General job performance of first-line supervisors: the role of conscientiousness in determining its effects on subordinate exhaustion
In an integrated test of the job demands-resources model and trait activation theory, we predicted that the general job performance of employees who also hold supervisory roles may act as a demand to subordinates, depending on levels of subordinate conscientiousness. In a sample of 313 customer service call centre employees, we found that high-conscientiousness individuals were more likely to experience emotional exhaustion, and low-conscientiousness individuals were less likely as the general job performance of their supervisor improved. The results were curvilinear, such that high-conscientiousness individuals' exhaustion levelled off with very high supervisor performance (two standard deviations above the mean), and low-conscientiousness individuals' exhaustion levelled off as supervisor performance improved from moderate to high. These findings suggest high-conscientiousness employees may efficiently handle demands presented by a low-performing coworker who is their boss, but when performance expectations are high (i.e. high-performing boss), these achievement-oriented employees may direct their resources (i.e. energy and time) towards performance-related efforts at the expense of their well-being. Conversely, low-conscientiousness employees suffer when paired with a low-performing boss, but benefit from a supervisor who demonstrates at least moderate job performance.