Workplace exhaustion occurs as a result of being overburdened in the workplace. Long work hours, expanded organizational responsibilities, and colleague conflict can all contribute to exhaustion. When employees become emotionally or physically exhausted, they experience burnout. High rates of burnout can have a large financial impact on a company through lost productivity, low retention rates, and lost work days. Counterproductive work behaviors (CWB) can lead to undesired workplace activities such as theft, errors, and even aggression and violence. Employees who are emotionally exhausted tend to engage in counterproductive work behaviors that affect the organization as a whole (CWB-O) and their own individual well-being (CWB-I).
George C. Banks of the Department of Management at Virginia Commonwealth University recently led a study to better understand how an employee’s attitude affected the levels of CWB-I and CWB-O. For his study, Banks surveyed 113 bank employees from a company in South Korea. He had the participants and their supervisors complete the surveys to assess employee attitude and workplace behavior. “We found that emotional exhaustion signiﬁcantly relates to both CWB-I and CWB-O to a similar degree,” said Banks. To be specific, Banks discovered that the participants used CWB as a way to cope with negative feelings such as stress and anxiety.
One of the most interesting findings was that of the relationship between organization commitment and CWB. Banks discovered that the employees’ level of loyalty to their company decreased as their exhaustion increased. This finding supports the general theory that attitude affects behavior. In this study, the employees with less exhaustion had more positive organization associations and therefore engaged in less CWB-I and CWB-O activities. Banks believes these results underscore the need to provide employees with opportunities to relieve workplace stress, anxiety, and depression. Interventions that provide individuals with relaxation and coping strategies could help employees improve their attitudes and behaviors and develop ways to prevent workplace exhaustion and the negative consequences that it produces.
Banks, G. C., Whelpley, C. E., Oh, I.-S., Shin, K. (2012). (How) are emotionally exhausted employees harmful? International Journal of Stress Management. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029249
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