The technology sector has grown exponentially in recent decades. Silicon Valley used to be the base for most technology companies. But the advent of the internet and the rampant use of social media have broadened that spectrum to include any location with Wi-Fi and a computer device. Individuals who work in the technology field face many job stressors, including traditional job demands. However, they also face emotional job demands that arise from competition, production, and other aspects related to the field. When resources exist to address these demands, individuals should be able to avoid job-related emotional exhaustion, or so one would think. However, according to a new study led by Bart Van de Ven of the Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organization Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium, that is not always the case.
Van de Ven wanted to see how emotional job demands and emotional resources on the job affected emotional exhaustion in technology employees. He assessed 711 workers for levels of work-related emotional stress and emotional resources at their disposal. Particularly, he looked at the availability of supervisors, colleagues, and team sessions as an outlet for emotional stress. He also examined the support-seeking attitudes of the participants and evaluated how all of these factors contributed to or protected them from emotional exhaustion.
The results revealed that the availability of emotional resources did not necessarily decrease emotional exhaustion in those with high levels of emotional job demands. Specifically, those who did not seek help for their emotional stress were not affected by low levels of emotional resources. However, those who were high in support-seeking had increases in emotional exhaustion when resources for releasing their emotional stress were not readily accessible. Van de Ven also found that the employees with high emotional job demands and low support-seeking did see slight decreases in exhaustion when they had resources for their stress. “To prevent emotional exhaustion among technology employees, the availability of emotional job resources is of great importance,” Van de Ven said. Increasing motivation for support seeking, and encouraging a climate of empathy within the company could help many at risk for exhaustion. Van de Ven believes another way to accomplish this is to give employees an opportunity to share their feelings with other colleagues and supervisors during work meetings designed to address emotional demands.
Van de Ven, B, van den Tooren, M., and Vlerick, P. (2012). Emotional job resources and emotional support seeking as moderators of the relation between emotional job demands and emotional exhaustion: A two-wave panel study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030656
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