Is too much work engagement detrimental? Linear or curvilinear effects on mental health and job performance

Akihito Shimazu, Wilmar B. Schaufeli, Kazumi Kubota, Kazuhiro Watanabe, Norito Kawakami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Most studies report a positive relationship of work engagement with health and job performance, but, occasionally, a “dark side of engagement” has also been uncovered. The current study examined two hypotheses: whether work engagement has (1) a U-shaped curvilinear relation with psychological distress and (2) an inverted U-shaped curvilinear relation with job performance (i.e., in-role performance and creative behavior). A two-wave longitudinal Internet survey with a time lag of seven months was conducted among 1,967 Japanese employees. To test our hypotheses, we used a two-wave panel design and examined the lagged and concurrent relations between work engagement and both outcomes. The results confirmed that work engagement had a curvilinear relation with psychological distress concurrently; a favorable effect was found initially, but this disappeared at intermediate levels of work engagement, and, at higher levels, an adverse effect became prominent. In addition, work engagement had a curvilinear relation with in-role performance both concurrently and longitudinally; the higher the levels of work engagement, the stronger the favorable effects on in-role performance. However, contrary to our expectations, work engagement had a linear relation with psychological distress longitudinally and with creative behavior both concurrently and longitudinally. Hence, our results suggest that work engagement plays a different role in health enhancement compared to performance enhancement. Leveling-off and adverse effects of high work engagement were observed for psychological distress in the short and not in a long run. In contrast, no leveling-off effect of high work engagement was observed for job performance. Thus, except for the short-term effect on psychological distress, no dark side of work engagement was observed for psychological distress and job performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0208684
JournalPloS one
Volume13
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Dec
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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