Experience, vulnerability, or overload? Emotional job demands and well-being trajectories across the work life

Zoom Research Seminar

Past event — 18 November 2020

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Susan Reh, PhD

Senior Lecturer in Management

University of Exeter

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Employees exert emotional effort in order to perform their work effectively, albeit to varying degrees based on their occupation. These emotional job demands (EJDs) affect employees´well-being, yet evidence is mixed as to whether these effects are positive or negative. One limiting factor in extant studies is that they investigated short-term effects or cross-sectional relationships between EJDs (usually assessed at the employee level) and work outcomes. The present study uses an accelerated longitudinal design with a ten-year timespan of data (effectively covering the whole working lifespan) to test the effects of EJDs at the occupational level on long-term trajectories of well-being. Drawing on the model of strengths and vulnerabilities integration (SAVI) from the lifespan psychology literature, we tested three competing effects: an experience effect (EJDs predict increased well-being), a vulnerability effect (EJDs predict diminished well-being), and an overload effect (a non-linear relationship in which very high levels lead to more favorable trajectories). Using data of N = 2,478 working adults in Germany drawn from the Socioeconomic Panel Study (SOEP), in tandem with data on EJDs from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), we found an overload effect of EJDs on trajectories of positive affect and job satisfaction. However, EJDs did not influence trajectories of negative effect. We discuss the implications of our findings for theory and practice.


Susann is a post-doctoral researcher in organizational psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She obtained her PhD from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University (NL) in cooperation with Kühne Logistics University. In her research, she is interested in how dynamics at work unfold over time. With such a temporal lens, she looks, for instance, at employees´(counter)productive behavior, social comparisons, emotions, well-being, self-evaluation, and motivation. For instance, she investigates why employees undermine rising stars who pose a threat to their future status, or how emotional job demands affect employees´long-term well-being and emotional aging. Her research has been published in journals such as Journal of Applied Psychology and The Leadership Quarterly.


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Bärbel Wegener

Assistant to Resident Faculty