Unit-level leadership and structural empowerment play key roles in creating healthy work environments, yet few researchers have examined these contextual effects on nurses' well-being.
The aim of this study was to test a multilevel model of structural empowerment examining the effect of nursing unit leadership quality and structural empowerment on nurses' experiences of burnout and job satisfaction and to examine the effect of a personal dispositional variable, core self-evaluation, on these nurse experiences.
Nurses (n = 3,156) from 217 hospital units returned surveys that included measures of leader-member exchange, structural empowerment, burnout, core self-evaluation, and job satisfaction. Multilevel structural equation modeling was used to test the model.
Nurses' shared perceptions of leader-member exchange quality on their units positively influenced their shared perceptions of unit structural empowerment (Level 2), which resulted in significantly higher levels of individual nurse job satisfaction (Level 1). Unit-level leader-member exchange quality also directly influenced individual nurse job satisfaction. Unit leader-member exchange quality and structural empowerment influenced emotional exhaustion and cynicism differentially. Higher unit-level leader-member exchange quality was associated with lower cynicism; higher unit-level structural empowerment was associated with lower emotional exhaustion. At Level 1, higher core self-evaluation was associated with lower levels of both emotional exhaustion and cynicism, both of which were associated with lower job satisfaction.
This study provides a theoretical understanding of how unit leadership affects both unit- and individual-level outcomes.