Carolyn T. Pham, B.A., Ohio University Lindsay Y. Dhanani, Ph.D., Ohio University Matthew L. LaPalme, Ph.D., Yale University Taylor K. Hall, M.S., Ohio University
The aim of this study was to examine the potential spillover effects of the rising anti-Asian violence and discrimination observed in the wake of COVID-19 onto Asian American employees? general and job-related well-being.
Anti-Asian prejudice and violence have significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic (Dhanani & Franz, 2020; Tessler et al., 2020; Ruiz et al., 2020; Tavernise & Oppel, 2020). Previous research has shown that exposure to traumatic events has substantial effects on one?s well-being (Ahern et al., 2002; Boukes & Vliegenthart, 2017; Silver et al., 2013; Thompson et al., 2019), and these nonwork events can spillover to affect work outcomes (Beck & Shen, 2018; Greenhaus &Beutell, 1985). We therefore examine the effects of racial discrimination and rumination about one?s vicarious exposure to discrimination on Asian American employees? job-related and general wellbeing. Moreover, coworker support has been shown to bolster employee well-being (Thoights, 2011; Cohen, 2004; Sloan, 2012) and mitigate the harmful effects of work and nonwork stressors (e.g., Korczynski, 2003; Tausig, 1999; Hochschild, 1997). We correspondingly propose that coworker support related to the ongoing anti-Asian violence and discrimination may buffer the harm of those events.
Data were collected from 311 Asian Americans who resided within the United States and were employed full- or part-time at the time of data collection. Participants were recruited using Qualtrics Panels, which is a market research firm that administers surveys to eligible participants. The average age of our participants was 33.57 and 50.2% were female. The majority of participants were employed full-time (78.8%) and participants reported working an average of 36.73 hours per week. Data were collected at two time points that were roughly one week apart. At Time 1, participants were asked to report their experiences related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding rise in anti-Asian discrimination and violence. Specifically, we assessed the degree to which participants experienced discrimination (Everyday Discrimination Scale; William, Yu, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997; ?=.96) and experienced intrusive or avoidant thoughts about the recent occurrences of anti-Asian discrimination (Impact of Events Scale; Weiss & Marmar, 1996; ?=.93) since the onset of the pandemic. Participants were also asked to report the degree to which their coworkers had been supportive in response to those events (author-created; ?=.89). At Time 2, participants reported their mental health symptoms (PHQ-9; Kroenke et al., 2001; ?=.90), physical health symptoms (Physical Health Questionnaire; Schat, Kelloway, & Desmarais, 2005; ?=.89), and emotional exhaustion (Maslach Burnout Inventory; Maslach, 1981; ?=.92).
Data were analyzed using regression models wherein control variables (i.e., sex, age, work hours, job demands, and COVID-19 anxiety) were entered in the first step; rumination, experienced discrimination, and coworker support were entered in the second step; and the interactions between coworker support and discrimination and rumination were entered in the third step. Results for mental health indicated a significant positive relationship for rumination (b=.309, p<.001) and a marginally significant positive relationship for experienced discrimination (b=.055, p=.080). Additionally, both interactions were significant (discrimination: b=-.097, p=.010; rumination: b=.114, p=.027). Plots of the simple slopes showed that experiencing discrimination was more strongly related to mental health symptoms when coworker support was low. Conversely, rumination was more strongly related to mental health symptoms when support was high. Results for physical health showed a significant positive relationship for both rumination (b=.596, p<.001) and experienced discrimination (b=.110, p=.032). However, neither interaction was significant. Finally, results for emotional exhaustion indicated a positive relationship for rumination (b=.315, p<.001) and a nonsignificant relationship for experienced discrimination (b=.007, p=.877). There was a significant interaction between experienced discrimination and coworker support (b=-.132, p=.011); simple slopes analyses suggest that discrimination is positively related to emotional exhaustion when coworker support is low and negatively but nonsignificantly related when support is high.
Taken together, our findings suggest that the rise in anti-Asian sentiment in nonwork domains can spillover to negatively impact work-related outcomes among Asian American employees. Further, the results also suggest that positive and supportive relationships at work can act as a broad resource that can mitigate harm to both job-related and general well-being. These findings underscore the need for organizations to consider the unique strain that Asian American employees may be experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic and to take action to facilitate supportive interactions among employees.
Results support that Asian American employees have experienced negative well-being consequences as a result of the increased violence and discrimination associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and that positive relationships at work can buffer against these damaging effects.