Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Heather M. Annulis

Committee Chair Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 2

Cyndi H. Gaudet

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Patricia P. Phillips

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development


Despite spending over $720 million annually on engagement improvement efforts, companies continue to lose over $600 billion to a stressed and disengaged workforce (Coffman & Gonzalez-Molina, 2002; ComPsych, 2010; Hollon, 2012). Research confirms the role of coworker social support as a job resource capable of impacting engagement (May, Gilson, & Harter, 2004; Richardsen, Burke, & Martinussen, 2006; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). Previous engagement studies have emphasized the supervisory and employee relationship with limited consideration of relationships between peer employees and the subsequent effects of that relationship on engagement. While exchange ideology has been offered as a possible reason individuals choose to engage in their work (Saks, 2006), there has been no specific investigation of the role of individual exchange ideology and its influence on coworker social support as a means to impact engagement levels. Understanding the dynamics within supportive work relationships is a promising avenue for future engagement research.

This cross sectional, non-experimental descriptive study investigates the relationships between coworker social support, work engagement, and exchange ideology at a utility company in the Southeastern United States. Positive relationships are identified between coworker social support and work engagement while a negative relationship is found between exchange ideology, coworker social support, and work engagement. When the effects of exchange ideology are controlled, or held constant across the remaining two variables, the correlation between work engagement and coworker social support is lower. Additional research should focus on additional study designs, use of larger samples, and expanded inquiry of the variable relationships in other public service work cultures.