The Impact of Emotion Predispositions on PerformancePeople are predisposed to experiencing certain levels of approach-related arousal emotions and avoidance-related arousal emotions which influence different aspects of their job performance. Approach-related arousal is generally associated with feelings such as happiness, elation, or feeling energetic. Avoidance-related arousal is generally associated with feelings involving negative emotions. These predispositions, which are called positive affect and negative affect, are different from the emotions a person will experience in reaction to specific events in that affect shows stability across time and even situations. It is important to realize that positive affect and negative affect are not opposite ends of a continuum – one can have high levels of one but not the other, or can have high or low levels of both types at the same time. Examples of different affect profiles include:
- A person who experiences anxiety or fear (high on both levels). This profile is high in positive affect because anxiety arouses a person to be alert, but it is also high in negative affect because it makes a person want to escape from something.
- A person who feels very relaxed, laid-back (low on both levels). Such a person isn’t experiencing particularly high positive or negative arousal.
- A person who is bored (high in negative affect, low in positive affect). This profile indicates someone who is unenergetic and experiencing negative arousal.
- A person who is cheerful and energetic (high in positive affect, low in negative affect). Such a person isn’t experiencing negative feelings but is experiencing a high level of positive arousal.
Emotions and PerformanceRecent evidence provides a clearer understanding of the role of dispositional emotions in work performance. Specifically:
- Positive emotions are related to increased task performance ratings by supervisors
- Negative emotions are related to decreased task performance ratings by supervisors
- Positive affect is associated with increases in organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) – i.e., work behaviors that are helpful but not required of one’s position, like volunteering for overtime or assisting a coworker
- Negative affect is associated with decreases in OCBs
- Negative affect is associated with increases in withdrawal and counterproductive workplace behaviors (CWBs) – e.g., theft, absenteeism, abuse, sabotage, etc.
- Negative affect is associated with increased occupational injury
Explaining these AssociationsEvidence indicates that the relationships between positive and negative affect and the dimensions of job performance may be mediated by the factors fairness, job satisfaction, and stress. Mediation refers to a factor being a reason why one variable (e.g., emotion) influences another variable (e.g., performance). That is, emotions are thought to influence one or more of these three factors, which then affect performance, in the following ways:
- Perceived fairness is a significant mediator between positive affect and task performance and OCBs
- Perceived fairness is a significant mediator between negative affect and task performance, OCBs, CWBs, and withdrawal
- Job satisfaction is a significant mediator between both positive affect and negative affect and OCBs
- Job satisfaction is a significant mediator between negative affect and withdrawal
- Job stress mediates the association between positive affect and task performance/OCBs
- Job stress mediates the associations between negative affect and CWBs/withdrawal
Affect and PersonalityEvidence also indicates that positive and negative affect, which exhibit high associations with the personality traits extraversion and neuroticism respectively, are not redundant with those traits in predicting task performance. Positive and negative affect predict task performance even after extraversion and neuroticism have been accounted for.
Implications for PracticeThese results clearly indicate that emotional predispositions are important factors in predicting success in different performance categories ranging from productive behavior to destructive behavior. Suggestions for capitalizing on this knowledge to maximize organizational performance include:
- Screen and hire applicants in part based on their dispositional affect, especially for occupations that are inherently stressful.
- Introduce stress management resources for employees. Examples include employee assistance programs (EAPs) and gym membership information.
- Take steps to increase employee perceptions of fair treatment at work. This can be done by following standard procedures for everyone, letting employees have some input or “voice” when appropriate, or providing sufficient information about why certain workplace decisions have been made.
- Strive to reduce a negative work climate while also striving to create a positive work environment. This can involve reducing personal conflicts in the organization and promoting cooperation among employees.
DeGarmoThis was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Kaplan, S., Bradley, J. C., Luchman, J. N., & Haynes, D. (2009). On the role of positive and negative affectivity in job performance: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 162-176.