P-E fit feminity and masculinity were investigated as predictors in all three hypotheses. GTS+ scale [14] was used for measuring feminine and masculine gender role orientation. First, the participants were asked to describe themselves answering the questionnaire to measure individual feminity (α = .82) and individual masculinity (α = .83). In a second step, the subjects characterized their work environment including colleagues and supervisors using the same scale. Thus, environmental feminity (α = .85) and environmental masculinity (α = .86) were measured. To operationalize P-E fit score, the individual rating was subtracted from the subjective rating for the work environment. In a next step, the values were transformed by squaring and logarithmising to meet the requirement of a linear relationship for regression analysis. This way, the two predictor variables P-E fit in feminity and P-E fit in masculinity were calculated. Both variables do not differentiate between cases with higher scores in individual or environmental feminity and masculinity. The predictors rather quantify a general fit. This way, high values in both P-E fit scores represent a bigger difference between the individual and environment feminity or masculinity. Accordingly, low values indicate less difference and a better fit.

Considered work characteristics include the following variables: Activity scope, task completeness, development chances, workplace ergonomics, working time flexibility, work interruptions, work material supply, information supply, versatility of cognitive tasks, role clarity, physical exhaustion, work-qualification equivalency, quantitative work demands, role conflicts, work organization, task variety, work-life balance, and work environment strains (for more detailed information, see Table 1 and Table 2, Additional file 1). All work characteristics were quantified by the newly validated DearEmployee-Survey questionnaire, which was developed to identify occupational demands and consists of dimensions which are related to psychological strain in the workplace as well as work engagement [28]. Among these work characteristics five variables revealed internal consistency of Cronbach’s Alpha lower than 0.70, indicating an inter-relatedness, which is possibly below the satisfactory level [52]: task completeness, role clarity, quantitative work demands, task variety, work organization (see Table Table1,1, Additional file 1). Accordingly, these variables were removed leaving 13 work characteristics considered in the analysis.

Pearson’s correlations of P-E fit in feminity and masculinity, health strains, hair steroids and age

a P-E fit in feminity b P-E fit in masculinity; *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

Hierarchical linear regression models predicting burnout

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. 1 β in the model including all steps

In the study burnout and number psychosomatic complaints (H1), hair steroids including cortisol, cortisone, dehydroepiandrosterone [DHEA], testosterone as well as progesterone (H2), and work engagement (H3) are analyzed as outcomes (see Table Table11 and Table Table2,2, Additional file 1 for detailed information).

To identify burnout, psychosomatic complaints, and work engagement the DearEmployee-Survey [28] was used in the study. Specific psychosomatic complaints were addressed in the questionnaire (headache, neck or back discomfort, gastrointestinal complaints, cardiovascular complaints, dizziness, restlessness, fear, panic, tight feeling in the throat, sleep problems, nightmares, concentration problems, strong weight changes, facial muscle twitching). In the study, the number of psychosomatic complaints specified in the answers serves as an outcome variable in H1. To measure steroids, hair samples were taken and analyzed by Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry (LC-MC/MS) [36, 44] in a specialized laboratory. A more specific method description is given in a previous article [51].

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