An Examination of the Links Between Organizational Social Capital and Employee Well-Being: Focusing on the Mediating Role of Quality of Work Life

AuthorMyeong Chul Ko
Published date01 March 2021
Date01 March 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2021, Vol. 41(1) 163 –193
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X19865996
An Examination of the Links
Between Organizational
Social Capital and Employee
Well-Being: Focusing on the
Mediating Role of Quality of
Work Life
Myeong Chul Ko1
Although organizational social capital (OSC) is widely considered a potential
resource for improving organizational performance, extensive research has paid
limited attention to how employee well-being may be a positive outcome of OSC.
Drawing on social exchange theory, need satisfaction, and spillover approaches, this
study explores the effects of OSC on subjective well-being (SWB) through quality of
work life (QWL) and job-related outcomes, such as organizational commitment and
turnover intention. Using survey data obtained from public employees in South Korea,
the results show that QWL mediates not only the association between OSC and
organizational commitment but also the relationship between OSC and SWB. These
findings highlight the importance of OSC as an intangible asset that can generate both
organizational outcomes and employee well-being. In practice, these findings also
imply that organizational resources and work environments should favorably respond
to employees’ human needs to ensure improved employee well-being.
organizational social capital (OSC), subjective well-being (SWB), quality of work life
(QWL), employee well-being, spillover approach
1Hanbat National University, Daejeon, Republic of Korea
Corresponding Author:
Myeong Chul Ko, Department of Public Policy, Hanbat National University, 125, Dongseo-daero,
Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 34158, Republic of Korea.
865996ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X19865996Review of Public Personnel AdministrationKo
164 Review of Public Personnel Administration 41(1)
Over the past two decades, social capital has received increasing attention in a wide
range of disciplines including economics, sociology, and political science (P. S. Adler
& Kwon, 2002). Although its conceptual origin is hotly debated (Farr, 2004), social
capital is widely regarded as an asset inherent in social relationships among individu-
als, networks, and communities, which can generate desirable organizational out-
comes (Bolino, Turnley, & Bloodgood, 2002; Leana & Van Buren, 1999; Nahapiet &
Ghoshal, 1998). For example, drawing on social exchange theory and the norm of reci-
procity, previous studies have highlighted the positive impacts of social capital on
organizational performance (Andrews, 2010; Andrews & Brewer, 2014; Leana & Pil,
2006), employee engagement (Andrews & Mostafa, 2019), and knowledge sharing
(García-Sánchez, Díaz-Díaz, & De Saá-Pérez, 2019; Kim, 2018).
However, the extant literature on social capital has paid limited attention to well-
being at work. It is commonly believed that “a happy employee is a productive
employee” and “a happy employee is a dedicated and loyal employee” (Sirgy, Efraty,
Siegel, & Lee, 2001, p. 242). Given the amount of time and energy people spend at the
workplace and the blurring boundaries between work and life, it is very important for
organizations to ensure that their employees are satisfied with their lives at work. In
accordance with the growing interest in and importance of the quality of work life
(QWL) and employee well-being, the extant literature on public administration has
paid attention to family-friendly policies and work–life balance (e.g., Feeney &
Stritch, 2017; S. Y. Lee & Hong, 2011; Saltzstein, Ting, & Saltzstein, 2001; Van De
Voorde, Paauwe, & Van Veldhoven, 2012). The understanding of the relationship
between social capital and employees’ well-being remains relatively fragmented.
An increasing number of studies have addressed the way in which social capital
within a workplace is associated with health outcomes, such as emotional exhaustion
(Boyas & Wind, 2010; Driller, Ommen, Kowalski, Ernstmann, & Pfaff, 2011), depres-
sion (Oksanen, Kouvonen, Vahtera, Virtanen, & Kivimäki, 2010), and distress
(Tsuboya, Tsutsumi, & Kawachi, 2015). These studies suggest that social capital at
work acts as a buffer against the effect of stress on employees’ health, which implies
that a positive perception on social capital within a workplace contributes to employ-
ees’ well-being. It seems theoretically and intuitively plausible that the psychosocial
environment in the workplace is influential for employees’ QWL and subjective well-
being (SWB). Nevertheless, little research on social capital has addressed the growing
interest in employee well-being in the public sector.
To address this research gap, the present study explores the structural relationship
between organizational social capital (OSC) and SWB by investigating the mediating
role of QWL and attitudinal outcomes. Because work occupies an important place in
individuals’ lives, their perceived QWL is likely to affect their overall SWB, as well as
organizational outcomes (Efraty & Sirgy, 1990; D. J. Lee, Singhapakdi, & Sirgy, 2007;
Requena, 2003). To better understand the impact of OSC within a workplace, this
study focused on not only employees’ attitudes toward their organization, such as
organizational commitment and turnover intention, but also employee well-being.

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