The double-edged sword of manager caring behavior: Implications for employee wellbeing

Janet A Boekhorst*, Rebecca Hewett, Amanda Shantz, Jessica R L Good

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


While managers play a critical role in supporting employee wellbeing, prior research suggests that doing so can take a toll on managers themselves. However, we know little about the potential implications of this for employees. Drawing from the leadership-wellbeing literature and social psychological theories of guilt, we propose that manager caring behavior is associated with both positive (vitality) and negative (guilt) employee wellbeing. We find support for these relationships in Study 1 (N = 264) with a time-separated survey. In Study 2, we replicate these findings, and in addition, we examine a negative perceptual response to manager care: employee-rated manager role overload. Drawing on perceptual salience research, we propose that the negative relationship between manager care and employee-rated manager role overload is exacerbated in a team environment where employees fail to care for each other (i.e., a weak caring climate). Study 2 (N = 360) largely supports our hypotheses with multilevel, time-separated field data. The findings suggest that managers should not be expected to "go it alone" to support employee wellbeing because doing so may relate negatively to employee outcomes. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Occupational Health Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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