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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 26-28

Burnout risks among salespersons under job demand and the mediating role of abusive supervision

Department of Commerce and Management, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amrita School of Arts and Sciences, Kochi, India

Date of Submission06-Aug-2021
Date of Decision12-Dec-2021
Date of Acceptance12-Dec-2021
Date of Web Publication7-Apr-2022

Correspondence Address:
Ms. K S Rakhy
Department of Commerce and Management, Amrita School of Arts and Sciences, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Kochi, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoem.ijoem_249_21

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Context: Salespersons in privately held retail textile shops face physical, emotional, and mental stresses, and most supervisors are untrained and abusive. These stresses may cause salesperson burnout. Aims: To determine the effect of abusive supervision on the connection between job demands and job burnout. Setting and Design: A cross-sectional study. Materials and Methods: The job demand is measured using the Copenhagen psychosocial questionnaire. To assess abusive supervision, we used an eight-item scale from Tepper, and the burnout measures questionnaire was used to measure job burnout. Statistical Analysis Used: Direct, indirect, and total effects of variables were analyzed using SPSS Process Macro. Results: Indirect effect showed that the association between job demand and job burnout was mediated by abusive supervision: β = 6.3151, P < 0.001, bootstrap 95% confidence interval (CI) (5.6515, 7.0307). Direct effect between job demand and job burnout β = 1.5382, P < 0.001, bootstrap 95% CI (7.2254, 8.4812). Conclusions: High job demand and job burnout are prevalent among salespersons, and abusive supervision ignites the burnout syndrome of salespersons.

Keywords: Abusive Supervision, job burnout, job demand, retail textile shops, salespersons

How to cite this article:
Rakhy K S, Ambily A S. Burnout risks among salespersons under job demand and the mediating role of abusive supervision. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2022;26:26-8

How to cite this URL:
Rakhy K S, Ambily A S. Burnout risks among salespersons under job demand and the mediating role of abusive supervision. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 25];26:26-8. Available from:

  Introduction Top

The dynamic changes in the workplace have introduced new unique challenges for occupational health research. Over the last few decades, job complexity has increased rapidly in the public and private sectors, as workers have been required to learn many new and complicated skills. It has increased job demands and strains on employees in various settings.[1]

Bakker and Demerouti (2007) describe job demand as “the psychological, physical, organisational, and social aspects of work that require sustained emotional or cognitive skills and efforts.”[2]

Salespeople face significant physical and emotional demands in their jobs, such as prolonged standing, walking throughout the retail space, and stair climbing. Salespeople must constantly interact with customers. Sometimes, a customer declines a sale and another customer places incompatible orders. Moreover, they have to act according to the needs and wants of the retailers.[3]

Stress can arise when salespeople are forced to perform tasks they cannot control. Salespeople frequently require supportive interventions to reduce stress and foster a positive work environment. So, if their superiors are unsupportive and abusive, prolonged exposure to stress causes psychological health issues like job burnout.[4]

Tepper (2000) reported a subordinate's perspective of their supervisor's aggressive verbal and nonverbal behavior.[5] A supportive boss may help prevent job burnout.

”Burnout” is a state of emotional, physiological, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged involvement in emotionally taxing situations.[6] Physical exhaustion is defined as “a lack of energy, extreme fatigue, and weakness.” The second component of burnout is emotional exhaustion, characterized by “primarily feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and entrapment.” Finally, mental exhaustion is characterized by the development of negative attitude toward oneself, work, and life itself.

According to Bakker et al.,[7] job demands significantly impact burnout. Job demands can become stressors, particularly if they require a great deal of effort to maintain the expected level of performance. High job demand and an abusive supervisor's control of all necessary resources result in emotional exhaustion among subordinates.

Therefore, the purpose of this cross-sectional study is to gain a better understanding, through mediation analysis, of the effect of abusive supervision on the association between job demand and job burnout among salespersons working in retail textile shops to improve their working conditions. As a result, the researchers established the following objectives: (1) to examine the association between job demand and job burnout among salespersons and (2) to analyze the mediating effect of abusive supervision on the association between job demand and job burnout.

  Subjects and Methods Top

Research design

The current study is descriptive. It used a quantitative research design, wherein data were collected via a questionnaire utilizing the survey technique. It is a cross-sectional study. The approval from the ethics committee was obtained on 20-02-2019.


The study surveyed 400 salespersons in retail textile shops. The sample consisted of 228 (57%) females and 172 (43%) males aged 21–51 years (mean [M] = 29.87; standard deviation [SD] = 7.91). The salespersons' work experience ranged from 1 to 25 years (M = 12.83; SD = 7.78). Participants worked between 10 and 14 h/day (M = 2.44; SD = 0.582).

Sampling framework

The data were collected from Kerala, one of the southern states in India. As per the data, 71,367 salespersons are working in the retail textile shops in Kerala. However, due to the geographic and logistics constraints, Kerala was divided into three zones. In the second stage, one district was selected from each zone based on the highest number of salespersons' population. In the north zone. Thus Kozhikode district was selected from north zone. The Ernakulam district from central zone. Finally the Thiruvanthapuram district from the south zone.

For administrative purposes, the labor department divided the districts into different circles. For example, Thiruvananthapuram has eight circles, Ernakulam has 10 circles, and Kozhikode has seven. So, in the third stage, the researcher selected two circles from each district based on the highest population rate of salespersons.

Retail textile salespersons are a homogeneous group, and some retailers do not allow sample collection. So, in the end, convenience sampling was used to collect samples from each circle. Four hundred people were surveyed: Kozhikode (circle 1- 62, circle 2- 56), Ernakulam (circle 1- 88, circle 2- 86), and Thiruvananthapuram 108 (circle 1- 56, circle 2- 52).

Data collection instruments

The Copenhagen psychosocial questionnaire, consisting of eight items, assesses job demand variables, including emotional and quantitative demand variables.[8] To assess abusive supervision, we used Tepper's[5] eight-item scale and the burnout measures questionnaire[6] with a five-point Likert scale, and 14 items adopted two variables, emotional exhaustion and physical exhaustion, to measure job burnout of the salespersons.

  Results Top

[Table 1] highlights the prevalence of high job demand, abusive supervision, and job burnout experienced by salespersons in retail shops. [Table 2] shows the correlation of all variables, mean scores, and SD. All variables were significantly correlated (P < 0.05), and the correlations were symmetrical. For instance, job demands demonstrated a positive correlation between abusive supervision and job burnout. [Table 3] summarizes the mediation results obtained using the PROCESS macro model 4, a simple mediation model by Hayes.[9]
Table 1: Prevalence of high job demand, abusive supervision, and job burnout

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Table 2: Mean, SD, and correlations among variables

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Table 3: Results of mediation analysis

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It is evident from [Table 1] that psychosocial risks are prevalent among salespersons in retail shops in Kerala. Also, 58.7% of respondents had high job demand, 66.7% of samples responded that they had abusive supervisors, and 63.8% responded that they had job burnout syndrome.

Mediation analysis

There were no concerns with multi-collinearity, and the Variance Inflation Factor values of all variables were much less than 3.5 and the tolerance values of all variables were larger than 0.40. [Table 3] displays the results of the bootstrapping procedure for the mediation model. Aside from that, the table summarizes the effect of the independent variables on the dependent variables that are direct, indirect, and total at the 95% confidence level on the dependent variable.

To determine if abusive supervision mediated the relationship between job demand and job burnout, a bootstrapping technique was used with SPSS Process Macro. This study's findings, obtained from 5000 bootstrap samples, reveal a statistically significant indirect positive association between job demand and job burnout moderated by abusive supervision (r = 6.3151, P = 0.001, bootstrap 95% confidence interval [CI]: (5.6515, 7. 0307)). The total effect of abusive supervision and job demands on job burnout was 7.8533 (indirect effect plus direct effect). There is a substantial direct relationship between job demand and job burnout, as the findings show (r = 1.5382, P = 0.001, bootstrap 95% CI (7.2254, 8.4812)). A one-unit increase in job demand would positively influence job burnout by a factor of 1.5382. So, abusive supervision has a partial mediation effect between job demand and job burnout among salespersons in retail textile shops in Kerala.

  Discussion Top

This study has two goals. The first is to determine how job demand affects retail salespersons' burnout. The second is to analyze if abusive supervision mediates the relationship between job demand and job burnout. Because of job demands and abusive supervision, retail salespersons are more likely to experience burnout. A recent study found a clear correlation between job burnout, high job demand, and harsh supervision.[10]

The findings cannot be generalized because the respondents were recruited exclusively from retail textiles shops. Due to the questionnaire-based research, social desirability response bias cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, no information about the respondents' personal and family circumstances affecting their job burnout was collected. The study would be more informative if more variables were associated with psychosocial risk factors in the workplace.

The main findings of this study are that abusive supervision is highly prevalent in retail textile shops in Kerala. Furthermore, job demand with abusive nature from supervisors increases job burnout. A detailed study comparing the job burnout of salespersons from Kerala to other states in India and a longitudinal study can assist practitioners in gaining a better understanding of the relationships.

The study suggests that retail textile shops can control their internal social stressors by implementing several strategies such as a zero-tolerance policy and training programs. Retailers should provide conveyors, elevators, and a sit–stand chair to reduce the physical strain on salespersons, such as the one caused by prolonged standing and constant stair climbing. The supervisors themselves are focused on encouraging positive behavior for the benefit of the retail establishment they supervise.[11]

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Kompier MA. New systems of work organisation and workers' health. Scand J Work Environ Health 2006;32:421-30.  Back to cited text no. 1
Bakker A, Demerouti E. The job demands-resources model: State of the art. J Manag Psychol 2007;22:309-28.  Back to cited text no. 2
Baka L. The effects of job demands on mental and physical health in the group of police officers. Testing the mediating role of job burnout. Stud Pschol 2015;57:285-99.  Back to cited text no. 3
Akram A, Li Y, Akram U. When employees are emotionally exhausted due to abusive supervision. A conservation-of-resources perspective. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2019;16:3300.  Back to cited text no. 4
Tepper BJ. Consequences of abusive supervision. Acad Manage J 2000;43:178-90.  Back to cited text no. 5
Pines AM, Aronson E, Kafry D. Burnout: From Tedium to Personal Growth. New York: The Free Press; 1981.  Back to cited text no. 6
Bakker AB, Demerouti E, De Boer E, Schaufeli WB. Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and absence frequency. Journal of Vocational Behavior 2003;62:341-56.  Back to cited text no. 7
Kristensen TS, Hannerz H, Hogh A, Borg V. The Copenhagen psychosocial questionnaire- A tool for the assessment and improvement of the psychosocial work environment. Scand J Work Environ Health 2005;31:438-49.  Back to cited text no. 8
Hayes AF. Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis: A Regression-Based Approach. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2018.  Back to cited text no. 9
Andersson, Lynne M. and Christine M. Pearson. “Tit for Tat? The Spiraling Effect of Incivility in the Workplace.” Academy of Management Review.1999; 24:452-71.  Back to cited text no. 10
International Labour Office. Pychosocial risks, stress and violence in the world of work. International Journal of labour Research 2016;8:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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