Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This thesis describes the development of an instrument (the Comprehensive Organizational Social Support Tool (COSST)) designed to assess the extent to which organizations foster socially supportive interactions amongst their employees. Research indicates that the support that individuals receive from their co-workers in the workplace can have a significant impact on their physical and emotional health, and their commitment to, and performance within, an organization. Organizations can do much to foster these kinds of supportive interactions. However, in order for an organization to determine the strategies it should employ in enhancing support, it is necessary to assess what it is currently doing in this regard. While many measures are available to assess social support on an individual level, there are no instruments available to assess support at an organizational level. The development of the COSST was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, two focus groups were held in which participants were asked to comment on the kinds of things their organization did to encourage people to connect with and support each other. Their responses were organized into seven major categories: respondents indicated that organizational activities with regard to the physical structure of the workplace, administrative practices, policies and procedures, work practices, leadership, communication, and social activities, could all be employed to enhance social support. This framework was then used to create a 25-item assessment instrument, with 2 to 5 items covering each of the seven areas identified by the focus groups. Each item was accompanied by a 5-point rating scale, with descriptive statements for ratings of 1, 3 and 5 on the scale. A score of 5 on an item indicated that the organization was extremely good in its efforts to foster a supportive work environment in that area and a score of 1 indicated that little or no effort was being made in that area. An accompanying interview schedule was designed to gather the information necessary to use the tool. In the second phase, COSST was used to assess three organizations. Two interviewers used the interview guide in discussions with personnel staff at each of the organizations. They also went on a tour of each of the organizations. The information from the interview and tour was used to arrive at a rating for each organization on each of the 25 items in COSST, and to then complete an assessment and series of recommendations for each organization. The results indicated that the COSST instrument, and its accompanying interview guide, were an effective means to elicit information about the ways in which an organization fostered social support amongst its employees. Furthermore, the high degree of correspondence in the ratings of the two interviewers suggests that the instrument has a reasonable degree of reliability. In general, the results indicate that, with further development and testing, the COSST could provide a very useful means of helping to develop more supportive workplaces.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season