Faculty Advisor

Dr. Julie Apker



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Stress experienced at work over time can lead to a number of negative outcomes for employees and organizations, including decreased work performance and morale, absenteeism, burnout, and turnover (Jones & Elliott, 2004; Pines, 2002). Positive, socially supportive workplace communication has been found to enhance quality of work life and aid in coping with stress (Sias, 2009). Social exchange theory (SET) offers helpful insight into explaining how work friendships provide social support in ways that mitigate stress and enhance coping ability (Buunk & Hoorens, 1992). However, many gaps exist in the research literature regarding social support among work peer friends and stress management:

  • Many studies focus on employer/employee relationships and do not consider the powerful effects of peer social support.
  • There is limited qualitative data collection to balance out the self-report data used in most of the extant research (Saks, 2006).
  • While reciprocity has been most often used to explain social exchange, other assumptions of the theory have not been explored in conjunction with each other (Cropanzano & Mitchell, 2005).

This research examines social exchange theory as a way to understand how people cope with stress at work and proposes suggestions for a future study to address the current gaps in the literature.