Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, & Erez, 2001). These con-
structs are two primary components within Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski,
and Erezs (2001) job embeddeness model. Job embeddedness refers to the net or
web of influences and connections that attach an individual to an organization
(Mitchell et al., 2001). Job fit consists of perceptions of comfort or compatibility
within the environment of an organization, while personal sacrifice entails the
perceived material or psychological cost of benefits that would be lost upon leav-
ing a job (Mitchell et al., 2001). These concepts reflect the extent to which indi-
viduals have developed financial, social, cultural, or psychological ties to their
current organization, a phenomenon sometimes described in terms of side-bets
(Becker, 1960). These side-bets are commitments that compel individuals to
remain with their current organization. In short, we will suggest that job fit par-
tially mediates the relationship between PSS and POS, and that personal sacrifice
partially mediates the relationship between POS and turnover intention. Our
study makes a contribution to the literature by being among the first to examine
the potential mediating role of these constructs in the context of perceived sup-
port and employee turnover intention.

Literature Review and Research Hypotheses

The extent to which an employee is committed to the organization is often


based on an exchange relationship between employer and employee. A purely
economic exchange is one in which the organization promises a days work for
a days pay. Alternatively, a social exchange approach captures the unspecified
expectations each party holds for the other (e.g., Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005).
Consistent with previous research, we will use social exchange theory as a theo-
retical foundation for the development our hypotheses (e.g., Eisenberger et al.,
1986). Social exchange theory is a cross-disciplinary paradigm with roots in
anthropology (e.g., Sahlins, 1972), sociology (e.g., Blau, 1964) and social psy-
chology (e.g., Gouldner, 1960) that dates back at least as far as the early 20th
century (e.g., Mauss, 1925). The social exchange process generally involves a
series of interdependent and contingent interactions between two parties resulting
in certain types of obligations that may lead to a high-quality relationship (Blau,
1964; Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005; Emerson, 1976). Social exchange theory
further suggests that in order for relationships to continue, both parties in the
relationship must feel that they are receiving something of value. This exempli-
fies a phenomenon known as the norm of reciprocity. As Gouldner (1960) sug-
gested, if one party treats the other party well, the reciprocity norm compels the
rewarded party to return the favor. What is often exchanged in an organizational
context is dedication and loyalty. This aspect of social exchange has been
described as a social exchange relationship (e.g., Cropanzano, Byrne, Bobocel, &
Rupp, 2001). Within a social exchange relationship, employees offer dedication
and loyalty to the organization through reduced absenteeism and turnover along
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 241

with heightened performance (Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002). Employers, in


return, provide dedication and loyalty not only by offering a salary and benefits,
but also by demonstrating that they value, respect, and care for the well-being of
their employees. Thus, employers and employees navigate a two-way street of
social exchange, on which both parties can be mutually rewarded.
Using social exchange theory as our basic theoretical context, we will now
develop and present an expanded model of POS and turnover intention. In the
process, we will provide an overview of existing POS literature before introduc-
ing two additional concepts, job fit and personal sacrifice, as potential mediators.
As we develop our expanded model, we will also advance accompanying
research hypotheses along with supporting theoretical and empirical justification.
The hypothesized model is presented in Figure 1.
Since its introduction more than 2 decades ago, perceived organizational
support (POS) has become a central construct in the organizational literature
(Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002). Although POS has been associated with a num-
ber of outcome variables, particular attention has been paid to POS in the context
of employee turnover decisions. Indeed, many supportive organizational prac-
tices are specifically intended to increase the connection between employee and
employer in order to reduce voluntary turnover. Participation in decision-making,
fairness of rewards (Allen et al., 2003), developmental experiences and promo-
tions (Wayne, Shore, & Liden, 1997), autonomy (Eisenberger et al., 1999), and
job security (Rhoades and Eisenberger, 2002) have all been empirically linked to
POS. These actions reflect the organizations propensity to meet employees
socio-emotional needs (Eisenberger et al., 1986). POS assures employees that the
organization stands behind them as they perform their jobs and handle stressful
conditions (George, Reed, Ballard, Colin, & Fielding, 1993). In harmony with
the norm of reciprocity, supported employees tend to value and respect their
organization and are therefore willing to contribute to the organizations goals.

Personal
Job Fit
Sacrifice

+ + +

Perceived Perceived Turnover


Supervisor Organizational Intention
Support Support
+

FIGURE 1. Hypothesized model showing the mediating effects of job fit and
personal sacrifice.
242 The Journal of Social Psychology

The positive feelings engendered in this manner tend to help fulfill socio-emotional
needs and connect employees to the organization.
Social exchange theory helps to further clarify our understanding of the rela-
tionship between POS and turnover decisions. This theory suggests that employees
value job rewards to a greater extent if the rewards are based on the discretion of
the organization rather than influenced by external influences regulations (e.g.,
Blau, 1964; Eisenberger et al., 1986; Eisenberger, et al., 1987; Gouldner, 1960,
Shore & Shore, 1995). External influences might include unions or health and
safety regulations. Voluntary rewards that come directly from the organization
are perceived as an indication that the organization values the employees well-
being. As Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002) note, job rewards such as job enrich-
ment, promotions, and compensation contribute more to POS if they are viewed
as purely voluntary organizational actions. In addition to these theoretical argu-
ments, empirical evidence has demonstrated a significant relationship between
POS and reduced turnover intentions. For example, Rhoades and Eisenberger
(2002) reported a mean corrected correlation between POS and turnover inten-
tions of .51 (p < .001) and a mean corrected correlation between POS and turn-
over behaviors of .11 (p < .001) in a meta-analysis of previous empirical
research.
A basic premise of POS is that employees envision their organization as tak-
ing on human-like characteristics in valuing their contributions and well-being
(Eisenberger et al., 1986). Earlier work by Levinson (1965) noted that actions
taken by individuals within the organization (e.g. supervisors and top managers)
are not viewed as personal actions or motives, but rather as organizational actions.
Because supervisors act as agents of the organization, they have a responsibility
for directing, evaluating, and supporting their subordinates. Accordingly, subor-
dinates tend to view their supervisor as a personal extension or personification of
the organization (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Eisenberger et al., 2002; Levinson,
1965). Therefore, by extension, employees view positive and negative job inter-
actions with superiors as an indicator of support (or lack thereof) from the orga-
nization, suggesting a logical linkage between perceived supervisor support
(PSS) and POS. In further support of this potential relationship, prior research
suggests a significant positive linkage between PSS and POS (e.g., Eisenberger
et al., 2002; Rhoades, Eisenberger, & Armeli, 2001).

Job Embeddedness: Job Fit and Personal Sacrifice

Job embeddedness can be described as a net or web of influences and con-


nections that attach an individual to an organization (Mitchell et al., 2001). Job
embeddedness is comprised of three categories of influence: links, fit, and sacri-
fice (Mitchell et al., 2001). Fit consists of an employees perceptions of comfort
or compatibility within the environment of an organization. Personal sacrifice
entails the perceived cost of benefits that would have to be forfeited upon leaving
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 243

a job (Meyer & Allen, 1991). Links refers to formal or informal connections
between a person and their environment, including work and non-work friends,
community and physical living arrangements. Of these, we did not examine the
links component due to our surveyed employers concern over links-related items
that had the potential to identify respondents (e.g. Are you married? Do you
own the home you live in?, How long have you been in your present position?).
Therefore, this study focuses solely on the fit and sacrifice components of job
embeddedness. Continuing to employ social exchange theory as our theoretical
framework, we will suggest that job fit and personal sacrifice may serve as
important mediators of the relationships between PSS, POS, and turnover intention.
Broadly defined, job fit is an employees perceived comfort level with his or
her job setting (Mitchell et al., 2001). Comfort level refers to an employees fit
with the work group, co-workers, culture, and values of the organization. Mitchell
and colleagues (2001) research suggests that the greater the job fit, the more
likely the employee will feel embedded in and thus supported by the organiza-
tion (Mitchell et al., 2001). We contend that perceived supervisor support (PSS)
is one of the organizational conduits through which employees learn the specifics
of how well they are (or are not) matched to the organization. The supervisor, as
an agent of the organization, helps to personify culture and can help engender a
good fit between the job and an employees skills (Reichers, 1985). Supervisors
also have the ability to shape employee perceptions of their authority and respon-
sibility. Finally, supervisors manage a micro-culture that influences the extent to
which employees connect with their co-workers. Employee perceptions of culture,
skill utilization, coworkers, authority, and responsibility are all captured in the
concept of job fit. Immediate supervisors are typically the closest organizational
agent to the employee and have the ability to communicate the organizations
intentions directly to their subordinates. Therefore, we contend that supervisor
support plays a valuable role in facilitating subordinate job fit.
Strong job fit can also heighten employee feelings of organizational support.
While POS measures employees global belief that the organization values their
contributions and well-being (Eisenberger et al., 1986), job fit relates to employees
comfort levels within the organization. Although POS is driven by the direct
actions of the organization and its agents, job-fit is an artifact of corporate culture
and the demands of the job. Job fit is enhanced when an organizations culture
offers an environment consistent with an employees personal values and career
goals, and when a job utilizes an employees skills, abilities, and job specific
knowledge. As outlined above, social exchange theory suggests that discretionary
benefits such as good job fit are likely to be perceived as an indication that the
organization cares about and values employees. In keeping with the norm of
reciprocity, the greater the job fit, the more likely employees will feel personally
and professionally connected to the organization. We therefore posit that better
job fit will lead to a higher likelihood that employees will perceive that the orga-
nization supports their contributions and well-being. Based on this line of reasoning,
244 The Journal of Social Psychology

it seems likely that job fit will partially mediate the relationship between PSS and
POS. Given the existing theoretical and empirical evidence for a direct linkage
between PSS and POS (e.g., Eisenberger et al., 2002; Rhoades, Eisenberger, &
Armeli, 2001), we hypothesize a partial rather than full mediation of this rela-
tionship. Nevertheless, given the theoretical and logical rationale presented
above, we anticipate that a substantial portion of the influence of PSS on POS
may in fact be partially mediated through job fit and hence, we advance the
following:

H1: Job fit will partially mediate the relationship between PSS and POS.

The job embeddedness framework also includes the concept of personal sac-
rifice, which is defined as the perceived material or psychological costs associated
with leaving an organization (Mitchell et al., 2001). Material costs include the
perceived loss of benefits that will be given up upon leaving a job and include
comparable salary and benefits, healthcare and pension plans, and stock options.
These benefits reflect the material investments an employee has in an organiza-
tion and stands to lose when considering turnover (Mitchell et al., 2001; Gupta &
Jenkins, 1980; Shaw, Delery, Jenkins, & Gupta, 1998). Psychological costs
include the loss of colleagues, interesting projects, job stability, social status,
rank, and uncertainty (Shaw et al., 1998).
These investments (or costs) embody Beckers (1960) side-bet view of orga-
nizational commitment. Becker (1960) argued that employees perceive personal
sacrifices associated with leaving an organization when they recognize the value
of their investments. The personal sacrifices (or side-bets) are often created by
the organization through impersonal bureaucratic arrangements. The greater the
personal sacrifice, the more an employee stands to lose if he or she leaves the
organization. Leaving an organization could mean that an employee could incur
both material and psychological costs.
Personal sacrifice is somewhat similar to Allen and Meyers (1990) concep-
tualization of continuance commitment, although it does not include the concept
of job alternatives. Job alternatives can be defined as the extent to which employees
perceive there are suitable employment opportunities elsewhere (Allen & Meyer,
1990). Many theorists view job alternatives as a completely separate construct
from personal sacrifice and argue that it should be measured separately (e.g.,
Mitchell et al., 2001; Powell & Meyer, 2003; Vandenberghe et al., 2007). Indeed,
in a 2002 meta-analysis Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, and Topolnytsky concluded
that personal sacrifice has a stronger negative correlation with withdrawal cog-
nition and turnover intention than does the [job] alternatives subcomponent (p. 41)
and provides a better operational definition of Beckers (1960) notion of side-
bets. Moreover, recent work by Powell and Meyer (2003) suggests that all of
Beckers (1960) seven side-bet categories are best captured by using only Meyer
and Allens (1997) personal sacrifice scale items.
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 245

Based on a social exchange framework, we suggest that personal sacrifice


may serve as a mediator of the relationship between POS and turnover intention.
Employee dedication to an organization is often divided into two categories:
affective attachment and calculative involvement (Eisenberger, Fasalo, & Davis-
LaMastro, 1990). Empirical research has shown a positive relationship between
employee perceptions of being valued and cared for by the organization, as well
as both affective and calculative commitment to the organization, thus supporting
the integration of both emotion-based and calculative approaches to organiza-
tional commitment within a social exchange context (Eisenberger et al., 1990). In
order to meet their own needs for approval, affiliation, and esteem, employees
form global beliefs about their organizations commitment to them (Eisenberger
et al., 1986). Evidence of positive discretionary actions from the organization
that benefit the employees suggests that the organization does in fact care about
the employees well-being and that the organization may be counted upon for
subsequent future rewards (Eisenberger et al., 1990). Such perceptions of POS
may create a calculative attachment to the organization that would result in a sig-
nificant non-financial loss or personal sacrifice for employees who leave the
organization. In short, social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity suggest
that employees will reward an organization with loyalty, citizenship, and perfor-
mance if their socioemotional needs are being met. The more employees perceive
support from the organization, the greater the likelihood that their socioemotional
needs are being met. In this case, POS becomes a substantial investment that
employees would not likely want to sacrifice. Based on this line of reasoning, we
contend that personal sacrifice will partially mediate the relationship between
POS and turnover intentions. Once again, given the existing theoretical and
empirical evidence for a direct linkage between POS and turnover intentions
(e.g., Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002) and given evidence for other possible medi-
ators of the POS-turnover relationship (e.g., Maertz et al., 2007), we hypothesize
a partial rather than full mediation of this relationship:

H2: Personal sacrifice will partially mediate the relationship between POS and
Turnover Intention.

Method

Sample

The population for this study included employees at a medium-sized manu-


facturing facility located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. We
were allowed to attend all quarterly (and mandatory) in-house training sessions
for this company and were given the first 20 minutes of each meeting to adminis-
ter our survey (described below). This organization employs 357 people, 350 of
which participated in the mandatory training. The seven remaining individuals
246 The Journal of Social Psychology

TABLE 1. Sample Statistics

N = 346

Gender %
Male 89.9%
Female 10.1%
Age Group*
1824 8.5%
2534 21.9%
3544 30.3%
4554 22.5%
5565 16.2%
Over 65 0.3%
Job Title
Hourly production workers 68.0%
Managerial / supervisory 14.5%
Professional 11.5%
Clerical 6.0%
*Total not equal to 100% due to rounding.

were either taking a sick day or traveling on company business. Of the 350 poten-
tial survey participants, one declined to complete a survey and three returned
incomplete or non-usable surveys. We therefore obtained 346 usable surveysa
usable response rate of 99%. Sample statistics are shown in Table 1.

Measures

All survey variables were measured on a Likert-type scale (1 = strongly


disagree to 5 strongly agree) and are shown in Table 2.

Perceived organizational support. POS was measured with an abbreviated 8-item


scale that follows the recommendation of Rhoades and Eisenberger (2002, p. 699)
who note, Because the original scale is unidimensional and has high internal
reliability, the use of shorter versions does not appear problematic. The 8 POS
items we selected were based on the high factor loadings in the Eisenberger,
Huntington, Hutchison, and Sowa (1986) study, using an even balance of posi-
tively and negatively worded items. A sample item is The organization values
my contribution to its well-being. The reliability of this scale was 0.89.

Perceived supervisor support. PSS was measured with a 3-item scale, using 2
revised items similar to those used by Eisenberger, Stinglhamber, Vandenberge,
Sucharski, and Rhoades (2002) and Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, and
Sowa (1986). A sample item is My supervisor cares about my well-being. In
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 247

TABLE 2. Items and Scale Reliabilities (aReverse coded items)

Items

POS a = .89
(see Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, and Sowa, 1986)
This organization values my contribution to its well-being.
This organization fails to appreciate any extra effort from me.a
This organization would ignore any complaint from me. a
This organization really cares about my well-being.
Even if I did the best job possible, the organization would fail to notice.a
This organization cares about my general satisfaction at work.
This organization shows very little concern for me. a
This organization takes pride in my accomplishments at work.
Personal Sacrifice a = .87
(see Powell and Meyer, 2003)
I have invested too much time in this organization to consider working elsewhere.
Leaving this organization now would require considerable personal sacrifice.
For me personally, the costs of leaving this organization would be far greater than
the benefits.
I would not leave this organization because of what I would stand to lose.
If I decided to leave this organization, too much of my life would be disrupted.
I continue to work for this organization because I dont believe another
organization could offer the benefits I have here.
Job Fit a = .78
(see Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, & Erez, 2001)
I like the members of my work group.
My co-workers are similar to me.
My job utilizes my skills and talents well.
I feel like I am a good match for this company
I fit with the companys culture (values & beliefs).
I like the authority and responsibility I have at this company.
Supervisor Support a = .94
(see Eisenberger, Stinglhamber, Vandenberge, Sucharski,
and Rhoades, 2002; Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, and Sowa, 1986).
I am very satisfied with my supervisor.
My supervisor cares about my well being.
I like working with my supervisor.
Turnover Intention a = .93
I will likely look for another job in the next twelve months.
I will likely look for another job in the next three years.

trying to capture the essence of the remaining eight-item PSS scale (see Eisen-
berger et al., 2002), we created a 3rd item that we believed would best reflect the
remaining 6 items. As a result, I like working with my supervisor became the
created item. The reliability of this scale was 0.94.
248 The Journal of Social Psychology

Personal sacrifice. Personal sacrifice was measured using a 6-item scale devel-
oped by Meyer and Allen (1997) and refined by Powell and Meyer (2003). A
sample item is For me personally, the costs of leaving this organization would
be far greater than the benefits. The a reliability of this scale was 0.87.

Job fit. Job fit was measured using a 6-item scale developed by Mitchell et al.
(2001). A sample item is My job utilizes my skills and talents well. The a reli-
ability of this scale was 0.78.

Turnover intention. Turnover intention was measured with 2 items predicated on


the work of Hom and Griffeth (1991) and the time frame of interest by the
employer. The items used were I will likely look for another job in the next
twelve months, and I will likely look for another job in the next three years.
Similar items have been used to assess turnover intentions in recent research (e.g.
Powell and Meyer, 2003; Mitchell et al., 2001). The reliability of this 2-item
scale was 0.93.

Results

Descriptive Statistics

Table 3 shows the correlations, means, standard deviations, and scale reliabili-
ties. As expected, POS, job fit, PSS, and personal sacrifice correlated negatively with
turnover intention. Similarly, PSS correlated positively with job fit, job fit correlated
positively with POS, and POS correlated positively with personal sacrifice.

Test of the Proposed Model

We used LISREL 8.54 to test the hypotheses in our proposed model. LIS-
REL uses the maximum likelihood estimation procedure to estimate model fit.

TABLE 3. Scale Correlation Matrix

Turnover Personal Supervisor


Mean s.d. intention POS sacrifice Job fit support

Turnover intention 2.99 1.19 (.93)


POS 2.81 .85 .412 (.89)
Personal sacrifice 2.63 .83 .540 .326 (.87)
Job fit 3.54 .66 .432 .464 .365 (.78)
Supervisor support 3.69 1.08 .227 .373 .169 .448 (.94)
Note. All correlations significant at p < .001, except rsupervisor support, personal sacrifice (.169); p = .002.
Scale reliabilities are noted on the diagonal.
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 249

We assess model fit using the chi-square ratio and the conventional indices root
mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), Comparative Fit Index (CFI),
Normed Fit Index (NFI), and the Adjusted Goodness of Fit Index (AGFI). The
chi-square ratio (or statistic) is the traditional measure for assessing overall
model fit. A statistically significant chi-square statistic implies rejection of the
null hypothesis, which implies imperfect model fit and rejection of the forwarded
model. The RMSEA focuses on the discrepancy between the null model and the
hypothesized model, per degree of freedom. Thus, RMSEA takes model com-
plexity into account. While the chi-square statistic and RMSEA assess a models
overall fit, the next three indices assess the degree to which the covariances pre-
dicted reproduce the observed covariances. The CFI compares the fit of the
hypothesized model with that of the null model, which assumes all latent vari-
ables are uncorrelated. The NFI assesses the proportion by which the hypothe-
sized model improves fit compared to the null model. The AGFI is an indicator
of the amount of covariance accounted for by the model, adjusted for degrees of
freedom. In general, a non-significant chi-square ratio, RMSEA less than .05 and
CFI, NFI, and AGFI values greater than .90 indicate a good fit of the data to the
proposed model (Bollen, 1989).
As suggested by Anderson and Gerbing (1988), an appropriate method for
causal model testing using latent variables is the two-step procedure for testing
structural equation models. The first step in this analysis is a confirmatory factor
analysis (CFA) to assess the proposed dimensionality through the fit of the indi-
vidual items to their respective scales. The item-scale CFA fit indices c2 = 339.58
(220 df), RMSEA = .041, CFI = .984, NFI = .977, and AGFI = .952 indicate a
good fit of the data to a five-factor model.
The second step in the Anderson and Gerbing (1988) procedure is to test the
fully specified model. Input for LISREL 8.54 is the computed covariance matrix
based on the correlation matrix for the variables of interest. The hypothesized
model fit indices c2 = 362.54 (224 df), RMSEA = .045, CFI = .976, NFI = .970,
AGFI = .939 indicate a good fit of the data to the specified model and is shown in
Figure 2. Further, all hypothesized path coefficients are significant and in the
direction hypothesized. Model fit and significant path coefficients offer support
for the mediation effects as forwarded by hypotheses 1 and 2.

Alternative Nested Models

Alternative models were estimated to determine the plausibility of other the-


oretical models as previously proposed. Two competing models were examined.
In both cases, the hypothesized model as presented in Figure 1 was modified by
either adding or subtracting a path as noted below.
Prior research (Mitchell et al., 2001) reports a direct effect between job fit
and turnover. One of our purposes was to build on this finding by proposing that
job fit mediates the relationship between perceived supervisor support and perceived
250 The Journal of Social Psychology

Personal
Job Fit
Sacrifice

0.469 0.598 0.275 0.415

Perceived Perceived Turnover


Supervisor Organizational Intention
Support 0.153 Support 0.213

Note: All paths are significant at p < .05

FIGURE 2. Hypothesized SEM model with path estimates.

organizational support. Through its mediating effect, we proposed that job fit
indirectly affects turnover intention. We tested our contention by modifying the
hypothesized model with the addition of a direct path from job fit to turnover
intention (Model 1). Model 1 (c2 =358.78 (223df), RMSEA = .047, CFI = .974,
NFI = .956, AGFI = .925) provided an adequate fit to the data, and all path coef-
ficients (including the new path) remained significant. However, the Chi-square
difference test was not significant for Model 1 versus the hypothesized model
(c2 (1 df) = 3.76, p > .05). Thus, the hypothesized model appears to be the
more parsimonious explanation of the data.
There is also considerable empirical research that directly links personal sac-
rifice with reduced turnover actions and intentions (Meyer et al., 2002). The the-
oretical underpinnings of this relationship are based on Beckers (1960)
contention that when employees perceive personal sacrifices associated with
leaving an organization, they will be less likely to leave. While we agree with
this assertion, we add that perceived organizational support can be viewed as
another vestment (or personal sacrifice) that an employee would stand to lose
when considering leaving the organization. We tested this supposition by testing
the hypothesized model but removing the path from perceived organizational
support to personal sacrifice (Model 2).
Model 2 (c2 =395.04 (225df), RMSEA = .049, CFI = .968, NFI = .951,
AGFI = .918) provided an adequate fit to the data, but this path-restricted model
led to significant model disimprovement. The Chi-square difference test signifi-
cantly worsened overall fit for Model 2 versus the hypothesized model (c2
(1 df) = 32.50, p < .05). Therefore, the hypothesized model appears to be the
best fitting and most parsimonious of the three models tested. Model compari-
sons are summarized in Table 4.
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 251

TABLE 4. Model Comparisons

c2 versus
Model 2
df RMSEA CFI NFI AGFI hypothesized model

Hypothesized 62.54 224 .045 .976 .970 .939 n/a


Model 1a 58.78 223 .047 .974 .956 .925 3.78(1)
Model 2b 95.04 225 .050 .962 .951 .918 32.5(1)
a
Model1 adds the path from job fit to turnover intention.
b
Model 2 restricts the path from POS to personal sacrifice.

Test for Common Method Variance

As with all self-report data, there is the potential for the occurrence of
method variance. Two tests were conducted to determine the extent of method
variance in the current data. First, we used the Harmon one-factor test (Podsakoff,
MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). The underlying premise of this procedure
is that if one general factor emerges through factor analysis, then a significant
amount of method bias exists. We entered all into a factor analysis. Results from
the unrotated factor solution suggested the presence of five factors with eigenval-
ues greater than one, accounting for 77.2% of the total variance. This finding
suggests that a significant amount of common method variance was not present.
Second, we performed another common method variance test following the
procedure used by Williams, Cote, and Buckley (1989). This analysis examines a
null model, multifactor measurement model, single factor model, and a measure-
ment model with an additional method factor. This analysis revealed that the
method factor did improve model fit, but it only accounted for 12% of the total
variance. This amount is less than half of the 25% threshold cautioned by Will-
iams, Cote, and Buckley (1989). The results of these tests suggest that common
method variance is not a pervasive problem in this study.

Discussion

In order to more fully understand how social exchange relationships affect


turnover decisions, it is important to consider the full array of mechanisms
through which perceived organizational support acts on turnover intention. Sub-
stantial efforts have been made by previous researchers to develop a more com-
plete picture of the POS-turnover model, and many of these efforts have focused
on identifying possible mediators of the POS-turnover intention relationship. For
example, studies by Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch, and Rhoades
(2001) and Rhoades, et al. (2001) suggest that the effects of POS on turnover are
fully mediated through affective commitment. Likewise, Maertz et al. (2007)
252 The Journal of Social Psychology

recently reported results suggesting that normative commitment may also serve
as a mediator of the relationship between POS and turnover intention. Finally,
studies have also identified job satisfaction as yet another mediator of the rela-
tionship between POS and turnover intention (e.g., Allen et al., 2003; Tekleab,
Takeuchi, and Taylor, 2005). Theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that
most, if not all, of the effects of POS on turnover will be mediated by mecha-
nisms such as organizational commitment and job satisfaction. Indeed, as men-
tioned earlier, Maertz and his colleagues advise that researchers must look
beyond organizational attitudes to other mechanisms through which support
influences turnover (Maertz et al., 2007, p. 1060).
Our study takes an important next step in the development of the overall
POS-turnover nomological network. The main purpose of this study was to
extend the prior research in this area by examining the mediating role of job fit
on the relationship between PSS and POS, and the mediating role of personal
sacrifice on the relationship between POS and turnover intention. Consistent with
prior literature, our findings confirm that PSS is a predictor of POS, and POS is a
predictor of turnover intention. In addition, we also found evidence to suggest
that job fit mediates the former relationship, and personal sacrifice mediates the
latter. Therefore, one major finding of our study is the connection between POS
and the organizational commitment variable, personal sacrifice. To our knowl-
edge, there is no published research that has examined the relationship between
POS and personal sacrifice in the context of turnover intention. We argue for and
find empirical evidence that POS may increase personal sacrifice, further con-
necting employees to the organization. Thus, to a significant extent, POS operates on
turnover intention by facilitating additional side-bets that an employee would
stand to lose if he or she were to leave the organization. In other words, employees
who enjoy high levels of POS would stand to lose not only their salary and benefits,
but also a variety of possible side-bets such as participation in decision making,
fairness of rewards, autonomy, developmental experiences, job security, and
other comforts engendered through their job and organization. Such factors
reflect the organizations propensity to meet employees socio-emotional needs
(Eisenberger et al., 1986). Therefore, we add to Beckers (1960) conceptualiza-
tion of side bets by suggesting that POS may serve as a powerful vesting tool.
The other major finding from this study is that job fit, as articulated by
Mitchell et al. (2001), can increase the perception of overall support from the
organization (POS). While we corroborate prior research suggesting that a clear
relationship exists between supervisor support and POS (Hutchison, 1997), we
also forward that job fit partially mediates this relationship. Simply stated,
greater PSS leads to greater POS, but this relationship can be elucidated through
the inclusion of job fit. Given that a recent meta-analysis by Rhoades and Eisenberger
(2002) found that PSS was the second strongest predictor of POS (fairness of
treatment was first), we were surprised to find that the path coefficient from PSS
to POS was significantly lower than that between job fit and POS (bPSS POS = 0.153
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 253

vs. bjob fit POS = 0.598). In other words, the effect (in our sample) of job fit on
POS is almost four times greater than that of PSS. Organizations that place indi-
viduals in the right jobs and display values consistent with their employees
values are more likely to engender perceptions of organizational support on the
part of employees. POS can and should be directly managed by all levels of man-
agement. Managing job fit is a more nurturing process than creating supervisor
supportand might take longer to engender. The nurturing of job fit involves
enabling a culture whereby employees have personal authority and responsibility,
like their co-workers, and feel that their talents are utilized. Our results provide
strong evidence in support of job fit as an important predictor of POS.
Earlier studies involving continuance commitment en masse (i.e., personal
sacrifice and low alternatives) have shown generally negative correlations with
organizational support (Meyer et al., 2001). On the contrary, our findings suggest
a strong positive association between organizational support and personal sacrifice.
Although more research is needed to corroborate (or refute) our findings, we suspect
our finding is due to our sole focus on the personal sacrifice subconstruct and not
on the whole continuance commitment construct. That is, the subconstructs per-
sonal sacrifice and low alternatives have been shown to be differentially correlated
with affective and normative commitment (McGee and Ford, 1987). Rhoades and
Eisenbergers (2002) review of the POS literature showed minimal research and
inconclusive associations between continuance commitment and POS. Our
review of those specific studies revealed that none examined the personal sacrifice
subcomponent. Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, and Topolnytskys (2002) meta-
analysis showed that personal sacrifice had a strong negative association with
turnover intentions, whereas that with low alternatives was negligible. The utility
we found by using only the personal sacrifice component illuminates the call by
Powell and Meyer (2003) to use personal sacrifice versus the traditionally
defined continuance commitment construct. As these authors note, and as our
research corroborates, there is greater utility in using personal sacrifice items
because this scale is a better measure of Beckers (1960) conceptualization of
side bets than the low alternatives-inclusive continuance commitment scale.
Finally, we demonstrate how PSS is a distinct antecedent of job fit, and job fit is
a distinct antecedent of POS. Our findings are in line with the mainstream belief
that supervisor support is an antecedent rather than an outcome of POS (Rhoades
and Eisenberger, 2002; Rhoades, et al., 2001). Whereas prior studies forwarded
that PSS predicts POS, we contend that supervisor support also has an indirect
effect on POS through its direct association with job fit.

Limitations and Future Research Directions

Like other empirical study, we recognize that ours has limitations. First, we
used a very parsimonious list of POS items (8). Eisenberger and colleagues.
(1986) note that this abbreviated list of their original 36 POS items is a fairly
254 The Journal of Social Psychology

robust indicator of POS. However, we cannot state with certainty that the 8 items
used here can be truly representative of POS as originally defined (Eisenberger
et al., 1986). Similarly, we used only three revised PSS items, whereas other
studies (e.g. Eisenberger et al., 2002) used eight. Further, one PSS item was one
we created in an effort to best reflect the larger scale. A second limitation of this,
or any structural equation model, is that of causality. Causality can be forwarded
and tested, but never proven. Our sample is limited to one manufacturing organi-
zation, and we caution the generalizability of our findings to other contexts. It
should be noted that 68% of our sample consisted of hourly production workers,
and therefore our findings should be interpreted in this context. More research is
needed to corroborate (or refute) our findings. More specifically, future research
should seek to replicate this study with data from other types of organizations in
order to solidify the findings of the present study. Future research should also
focus on the links dimension of embeddedness as yet another possible mediator
of the POS-turnover relationship. In the Mitchell et al (2001) study, the authors
found the following significant correlations between the links component and
several desirable organizational citizenship behaviors. For example, links to the
community was associated with voluntary turnover, and links to the organization
was related to intent to leave. Finally, researchers should continue to respond to
Maertz et al.s (2007) call to identify additional mechanisms by which POS
impacts turnover.

Implications

The number of baby boomers leaving the workforce over the next 20 years
will create unprecedented job vacancies in organizations (e.g., Carnevale, 2005).
Thus, organizations will likely begin to look for other ways to develop loyalty
and commitment among their workforces. In the past, many organizations (and
scholars) focused on developing feelings of affective commitment and the result-
ing organizational citizenship behaviors these employees performed. Affective
commitment denotes an emotional attachment to and identification with an orga-
nization. Organizational citizenship behaviors embody nonrequired and uncom-
pensated actions such as punctuality, attendance, aiding coworkers, voluntarily
assuming ad-hoc tasks, and assisting management in implementing new tasks.
However, over the next 2 decades it is likely that developing emotional ties to the
organization will not be enough, and companies will no longer have the luxury of
being concerned with employees performing extra-role behaviors. Instead,
employee retention will become increasingly important as the competition
among firms for highly skilled workers will likely become fierce. This will make
it imperative for organizations to try to increase loyalty through other means. Our
findings suggest that organizations should consider taking actions that will raise
employees perceived costs of leaving while making employees generally more
comfortable in their current situation. For example, organizations may wish to
Dawley, Houghton, & Bucklew 255

further connect with their employees by training workers with specific skill sets
that are valued within the organization and/or by shifting reward plans toward
long-term incentives. By increasing the number, strength and saliency of the
side-bets held by employees, organizations may be able to substantially reduce
voluntary turnover among their members. Employees, on the other hand, should
be aware that organizations will be more likely to reward longevity and that there
will likely be increased personal sacrifices if and when an employee elects to leave
the organization. Highly skilled employees should strive to become more knowledge-
able about company reward systems and training opportunities and whether or not
these can be transferred to other settings. In the long run, efforts by organiza-
tional decision makers to increase job fit and personal sacrifice may lead to a
win-win situation in which companies will be able retain their best and brightest by
providing their workforce with rewards and other inducements that increase
employee comfort, connectivity, and overall satisfaction with the organization.

AUTHOR NOTES

David Dawley is an associate professor of Management at West Virginia


University. He holds a PhD in Strategic Management from Florida State University.
Jeffery D. Houghton is an associate professor of Management and director of
the Master of Science in Human Resources and Industrial Relations (MSIR) pro-
gram at West Virginia University. He holds a PhD in Organizational Studies
from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Neil S. Bucklew is a
professor of Management and Past President of West Virginia University. He
holds a PhD in Industrial Relations from University of Wisconsin.

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Received August 2, 2008


Accepted September 14, 2009
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.