Keiko Sakakibara, PhD. Toyo University; Akihito Shimazu, PhD. Keiko University; Hiroyuki Toyama, PhD. University of Helsinki
The purpose of this study is to investigate whether mentoring can be a job resource in preventing burnout and enhancing work engagement among working Japanese people. Specifically, we examined the following hypotheses:
H1. Mentoring will be negatively associated with burnout.
H2. Mentoring will be positively associated with work engagement.
Burnout is a serious problem worldwide. It has negative consequences for individuals, such as depressive symptoms1,2, sleeping problems3, and type 2 diabetes4. It also leads to negative organizational consequences, including job dissatisfaction5,6, sickness absence7, and turnover intention8,9. On the contrary, work engagement, which is assumed to be the opposite aspect of burnout, has positive consequences for individuals and organizations such as creativity10, openness to new experiences11, and organizational citizenship behavior12. It is obvious that lower burnout and higher work engagement are preferable for both individuals and organizations, and the key antecedents of such a condition are job resources. Job resources are job aspects that help achieve work goals, reduce job demands, stimulate personal growth, learning, and development, including physical, psychological, and organizational factors13. Examples of job resources include social support from supervisors and co-workers, supervisory coaching, and performance feedback. Mentoring, defined as continuous support for career and individual development, has all the elements described above; in this study, we focus on mentoring as a job resource.
Mentoring research has focused on career outcomes and found a positive relationship between the presence of mentors and mentees’ career success. In today’s rapidly changing work environment, mentoring is expected to play a greater role as a resource for positive psychological outcomes, mental health, and well-being14. There has been a growing body of research on these topics, including burnout15,16 and work engagement17,18. The results of these studies suggest that mentoring can be a resource for preventing burnout and enhancing work engagement. However, the number of studies examining the association between mentoring and burnout and work engagement is limited, and these previous studies were conducted outside of Japan. Therefore, it is necessary to confirm whether these results can be adapted to Japanese working people.
We conducted a web-based questionnaire survey in May 2018 and collected 1,420 responses from registered survey monitors. Participants were equally allocated by gender and age group (20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69).
The measures used in this study were as follows: burnout, the Japanese version of Burnout Assessment Tool19, work engagement, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale Japanese version20, job demands (quantitative and qualitative job demands, role conflict), and the Brief Job Stress Questionnaire 21. For mentoring, we asked if a participant had more than one mentor in the past year. As control variables, we used gender, age, marital status, and managerial status. Data from 982 respondents who met the inclusion criteria (full-time employment and those under 64 years old) were analyzed. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses with cross validation were carried out on burnout and work engagement. Cross validation is a technique for assessing the prediction error by resampling the original observed date22. Specifically, we split the original data into two random groups and cross-validated our findings.
We entered three types of job demands separately into the model to avoid multicollinearity. In step one, demographic variables were entered; in step two, job demand was entered; and in step three, mentoring was entered.
In all models, mentoring showed a significantly negative association with burnout (r=-.12–.17, p=.000) and a positive association with work engagement (r=.19-.29, p=.000). The sizes of the standardized regression coefficients between the two groups were similar. Thus, H1 and H2 were supported.
The results of this study suggest that mentoring can be a job resource to prevent burnout and enhance work engagement. Since this is a cross-sectional study, it is not possible to identify a causal relationship between mentoring and burnout or work engagement. Longitudinal research is needed to examine the causal relationships.
We confirmed that mentoring can be a job resource for preventing burnout and enhancing work engagement among Japanese working people. It is necessary to examine whether mentoring buffers or amplifies the effects of job demands on burnout and work engagement in future studies.