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J Appl Psychol. 2003 Apr;88(2):324-31.

Receiving instrumental support at work: when help is not welcome.

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  • 1Department of Social and Organizational Psychology and Research Institute Psychology and Health, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Although the role of social support in promoting employees' health and well-being has been studied extensively, the evidence is inconsistent, sometimes even suggesting that social support might have negative effects. The authors examined some psychological processes that might explain such effects. On the basis of the threat-to-self-esteem model, the authors tested the hypothesis that receiving imposed support elicits negative reactions, which are moderated by someone's need for support. The authors distinguished 3 different reactions: (a) self-related, (b) interaction-related, and (c) physiological. The results of an experiment with 48 temporary administrative workers generally confirmed the hypothesis. Imposed support elicited negative reactions, except when there was an unsolvable problem, but even then the effect of imposed support was not positive but neutral.

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