Emotional dissonance on work family conflict among Chinese service employees

Document Type


Source Publication

The 8th Annual Conference of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology

Publication Date



European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology


Objectives: Employees often find themselves working with supervisors and co-workers of the same sex. This occurs largely because organizations often discriminate against women and place them disproportionately in less desirable positions, and employees may find similarity comforting. It is, therefore, logical to question the impact of sex similarity in an employee’s work group. Almost no research has investigated the effects of workplace sex similarity on health outcomes. Here, we hypothesize that supervisor-subordinate sex similarity relates to sickness absence, but differently for men and women. Sickness absence is of interest because our field has begun to explore the effects of similarity on the employee’s health.

Methods: The current study examined the association between supervisor-subordinate sex similarity and sickness absence using a national survey conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2006 (N=963; 48% male). Using random digit dialing, interviewers contacted participants, who worked in a variety of industries, by phone. Most (66%) participants reported having a supervisor of the same sex.

Results: We performed a between subjects ANCOVA to test our hypothesis. After controlling for demographic variables and accounting for the main effect of sex similarity, the sex similarity x sex interaction accounted for significant incremental variance in sickness absence [F(1, 9) = 9.61, p < .01, ¬2 = .01]. Follow up sub-group analyses indicated that the effect of sex similarity was negative for men (¬ = -.10, p < .05, ¬R2 = .01) and positive for women (¬ = .09, p < .05, ¬R2 = .01). Thus, men and women were out sick more often when supervised by women.

Conclusions: As hypothesized, and in contrast with the relational demography and similarity-attraction paradigms, there was an asymmetrical effect of supervisor-subordinate sex similarity on sickness absence. The results suggest men with female supervisors are more likely to have a higher number of absences attributed to sickness than men with male supervisors. Additionally, women with male supervisors report much lower absences attributed to sickness than women with female supervisors. Thus, sex similarity has opposite and offsetting effects on men and women. These results have bottom line implications for organizations. If pairing people of particular sexes into workgroups creates a dynamic where subordinates of a certain sex are more comfortable using (or possibly abusing) their sick days, then it is in the organization’s power to investigate the supervisor-subordinate dynamics in their company.



Recommended Citation

Cheung, Y.-L., & Tang, S.-K. C. (2008, November). Emotional dissonance on work family conflict among Chinese service employees. Paper presented at the 8th Annual Conference of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology, Valencia, Spain.

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