Work Engagement A Handbook Of Essential Theory And Research

by Arnold B. Bakker and Michael P.

Author Arnold B Bakker and Michael P Leiter Isbn 1841697362 File size 1 5 MB Year 2010 Pages 218 Language English File format PDF Category Psychology As a doctoral student in the writing phase of dissertation my academic advisor and chair recommended this book I found it a valuable aid during my synthesis of the theoretical literature and empirical evidence of the phenomenon of work engagement I appreciated the operational definitions conceptual diagrams and illustrations of the finding

Publisher :

Author : Arnold B. Bakker and Michael P. Leiter

ISBN : 1841697362

Year : 2010

Language: English

File Size : 1.5 MB

Category : Psychology



WORK ENGAGEMENT

This book provides the most thorough view available on this new and intriguing dimension of workplace
psychology, which is the basis of fulfilling, productive work.
The book begins by defining work engagement, which has been described as “an opposite to burnout,” following its development into a more complex concept with far-reaching implications for work
life. The chapters discuss the sources of work engagement, emphasizing the importance of leadership,
organizational structures, and human resource management as factors that may operate to either
enhance or inhibit employees’ experience of work. The book considers the implications of work
engagement for both the individual employee and the organization as a whole. To address readers’
practical questions, the book provides in-depth coverage of interventions that can enhance employees’
work engagement and improve management techniques.
Based upon the most up-to-date research by the foremost experts in the world, this volume brings
together the best knowledge available on work engagement, and will be of great use to academic
researchers, upper level students of work and organizational psychology, as well as management
consultants.
Arnold B. Bakker is Full Professor at the Department of Work and Organizational Psychology at
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests include positive organizational
behavior (e.g., flow and engagement at work, performance), burnout, crossover of work-related emotions, and serious games on organizational phenomena.
Michael P. Leiter is Canada Research Chair in Organizational Health and Professor of Psychology at
Acadia University and Director of the Center for Organizational Research & Development (http://
cord.acadiau.ca) that applies high-quality research methods to human resource issues. He is actively
involved as a consultant on occupational issues in Canada, the USA, and Europe.

Work Engagement
A Handbook of Essential Theory and Research

Edited by Arnold B. Bakker and Michael P. Leiter

Published in 2010
by Psychology Press
27 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FA
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Psychology Press
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2010.
To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.
Psychology Press is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
Copyright © 2010 Psychology Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or
reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic,
mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publishers.
This publication has been produced with paper manufactured to strict
environmental standards and with pulp derived from sustainable forests.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Work engagement : a handbook of essential theory and research / edited by Arnold B. Bakker
and Michael P. Leiter
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-84169-736-9 (hb)
1. Employee motivation. 2. Psychology, Industrial. 3. Work—Psychological aspects.
4. Employees—Attitudes. I. Bakker, Arnold B. II. Leiter, Michael P.
HF5549.5.M63W667 2010
158.7–dc22
2009033356
ISBN 0-203-85304-0 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN: 978-1-84169-736-9 (hbk)

Contents

List of contributors
1

vii

Work engagement: Introduction

7
1

Michael P. Leiter and Arnold B. Bakker
2

Jari J. Hakanen and Gert Roodt

Defining and measuring work engagement:
Bringing clarity to the concept 10

8

Wilmar B. Schaufeli and Arnold B. Bakker
3

9

10

The power of positive psychology:
Psychological capital and work
engagement 54

Engagement and human thriving:
Complementary perspectives on energy and
connections to work 132
Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Chak Fu Lam, and
Charlotte Fritz

David Sweetman and Fred Luthans
6

The gain spiral of resources and work
engagement: Sustaining a positive
worklife 118
Marisa Salanova, Wilmar B. Schaufeli,
Despoina Xanthopoulou, and
Arnold B. Bakker

The push and pull of work: The differences
between workaholism and work
engagement 39
Toon W. Taris, Wilmar B. Schaufeli, and
Akihito Shimazu

5

A meta-analysis of work engagement:
Relationships with burnout, demands,
resources, and consequences 102
Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben

Not all days are created equal: The concept
of state work engagement 25
Sabine Sonnentag, Christian Dormann, and
Evangelia Demerouti

4

Using the job demands-resources model to
predict engagement: Analysing a conceptual
model 85

11

Feeling energetic at work: On vigor’s
antecedents 69

From thought to action: Employee work
engagement and job performance 147
Evangelia Demerouti and
Russell Cropanzano

Arie Shirom
v

vi

12

CONTENTS

Building engagement: The design and
evaluation of interventions 164

Author index 197
Subject index 205

Michael P. Leiter and Christina Maslach
13

Where to go from here: Integration and
future research on work engagement 181
Arnold B. Bakker and Michael P. Leiter

Contributors

Arnold B. Bakker
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Institute of Psychology
PO Box 1738
T12-47 3000 DR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Jari J. Hakanen
Centre of Expertise for Work Organizations
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
FI-00250 Helsinki
Finland
Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben
Department of Management and Marketing
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
PO Box 4004
Eau Claire, WI 54702
USA

Russell Cropanzano
Department of Management and Organizations
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721–0108
USA

Chak Fu Lam
Department of Management and Organizations
Ross School of Business
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
USA

Evangelia Demerouti
Eindhoven University of Technology
Department of Industrial Engineering and
Innovation Sciences
Human Performance Management Group
PO Box 513
5600 MB Eindhoven
Christian Dormann
University of Mainz
55122 Mainz
Germany

Michael P. Leiter
Centre for Organizational Research and
Development
Acadia University
Halifax, NS B4P 2R6
Canada

Charlotte Fritz
Department of Psychology
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43403
USA

Fred Luthans
Department of Management
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0491
USA
vii

viii

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

Tel Aviv 69978
Israel

Christina Maslach
Department of Psychology
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1650
USA
Gert Roodt
Centre for Work Performance
Department of Industrial Psychology and
People Management
Faculty of Management
University of Johannesburg
South Africa
Marisa Salanova
Department of Social Psychology
Universitat Jaume I
12071 Castellón
Spain
Wilmar B. Schaufeli
Department of Work and Organizational
Psychology
Utrecht University
PO Box 80.140
3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands
Akihito Shimazu
Department of Mental Health
The University of Tokyo Graduate School
of Medicine
Tokyo 113-0033
Japan
Arie Shirom
Faculty of Management
Tel-Aviv University
POB 39010

Sabine Sonnentag
Department of Psychology
University of Konstanz
PO Box 42
78457 Konstanz
Germany
Gretchen M. Spreitzer
Department of Management and Organizations
Ross School of Business
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
USA
David Sweetman
Global Leadership Institute
Department of Management
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0491
USA
Toon W. Taris
Department of Work and Organizational
Psychology
Utrecht University
PO Box 80.140
3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands
Despoina Xanthopoulou
Department of Work and Organizational
Psychology
Institute of Psychology
Erasmus University Rotterdam
PO Box 1738
T12-56 3000 DR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

1
Work engagement: Introduction
Michael P. Leiter and Arnold B. Bakker

William loves his work and can talk about it
really enthusiastically. Every day he feels
driven to excel and he throws himself into
work passionately. He finds his job challenging, exciting, and enjoyable, and does
much more than is requested, just for the fun
of it. William has the autonomy to be creative,
and has the feeling that he learns new things
all the time. Although he is always busy and is
usually completely immersed in his work, he
rarely feels tired or exhausted. Instead, work
seems to give him energy, and every day he
feels happy to start working again. Even if he
sometimes faces difficulties, William persists.
He is really dedicated to his work and finds
that he deals with interesting and important
issues. Nevertheless, he can relax and disengage from work and he knows how to
downplay his work. Although he often gets
totally absorbed by his work, there are also
other things outside work that he enjoys to
the fullest. William’s motto is: work is fun!
(Anonymous engaged worker)

work has gained critical importance in the information/service economy of the 21st century. The
contemporary world of work thrives on creativity.
In the current economy, advances in quality or
efficiency occur through new ideas. To compete
effectively, companies not only must recruit the
top talent, but must inspire employees to apply
their full capabilities to their work. Otherwise,
part of that rare and expensive resource remains
unavailable. Thus, modern organizations expect
their employees to be proactive and show initiative, take responsibility for their own professional
development, and to be committed to high quality performance standards. They need employees
who feel energetic and dedicated – i.e., who are
engaged with their work. As we will see in this
book, work engagement can make a true difference for employees and may offer organizations
a competitive advantage (see Demerouti & Cropanzano, Chapter 11).

What is work engagement?
Work engagement is a positive, fulfilling,
affective-motivational state of work-related wellbeing that can be seen as the antipode of job

Employees’ psychological connection with their
1

2

LEITER AND BAKKER

burnout. Engaged employees have high levels of
energy, and are enthusiastically involved in their
work (Bakker, Schaufeli, Leiter, & Taris, 2008).
Most scholars agree that engagement includes an
energy dimension and an identification dimension. Thus, engagement is characterized by a
high level of vigor and strong identification with
one’s work.
The perspective of this book is that the field is
best served by a consistent construct for work
engagement, one that focuses on employees’
experience of work activity. Unfortunately, the
broad exploration of constructs over the past
decade has not produced consensus about its
meaning. In contrast, a recent review by Macey
and Schneider (2008) documented the proliferation of various definitions of engagement, many
of them being old wine in new bottles. These
authors try to “solve” the conceptual problem
by proposing employee engagement as an allinclusive umbrella term that contains different
types of engagement (i.e., trait engagement,
state engagement, and behavioral engagement),
each of which entails various conceptualizations;
e.g., proactive personality (trait engagement),
involvement (state engagement), and organizational citizenship behavior (behavioral engagement). In contrast, we advocate the use of
engagement as a specific, well-defined and properly operationalized psychological state that
is open to empirical research and practical
application.
We define work engagement as a motivational
concept. When engaged, employees feel compelled
to strive towards a challenging goal. They want to
succeed. Work engagement goes beyond responding to the immediate situation. Employees accept
a personal commitment to attaining these goals.
Further, work engagement reflects the personal
energy employees bring to their work. Engaged
employees not only have the capacity to be
energetic, they enthusiastically apply that energy
to their work. They do not hold back. They do
not keep their energy in reserve for something
important; they accept that today’s work deserves
their energy. In addition, work engagement reflects
intense involvement in work. Engaged employees
pay attention. They consider the important

details while getting to the essence of challenging
problems. Engaged employees become absorbed
in their work, experiencing flow in which they lose
track of time and diminish their response to
distractions.
Work engagement pertains to any type of
challenging work. It describes employees’ ability
to bring their full capacity to solving problems,
connecting with people, and developing innovative services. Management makes a difference as
well. Employees’ responses to organizational
policies, practices, and structures affect their
potential to experience engagement. In a stable
work environment employees maintain a consistent level of work engagement. Work engagement
thrives in settings that demonstrate strong connections between corporate and individual values.
On the one hand, companies promote their values
with employees, inspiring their allegiance. On the
other hand, companies are responsive to the
values employees bring to their work. They
maintain sufficient flexibility to accommodate a
variety of approaches to their complex challenges. They manage human resources in a
responsive way that appreciates employees’ distinct contributions to the enterprise. As we will
see throughout this book, work engagement has
implications for performance, both individual
and corporate. While engaged employees find
their work more enjoyable, they turn that enjoyment into more effective action.

When do people experience
work engagement?
Previous studies have consistently shown that job
resources such as social support from colleagues
and supervisors, performance feedback, skill
variety, autonomy, and learning opportunities are
positively associated with work engagement
(Halbesleben, Chapter 8, this volume; Schaufeli
& Salanova, 2007). Job resources either play an
intrinsic motivational role because they foster
employees’ growth, learning and development, or
they play an extrinsic motivational role because
they are instrumental in achieving work goals.
In the former case, job resources fulfill basic
human needs, such as the needs for autonomy,
relatedness and competence (Van den Broeck,

INTRODUCTION

Vansteenkiste, De Witte, & Lens, 2008). For
instance, proper feedback fosters learning, thereby
increasing job competence, whereas decision latitude and social support satisfy the need for
autonomy and the need to belong, respectively.
Job resources may also play an extrinsic motivational role, because work environments that
offer many resources foster the willingness to
dedicate one’s efforts and abilities to the work
task (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). In such environments it is likely that the task will be completed
successfully and that the work goal will be
attained. For instance, supportive colleagues and
performance feedback increase the likelihood of
being successful in achieving one’s work goals. In
either case, be it through the satisfaction of basic
needs or through the achievement of work goals,
the outcome is positive and engagement is likely
to occur (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004; Schaufeli &
Salanova, 2007).
Job resources become more salient and gain
their motivational potential when employees are
confronted with high job demands (Bakker &
Demerouti, 2007; Hakanen & Roodt, Chapter 7,
this volume). Hakanen, Bakker, and Demerouti
(2005) tested this interaction hypothesis in a
sample of Finnish dentists employed in the public
sector. It was hypothesized that job resources are
most beneficial in maintaining work engagement
under conditions of high job demands. The results
were generally consistent with this hypothesis.
For example, variability in professional skills
boosted work engagement when qualitative workload was high, and mitigated the negative effect
of high qualitative workload on work engagement. Conceptually similar findings have been
reported by Bakker, Hakanen, Demerouti, and
Xanthopoulou (2007) in their study of Finnish
teachers. They found that job resources act as
buffers and diminish the negative relationship
between pupil misbehavior and work engagement. In addition, they found that job resources
particularly influence work engagement when
teachers are confronted with high levels of pupil
misconduct.
These notions and findings are compatible with
the idea of a “fit” between a person and a job or
organization. Person–job fit is conceptualized

3

as having two aspects: (1) the fit between an
individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities on
the one hand, and the demands of the job on
the other hand (i.e., demands–abilities fit; Cable
& Judge, 1996), and (2) the fit between the needs
and desires of an individual and what is provided
by the job (needs–supplies fit; Cable & DeRue,
2002). Research has indeed shown that employees
who perceive a high level of congruence between
their personal characteristics and the requirements of the job experience a high level of
job satisfaction (Brkich, Jeffs, & Carless, 2002).
Person–organization fit is defined as the compatibility between people and entire organizations
(Lauver & Kristof-Brown, 2001; Sekiguchi,
2007). A person may fit in the organization
because they hold the same values (i.e., supplementary P-O fit) or because the person
and the organization meet each other’s needs
(i.e., complementary P-O fit) (Carless, 2005;
Sekiguchi, 2007).
Work engagement thrives in settings that demonstrate strong connections between corporate
and individual values. On the one hand, companies promote their values with employees,
inspiring their allegiance. These companies reflect
seriously on their values, articulate them clearly,
and enact policies to assure that their values
direct important decisions. On the other hand,
companies are responsive to the values employees
bring to their work. They consider employees’
professional values as assets that assure responsible dedication to work. Employees do not arrive
with identical values, so companies support
engagement by accommodating a variety of
approaches to work. In this way, a clear and
responsive approach to the congruence of individual and corporate values encourages diverse
perspectives from employees to converge on
major objectives reflecting core corporate values.

The importance of engagement
Work engagement has far-reaching implications
for employees’ performance. The energy and focus
inherent in work engagement allow employees to
bring their full potential to the job. This energetic
focus enhances the quality of their core work
responsibilities. They have the capacity and the

4

LEITER AND BAKKER

motivation to concentrate exclusively on the
tasks at hand.
Further, work engagement supports extra-role
performance. The complexity of contemporary
workplaces works against specifying every detail
of an employer’s expectation. In addition to
a position’s core responsibilities, employers hope
that incumbents go beyond the formal structure
of their positions to take initiative. A proactive
approach to work includes developing new knowledge, responding to unique opportunities, as well
as going the extra mile in supporting the company’s community through mentoring, volunteering, or attentiveness to colleagues. With initiative,
employees anticipate new developments in their
professions and strive to position themselves as
leaders in their fields. Through their actions, they
go beyond living within the confines of their job
description to craft their job into something that
dynamically adapts to the ever-changing worklife
that has become the norm.
Work engagement resonates with the broadenand-build perspective of Fredrickson and her
colleagues (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001). Cognitive
broadening lies at the core of this perspective.
It builds on research demonstrating that positive emotions increase the flexibility (Isen &
Daubman, 1984), creativity (Isen, Daubman, &
Nowicki, 1987), integration (Isen, Rosenzweig,
& Young, 1991), and efficiency (Isen & Means,
1983) of thought. In contrast to the narrowing
focus of the stress experience, positive emotions
go beyond neutral states of mind to inspire wider
perspectives on the self and the situation. Isen
and colleagues (Ashby, Isen, & Turken, 1999;
Isen, 2002) have proposed dopamine circulation as a physiological basis for the observed
broadening that accompanies positive emotions
(Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003).
Evidence for the broadening hypothesis has
been reported by Fredrickson and Branigan
(2005) and by Isen (2000). Accordingly, positive
affect produces a broad and flexible cognitive
organization as well as the ability to integrate
diverse material. The question is now whether
this “broaden-and-build” effect will manifest
itself in enhanced job performance, as one would
assume because of the accumulation of personal

resources. Fredrickson (2001) has argued that we
need to investigate how (and whether) broadened
thought–action repertoires are translated into
decisions and actions. In an organizational context, Fredrickson and Losada (2005) showed that
when the ratio of managers’ positive to negative
emotions is relatively high during business meetings, they ask more questions, and their range
between questioning and advocacy is broader,
resulting in better performance.
Evidence for the build hypothesis has been
reported by Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti,
and Schaufeli (2009). Their diary study revealed
that daily job resources generate positive emotions that, in turn, have a positive impact on
employees’ personal resources. In addition, in an
innovative experimental study, Fredrickson,
Cohn, Coffey, Pek, and Finkel (2008) used a
manipulation to increase positive emotional
experiences. The employees who participated in
this experiment either attended a loving-kindness
meditation workshop or had no intervention.
Results indicated that meditation practices
increased the daily experience of positive emotions, which in turn produced gains in personal
resources 8 weeks later, including gains in mastery
and self-acceptance. Consequently, these increments in personal resources predicted increased
life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms
(see also Salanova, Schaufeli, Xanthopoulou, and
Bakker, Chapter 9, this volume).
Fredrickson’s theory gives additional substance
to the concept of work engagement. It goes
beyond the general notion that a positive affinity
with work increases employees’ attachment to
the setting or its activities. Broaden-and-build
proposes cognitive mechanisms underlying that
general affinity, translating it into cognitive processes and perspectives. That is, positive emotions
go beyond the general motivating properties
of pleasant feelings. They change cognitive
processes in ways that open possibilities that
people overlook when under pressure or experiencing distress. Positive emotions encourage the
integrative, creative perspective that adds value
to enterprises in the information/service economy
of the 21st century. This specific mechanism
increases confidence in the connection between

INTRODUCTION

efforts to develop supportive work environments
and enhancing individual performance that
will contribute to corporate success. In short,
work engagement is both efficient as well as
fulfilling.

The social context of work engagement
The social context of work engagement
emphasizes the concept’s importance, as it has
relevance for the primary relationships of
employees. Collegial relationships hold the
potential for social contagion in which employees
not only respond similarly to their shared work
environment but also influence one another’s
experience of engagement (Bakker & Demerouti,
2009; Bakker, Van Emmerik, & Euwema, 2006).
Colleagues as well are potential resources – as
sources of knowledge, emotional support,
materials – that pertain to the engagement
experience. Both first-line supervision and senior
management define leadership within the
organization. They symbolize the values of the
organization, determine the flow of organizational resources, and model to employees’ ways
of thinking, feeling, and reacting to important
events in organizational life (Schein, 1985).
Senior management plays an important role in
articulating the core values of organizations,
translating them into formal mission statements
and policies, while front-line supervisors enact
these values through their day-to-day actions and
interactions with employees. Finally, work
engagement translates into performance in many
industries through employees’ interactions with
customers, clients, students, or patients. It is in
these interactions that the energy, dedication,
absorption, or efficacy that lie at the heart of
work engagement turn into action.
Although work engagement is a personal
experience of individual employees, it does not
occur in isolation. A thorough consideration of
the sources, experience, and consequences of
engagement go beyond the individual to consider
the social dynamics among individuals as well as
the larger institutional dynamics reflecting an
organization’s culture.
The conceptual models presented in this book
that guide research on work engagement consider

5

the experience as embedded in organizational
cultures. The focus on work resources in these
models acknowledges an intrinsic quality in
people to make full use of their skills and abilities
in their careers. Unfortunately, many work situations fail to provide the resources, leadership, or
guidance that would permit employees to fulfill
their aspirations. These gaps between potential
and reality reduce an organization’s capacity to
fulfill its mission while discouraging employees’
dedication to their roles.
Work engagement presents as serious a challenge to individuals as it does to organizations. In
the first instance, employees’ opportunities for
secure employment rest on their employers’
productivity. In competitive global markets,
companies that cannot make effective use of their
employees have a dim future. But engagement
remains important to individuals beyond their
contribution to their current employer. Career
tracks in the 21st century anticipate many more
changes and larger shifts than was the case in
the 20th century. As active participants in the
job market, individuals benefit from demonstrating their personal productivity. Demonstrating
one’s personal energy, dedication, and efficacy
will open more and better opportunities while
building a dynamic and rewarding career.
In conclusion, work engagement is not solely a
concern for management, it matters to each
employee. It is not enough for employees to
respond to management initiatives regarding
workplace resources or corporate values. Everyone shares responsibility for developing vibrant,
engaging work environments.

Structure of the book
We hope that this book will contribute to that
goal. The scope of the book includes a serious
reflection on the concept of work engagement.
We consider the source of the term, its position in
the complex world of organizational psychology,
and its distinguishing qualities. We devote considerable attention to identifying the qualities of
work environments that contribute to the experience of engagement and that help employees
avoid its negative alternative, burnout. Most
importantly we consider work engagement as

6

LEITER AND BAKKER

subject to change. The lack of work engagement
today does not condemn an individual, a work
group, or an organization to a dull worklife
forever. We consider how engagement fluctuates
from day to day in response to events, as well as
the potential of concerted effort on the local or
organizational level to support a more engaged
approach to worklife. Together, the chapters
in this book present work engagement as an
important focus for study and a vital target
for organizational development.

Work engagement and neighboring concepts
The book begins by pinning down the concept
of work engagement. While acknowledging a
diversity of perspectives as a healthy sign in the
early years of an idea, these chapters reflect on
the current state of things. In Chapter 2,
Schaufeli and Bakker address the question of
measurement. The capacity to derive a credible
quantitative indicator of work engagement provides a necessary prerequisite for assessing a work
setting’s current state and to evaluate the impact
of initiatives designed to enhance work engagement. The chapter considers current measures
and notes the virtues of the Utrecht Work
Engagement Scale (UWES).
In Chapter 3, Sonnentag, Dormann, and
Demerouti consider how engagement varies over
short periods of time. They review research that
identifies workplace events that precede changes
in work engagement as well as downstream
consequences of these changes. This perspective
underscores the extent to which work engagement
is a variable quality of worklife rather than an
enduring characteristic. It is a perspective that
encourages definitive action to build work
engagement among employees.
In Chapter 4, Taris, Schaufeli, and Shimazu
contrast work engagement with other constructs
with more mixed implications for the quality of
worklife. By positioning work engagement in
contrast to workaholism, burnout, and rust out,
the chapter clarifies the core elements of the
concept, contrasting the positive qualities associated with work engagement against the negative
end of those same continuums. Defining the
position of work engagement in this conceptual

space supports the concept’s distinct contribution
to organizational psychology.
Chapter 5 by Sweetman and Luthans considers
work engagement as a vital concept within the
domain of positive psychology. The chapter
presents the core rationale for positive psychology to provide a framework to consider work
engagement’s place within that domain. The
authors consider the quality of psychological
capital as a fundamental resource in developing
fulfilling and productive lives at work. Positive
psychology legitimizes the focus on energy and
dedication as fundamental dimensions of existence. Rather than focus on the problems that
arise when these qualities break down, positive
psychology considers in depth the psychological
benefits derived when these qualities are working
well.
In Chapter 6, Shirom extends this perspective
in his chapter on vigor. The chapter provides a
far-reaching consideration of the centrality of
subjective energy in personal experience at work
and beyond. The chapter considers a diverse
range of research and conceptual work to
support the central role of energy. In addition,
the chapter gives a strong consideration to the
health implications of work engagement.

The organizational context of
work engagement
The second part of the book considers the organizational context in which work engagement
thrives or fails. Chapter 7 presents the job
demands-resources (JD-R) model of work
engagement. This perspective has emphasized
the important role of resource access at work to
the development and sustaining of work engagement. It provides a direct contrast to models of
job burnout that place a greater emphasis on
demands such as work overload, unresolved
conflict, and values conflict. In this chapter,
Hakanen and Roodt examine research to demonstrate the model’s viability.
In Chapter 8, Halbesleben extends this
perspective by conducting a meta-analysis of work
engagement research. Although the research
record remains somewhat modest at this time,
there are sufficient studies to identify persistent

INTRODUCTION

patterns across samples and occupations. The
review supports core aspects of the JD-R model
while bringing fresh perspectives to the concept.
The analysis emphasizes both the quantity of
organizational resources and the diversity of
resources in sustaining the various components
of work engagement.
Chapter 9 considers the self-sustaining quality
of work engagement. Salanova, Schaufeli, Xanthopoulou, and Bakker consider longitudinal
research that affirms the long-term impact of
resource enrichment on employees’ experience of
engagement and the complementary relationship
of work engagement and the ongoing enhancement of resources. This perspective reflects upon
the conceptual challenges in untangling causal
pathways in complex social systems in which
major experiences have multiple influences and
multiple outcomes. The chapter’s encouraging
message is that efforts to enhance work engagement through enriched resources have a potential
to sustain over time.
Chapter 10 by Spreitzer, Lam, and Fritz
positions engagement in relation to thriving as
an alternative perspective on positive connections
with work. Their perspective emphasizes organizational learning as a critical dimension of
employees’ developments through their careers
and in their tenure in a job. The chapter provides
a thoughtful consideration of leadership as a
definitive quality of engaging work settings. This
chapter emphasizes the importance of both
senior leadership and first-line supervisors in
developing a workplace culture conducive to
engagement and thriving.
In Chapter 11, Demerouti and Cropanzano
examine the evidence for the crucial relationship
of work engagement with performance. In contrasting work engagement with job satisfaction,
the authors demonstrate robust relationships
between employees’ thoughts and feelings about
their work with the behaviors on the job. In their
review of the engagement–performance relationship, the authors acknowledge the scope of
unresolved questions that require extensive and
rigorous research to address.
In Chapter 12, Leiter and Maslach consider the
design and efficacy of interventions to enhance

7

work engagement. This chapter provides an overall conceptual model for considering intervention
while giving specific direction on the design of
effective organizational action. Through a case
example, the chapter reviews the specific points of
assessment, planning, action, and evaluation. The
chapter argues for management interventions
as a means of having the greatest impact on a
workplace.
In Chapter 13, we reflect on the diverse
perspectives included in the book and describe
our expectations for the future of work engagement. We also present a research agenda that
identifies seven key research questions that would
extend our perspectives on work engagement,
its relationship to other constructs related to
the quality of worklife, and strategies for increasing the prevalence of work engagement in
organizations.
Throughout the book the authors have provided specific points on their chapters’ practical
implications. While we intend to provide the state
of the art on high quality work engagement
research, we also intend to present engagement as
a practical idea. All of the research in this book
has occurred in collaboration with people working in real organizations facing the challenges of
productivity, health, and well-being. We are
constantly considering ways in which organizations can apply new ideas to their challenges.

References
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Demands-Resources model: State of the art. Journal
of Managerial Psychology, 22, 309–328.
Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2009). The crossover
of work engagement between working couples: A
closer look at the role of empathy. Journal of
Managerial Psychology, 24, 220–236.
Bakker, A. B., Hakanen, J. J., Demerouti, E., & Xanthopoulou, D. (2007). Job resources boost work
engagement particularly when job demands are high.
Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 274–284.
Bakker, A. B., Schaufeli, W. B., Leiter, M. P., & Taris,
T. W. (2008). Work engagement: An emerging

8

LEITER AND BAKKER

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Bakker, A. B., Van Emmerik, I. J. H., & Euwema, M. C.
(2006). Crossover of burnout and engagement in
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INTRODUCTION

role of basic psychological need satisfaction. Work &
Stress, 22, 277–294.
Xanthopoulou, D., Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., &
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9

worker: How job resources generate positive emotions
and build personal resources. Manuscript submitted
for publication.

2
Defining and measuring work
engagement: Bringing clarity to
the concept
Wilmar B. Schaufeli and Arnold B. Bakker

Engagement has become a rather popular term,
first in business and consultancy, and recently also
in academia. The origin of the term “employee
engagement” is not entirely clear, but most likely
it was first used in the 1990s by the Gallup
organization (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999).
Although the phrases “employee engagement”
and “work engagement” are typically used interchangeably we prefer the latter because it is more
specific. Namely, work engagement refers to the
relationship of the employee with his or her work,
whereas employee engagement may also include
the relationship with the organization. As we will
see in the section on “Engagement in business”,
by including the relationship with the organization the distinction between engagement and

traditional concepts such as organizational commitment and extra-role behavior gets blurred.
The current popularity of engagement is illustrated by Table 2.1. An internet search yielded
almost 650,000 hits though narrowing the search
down to only scholarly publications – many of
them from the gray area (e.g., white papers, fact
sheets, and consultancy reports) – reduced the
number of hits to less than 2000. These impressive numbers stand in sharp contrast to the dearth
of publications on engagement that are included
in PsycINFO, the leading database of academic
publications in psychology. The most comprehensive PsycINFO search revealed one hundred publications with either “employee engagement” or
“work engagement” in the title or in the abstract
10

DEFINING AND MEASURING WORK ENGAGEMENT

11

TABLE 2.1
The popularity of engagement (state: March 2008)
The internet
Google
Employee engagement
Work engagement
Total

PsycINFO
Google scholar

Anywhere

In title

626,000

1120

35

12

21,400

785

66

20

645,130

1898

100

32

of any publication. The most restrictive search
with either “employee engagement” or “work
engagement” in the title of any peer-reviewed
international journal yielded only about thirty
hits. If anything, Table 2.1 illustrates that compared to the popularity of engagement in business
and among consultants there is a surprising scarcity of academic research.
Moreover, almost all scientific articles appeared
after the turn of the century. This recent academic
interest in engagement links in with the emergence of the so-called Positive Psychology that
studies human strength and optimal functioning,
instead of the traditional four D’s: Disease, Damage, Disorder, and Disability. A telling example is
the switch from job burnout to work engagement
(Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001).
This chapter presents an overview of the way
engagement is conceptualized and measured, particularly in academia but also in business. Our
purpose is not only to present a state-of-the art
review of current scientific knowledge, but also to
link this with notions of engagement that are
being used in business contexts, particularly by
leading international consultancy firms. In doing
so, we focus on work engagement across all kinds
of jobs and not on such specific types of engagement as school engagement, athlete engagement,
soldier engagement or student engagement that
have been described in the literature as well.
The chapter sets out with an overview of various
concepts of engagement, including a discussion of
related concepts such as extra-role behavior, personal initiative, job involvement, organizational
commitment, job satisfaction, positive affectivity,

flow, and workaholism. Next, various engagement
questionnaires are presented and their psychometric quality is discussed in terms of reliability
and validity. The closing section attempts to integrate the various conceptualizations of engagement into a more comprehensive model of
employee motivation and engagement.

The concept of work engagement
Everyday connotations of engagement refer to
involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm,
absorption, focused effort, and energy. In a similar vein, the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes engagement as “emotional involvement or
commitment” and as “the state of being in gear”.
However, no agreement exists among practitioners or scholars on a particular conceptualization
of (work) engagement. Below the major business
and academic perspectives on engagement are
discussed in greater detail.

Engagement in business
Virtually all major human resources consultancy
firms are in the business of improving levels
of work engagement. Almost without exception
these firms claim that they have found conclusive
and compelling evidence that work engagement
increases profitability through higher productivity, sales, customer satisfaction, and employee
retention. The message for organizations is clear:
increasing work engagement pays off. However,
with the exception of the Gallup Organization
(Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002) this claim is not
substantiated by publications in peer-reviewed
journals. Instead of presenting scientific evidence



WORK ENGAGEMENT

This book provides the most thorough view available on this new and intriguing dimension of workplace
psychology, which is the basis of fulfilling, productive work.
The book begins by defining work engagement, which has been described as “an opposite to burnout,” following its development into a more complex concept with far-reaching implications for work
life. The chapters discuss the sources of work engagement, emphasizing the importance of leadership,
organizational structures, and human resource management as factors that may operate to either
enhance or inhibit employees’ experience of work. The book considers the implications of work
engagement for both the individual employee and the organization as a whole. To address readers’
practical questions, the book provides in-depth coverage of interventions that can enhance employees’
work engagement and improve management techniques.
Based upon the most up-to-date research by the foremost experts in the world, this volume brings
together the best knowledge available on work engagement, and will be of great use to academic
researchers, upper level students of work and organizational psychology, as well as management
consultants.
Arnold B. Bakker is Full Professor at the Department of Work and Organizational Psychology at
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests include positive organizational
behavior (e.g., flow and engagement at work, performance), burnout, crossover of work-related emotions, and serious games on organizational phenomena.
Michael P. Leiter is Canada Research Chair in Organizational Health and Professor of Psychology at
Acadia University and Director of the Center for Organizational Research & Development (http://
cord.acadiau.ca) that applies high-quality research methods to human resource issues. He is actively
involved as a consultant on occupational issues in Canada, the USA, and Europe.

Work Engagement
A Handbook of Essential Theory and Research

Edited by Arnold B. Bakker and Michael P. Leiter

Published in 2010
by Psychology Press
27 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FA
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Psychology Press
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2010.
To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.
Psychology Press is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
Copyright © 2010 Psychology Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or
reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic,
mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publishers.
This publication has been produced with paper manufactured to strict
environmental standards and with pulp derived from sustainable forests.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Work engagement : a handbook of essential theory and research / edited by Arnold B. Bakker
and Michael P. Leiter
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-84169-736-9 (hb)
1. Employee motivation. 2. Psychology, Industrial. 3. Work—Psychological aspects.
4. Employees—Attitudes. I. Bakker, Arnold B. II. Leiter, Michael P.
HF5549.5.M63W667 2010
158.7–dc22
2009033356
ISBN 0-203-85304-0 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN: 978-1-84169-736-9 (hbk)

Contents

List of contributors
1

vii

Work engagement: Introduction

7
1

Michael P. Leiter and Arnold B. Bakker
2

Jari J. Hakanen and Gert Roodt

Defining and measuring work engagement:
Bringing clarity to the concept 10

8

Wilmar B. Schaufeli and Arnold B. Bakker
3

9

10

The power of positive psychology:
Psychological capital and work
engagement 54

Engagement and human thriving:
Complementary perspectives on energy and
connections to work 132
Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Chak Fu Lam, and
Charlotte Fritz

David Sweetman and Fred Luthans
6

The gain spiral of resources and work
engagement: Sustaining a positive
worklife 118
Marisa Salanova, Wilmar B. Schaufeli,
Despoina Xanthopoulou, and
Arnold B. Bakker

The push and pull of work: The differences
between workaholism and work
engagement 39
Toon W. Taris, Wilmar B. Schaufeli, and
Akihito Shimazu

5

A meta-analysis of work engagement:
Relationships with burnout, demands,
resources, and consequences 102
Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben

Not all days are created equal: The concept
of state work engagement 25
Sabine Sonnentag, Christian Dormann, and
Evangelia Demerouti

4

Using the job demands-resources model to
predict engagement: Analysing a conceptual
model 85

11

Feeling energetic at work: On vigor’s
antecedents 69

From thought to action: Employee work
engagement and job performance 147
Evangelia Demerouti and
Russell Cropanzano

Arie Shirom
v

vi

12

CONTENTS

Building engagement: The design and
evaluation of interventions 164

Author index 197
Subject index 205

Michael P. Leiter and Christina Maslach
13

Where to go from here: Integration and
future research on work engagement 181
Arnold B. Bakker and Michael P. Leiter

Contributors

Arnold B. Bakker
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Institute of Psychology
PO Box 1738
T12-47 3000 DR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Jari J. Hakanen
Centre of Expertise for Work Organizations
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
FI-00250 Helsinki
Finland
Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben
Department of Management and Marketing
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
PO Box 4004
Eau Claire, WI 54702
USA

Russell Cropanzano
Department of Management and Organizations
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721–0108
USA

Chak Fu Lam
Department of Management and Organizations
Ross School of Business
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
USA

Evangelia Demerouti
Eindhoven University of Technology
Department of Industrial Engineering and
Innovation Sciences
Human Performance Management Group
PO Box 513
5600 MB Eindhoven
Christian Dormann
University of Mainz
55122 Mainz
Germany

Michael P. Leiter
Centre for Organizational Research and
Development
Acadia University
Halifax, NS B4P 2R6
Canada

Charlotte Fritz
Department of Psychology
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43403
USA

Fred Luthans
Department of Management
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0491
USA
vii

viii

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

Tel Aviv 69978
Israel

Christina Maslach
Department of Psychology
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1650
USA
Gert Roodt
Centre for Work Performance
Department of Industrial Psychology and
People Management
Faculty of Management
University of Johannesburg
South Africa
Marisa Salanova
Department of Social Psychology
Universitat Jaume I
12071 Castellón
Spain
Wilmar B. Schaufeli
Department of Work and Organizational
Psychology
Utrecht University
PO Box 80.140
3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands
Akihito Shimazu
Department of Mental Health
The University of Tokyo Graduate School
of Medicine
Tokyo 113-0033
Japan
Arie Shirom
Faculty of Management
Tel-Aviv University
POB 39010

Sabine Sonnentag
Department of Psychology
University of Konstanz
PO Box 42
78457 Konstanz
Germany
Gretchen M. Spreitzer
Department of Management and Organizations
Ross School of Business
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
USA
David Sweetman
Global Leadership Institute
Department of Management
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0491
USA
Toon W. Taris
Department of Work and Organizational
Psychology
Utrecht University
PO Box 80.140
3508 TC Utrecht
The Netherlands
Despoina Xanthopoulou
Department of Work and Organizational
Psychology
Institute of Psychology
Erasmus University Rotterdam
PO Box 1738
T12-56 3000 DR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

1
Work engagement: Introduction
Michael P. Leiter and Arnold B. Bakker

William loves his work and can talk about it
really enthusiastically. Every day he feels
driven to excel and he throws himself into
work passionately. He finds his job challenging, exciting, and enjoyable, and does
much more than is requested, just for the fun
of it. William has the autonomy to be creative,
and has the feeling that he learns new things
all the time. Although he is always busy and is
usually completely immersed in his work, he
rarely feels tired or exhausted. Instead, work
seems to give him energy, and every day he
feels happy to start working again. Even if he
sometimes faces difficulties, William persists.
He is really dedicated to his work and finds
that he deals with interesting and important
issues. Nevertheless, he can relax and disengage from work and he knows how to
downplay his work. Although he often gets
totally absorbed by his work, there are also
other things outside work that he enjoys to
the fullest. William’s motto is: work is fun!
(Anonymous engaged worker)

work has gained critical importance in the information/service economy of the 21st century. The
contemporary world of work thrives on creativity.
In the current economy, advances in quality or
efficiency occur through new ideas. To compete
effectively, companies not only must recruit the
top talent, but must inspire employees to apply
their full capabilities to their work. Otherwise,
part of that rare and expensive resource remains
unavailable. Thus, modern organizations expect
their employees to be proactive and show initiative, take responsibility for their own professional
development, and to be committed to high quality performance standards. They need employees
who feel energetic and dedicated – i.e., who are
engaged with their work. As we will see in this
book, work engagement can make a true difference for employees and may offer organizations
a competitive advantage (see Demerouti & Cropanzano, Chapter 11).

What is work engagement?
Work engagement is a positive, fulfilling,
affective-motivational state of work-related wellbeing that can be seen as the antipode of job

Employees’ psychological connection with their
1

2

LEITER AND BAKKER

burnout. Engaged employees have high levels of
energy, and are enthusiastically involved in their
work (Bakker, Schaufeli, Leiter, & Taris, 2008).
Most scholars agree that engagement includes an
energy dimension and an identification dimension. Thus, engagement is characterized by a
high level of vigor and strong identification with
one’s work.
The perspective of this book is that the field is
best served by a consistent construct for work
engagement, one that focuses on employees’
experience of work activity. Unfortunately, the
broad exploration of constructs over the past
decade has not produced consensus about its
meaning. In contrast, a recent review by Macey
and Schneider (2008) documented the proliferation of various definitions of engagement, many
of them being old wine in new bottles. These
authors try to “solve” the conceptual problem
by proposing employee engagement as an allinclusive umbrella term that contains different
types of engagement (i.e., trait engagement,
state engagement, and behavioral engagement),
each of which entails various conceptualizations;
e.g., proactive personality (trait engagement),
involvement (state engagement), and organizational citizenship behavior (behavioral engagement). In contrast, we advocate the use of
engagement as a specific, well-defined and properly operationalized psychological state that
is open to empirical research and practical
application.
We define work engagement as a motivational
concept. When engaged, employees feel compelled
to strive towards a challenging goal. They want to
succeed. Work engagement goes beyond responding to the immediate situation. Employees accept
a personal commitment to attaining these goals.
Further, work engagement reflects the personal
energy employees bring to their work. Engaged
employees not only have the capacity to be
energetic, they enthusiastically apply that energy
to their work. They do not hold back. They do
not keep their energy in reserve for something
important; they accept that today’s work deserves
their energy. In addition, work engagement reflects
intense involvement in work. Engaged employees
pay attention. They consider the important

details while getting to the essence of challenging
problems. Engaged employees become absorbed
in their work, experiencing flow in which they lose
track of time and diminish their response to
distractions.
Work engagement pertains to any type of
challenging work. It describes employees’ ability
to bring their full capacity to solving problems,
connecting with people, and developing innovative services. Management makes a difference as
well. Employees’ responses to organizational
policies, practices, and structures affect their
potential to experience engagement. In a stable
work environment employees maintain a consistent level of work engagement. Work engagement
thrives in settings that demonstrate strong connections between corporate and individual values.
On the one hand, companies promote their values
with employees, inspiring their allegiance. On the
other hand, companies are responsive to the
values employees bring to their work. They
maintain sufficient flexibility to accommodate a
variety of approaches to their complex challenges. They manage human resources in a
responsive way that appreciates employees’ distinct contributions to the enterprise. As we will
see throughout this book, work engagement has
implications for performance, both individual
and corporate. While engaged employees find
their work more enjoyable, they turn that enjoyment into more effective action.

When do people experience
work engagement?
Previous studies have consistently shown that job
resources such as social support from colleagues
and supervisors, performance feedback, skill
variety, autonomy, and learning opportunities are
positively associated with work engagement
(Halbesleben, Chapter 8, this volume; Schaufeli
& Salanova, 2007). Job resources either play an
intrinsic motivational role because they foster
employees’ growth, learning and development, or
they play an extrinsic motivational role because
they are instrumental in achieving work goals.
In the former case, job resources fulfill basic
human needs, such as the needs for autonomy,
relatedness and competence (Van den Broeck,

INTRODUCTION

Vansteenkiste, De Witte, & Lens, 2008). For
instance, proper feedback fosters learning, thereby
increasing job competence, whereas decision latitude and social support satisfy the need for
autonomy and the need to belong, respectively.
Job resources may also play an extrinsic motivational role, because work environments that
offer many resources foster the willingness to
dedicate one’s efforts and abilities to the work
task (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). In such environments it is likely that the task will be completed
successfully and that the work goal will be
attained. For instance, supportive colleagues and
performance feedback increase the likelihood of
being successful in achieving one’s work goals. In
either case, be it through the satisfaction of basic
needs or through the achievement of work goals,
the outcome is positive and engagement is likely
to occur (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004; Schaufeli &
Salanova, 2007).
Job resources become more salient and gain
their motivational potential when employees are
confronted with high job demands (Bakker &
Demerouti, 2007; Hakanen & Roodt, Chapter 7,
this volume). Hakanen, Bakker, and Demerouti
(2005) tested this interaction hypothesis in a
sample of Finnish dentists employed in the public
sector. It was hypothesized that job resources are
most beneficial in maintaining work engagement
under conditions of high job demands. The results
were generally consistent with this hypothesis.
For example, variability in professional skills
boosted work engagement when qualitative workload was high, and mitigated the negative effect
of high qualitative workload on work engagement. Conceptually similar findings have been
reported by Bakker, Hakanen, Demerouti, and
Xanthopoulou (2007) in their study of Finnish
teachers. They found that job resources act as
buffers and diminish the negative relationship
between pupil misbehavior and work engagement. In addition, they found that job resources
particularly influence work engagement when
teachers are confronted with high levels of pupil
misconduct.
These notions and findings are compatible with
the idea of a “fit” between a person and a job or
organization. Person–job fit is conceptualized

3

as having two aspects: (1) the fit between an
individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities on
the one hand, and the demands of the job on
the other hand (i.e., demands–abilities fit; Cable
& Judge, 1996), and (2) the fit between the needs
and desires of an individual and what is provided
by the job (needs–supplies fit; Cable & DeRue,
2002). Research has indeed shown that employees
who perceive a high level of congruence between
their personal characteristics and the requirements of the job experience a high level of
job satisfaction (Brkich, Jeffs, & Carless, 2002).
Person–organization fit is defined as the compatibility between people and entire organizations
(Lauver & Kristof-Brown, 2001; Sekiguchi,
2007). A person may fit in the organization
because they hold the same values (i.e., supplementary P-O fit) or because the person
and the organization meet each other’s needs
(i.e., complementary P-O fit) (Carless, 2005;
Sekiguchi, 2007).
Work engagement thrives in settings that demonstrate strong connections between corporate
and individual values. On the one hand, companies promote their values with employees,
inspiring their allegiance. These companies reflect
seriously on their values, articulate them clearly,
and enact policies to assure that their values
direct important decisions. On the other hand,
companies are responsive to the values employees
bring to their work. They consider employees’
professional values as assets that assure responsible dedication to work. Employees do not arrive
with identical values, so companies support
engagement by accommodating a variety of
approaches to work. In this way, a clear and
responsive approach to the congruence of individual and corporate values encourages diverse
perspectives from employees to converge on
major objectives reflecting core corporate values.

The importance of engagement
Work engagement has far-reaching implications
for employees’ performance. The energy and focus
inherent in work engagement allow employees to
bring their full potential to the job. This energetic
focus enhances the quality of their core work
responsibilities. They have the capacity and the

4

LEITER AND BAKKER

motivation to concentrate exclusively on the
tasks at hand.
Further, work engagement supports extra-role
performance. The complexity of contemporary
workplaces works against specifying every detail
of an employer’s expectation. In addition to
a position’s core responsibilities, employers hope
that incumbents go beyond the formal structure
of their positions to take initiative. A proactive
approach to work includes developing new knowledge, responding to unique opportunities, as well
as going the extra mile in supporting the company’s community through mentoring, volunteering, or attentiveness to colleagues. With initiative,
employees anticipate new developments in their
professions and strive to position themselves as
leaders in their fields. Through their actions, they
go beyond living within the confines of their job
description to craft their job into something that
dynamically adapts to the ever-changing worklife
that has become the norm.
Work engagement resonates with the broadenand-build perspective of Fredrickson and her
colleagues (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001). Cognitive
broadening lies at the core of this perspective.
It builds on research demonstrating that positive emotions increase the flexibility (Isen &
Daubman, 1984), creativity (Isen, Daubman, &
Nowicki, 1987), integration (Isen, Rosenzweig,
& Young, 1991), and efficiency (Isen & Means,
1983) of thought. In contrast to the narrowing
focus of the stress experience, positive emotions
go beyond neutral states of mind to inspire wider
perspectives on the self and the situation. Isen
and colleagues (Ashby, Isen, & Turken, 1999;
Isen, 2002) have proposed dopamine circulation as a physiological basis for the observed
broadening that accompanies positive emotions
(Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003).
Evidence for the broadening hypothesis has
been reported by Fredrickson and Branigan
(2005) and by Isen (2000). Accordingly, positive
affect produces a broad and flexible cognitive
organization as well as the ability to integrate
diverse material. The question is now whether
this “broaden-and-build” effect will manifest
itself in enhanced job performance, as one would
assume because of the accumulation of personal

resources. Fredrickson (2001) has argued that we
need to investigate how (and whether) broadened
thought–action repertoires are translated into
decisions and actions. In an organizational context, Fredrickson and Losada (2005) showed that
when the ratio of managers’ positive to negative
emotions is relatively high during business meetings, they ask more questions, and their range
between questioning and advocacy is broader,
resulting in better performance.
Evidence for the build hypothesis has been
reported by Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti,
and Schaufeli (2009). Their diary study revealed
that daily job resources generate positive emotions that, in turn, have a positive impact on
employees’ personal resources. In addition, in an
innovative experimental study, Fredrickson,
Cohn, Coffey, Pek, and Finkel (2008) used a
manipulation to increase positive emotional
experiences. The employees who participated in
this experiment either attended a loving-kindness
meditation workshop or had no intervention.
Results indicated that meditation practices
increased the daily experience of positive emotions, which in turn produced gains in personal
resources 8 weeks later, including gains in mastery
and self-acceptance. Consequently, these increments in personal resources predicted increased
life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms
(see also Salanova, Schaufeli, Xanthopoulou, and
Bakker, Chapter 9, this volume).
Fredrickson’s theory gives additional substance
to the concept of work engagement. It goes
beyond the general notion that a positive affinity
with work increases employees’ attachment to
the setting or its activities. Broaden-and-build
proposes cognitive mechanisms underlying that
general affinity, translating it into cognitive processes and perspectives. That is, positive emotions
go beyond the general motivating properties
of pleasant feelings. They change cognitive
processes in ways that open possibilities that
people overlook when under pressure or experiencing distress. Positive emotions encourage the
integrative, creative perspective that adds value
to enterprises in the information/service economy
of the 21st century. This specific mechanism
increases confidence in the connection between

INTRODUCTION

efforts to develop supportive work environments
and enhancing individual performance that
will contribute to corporate success. In short,
work engagement is both efficient as well as
fulfilling.

The social context of work engagement
The social context of work engagement
emphasizes the concept’s importance, as it has
relevance for the primary relationships of
employees. Collegial relationships hold the
potential for social contagion in which employees
not only respond similarly to their shared work
environment but also influence one another’s
experience of engagement (Bakker & Demerouti,
2009; Bakker, Van Emmerik, & Euwema, 2006).
Colleagues as well are potential resources – as
sources of knowledge, emotional support,
materials – that pertain to the engagement
experience. Both first-line supervision and senior
management define leadership within the
organization. They symbolize the values of the
organization, determine the flow of organizational resources, and model to employees’ ways
of thinking, feeling, and reacting to important
events in organizational life (Schein, 1985).
Senior management plays an important role in
articulating the core values of organizations,
translating them into formal mission statements
and policies, while front-line supervisors enact
these values through their day-to-day actions and
interactions with employees. Finally, work
engagement translates into performance in many
industries through employees’ interactions with
customers, clients, students, or patients. It is in
these interactions that the energy, dedication,
absorption, or efficacy that lie at the heart of
work engagement turn into action.
Although work engagement is a personal
experience of individual employees, it does not
occur in isolation. A thorough consideration of
the sources, experience, and consequences of
engagement go beyond the individual to consider
the social dynamics among individuals as well as
the larger institutional dynamics reflecting an
organization’s culture.
The conceptual models presented in this book
that guide research on work engagement consider

5

the experience as embedded in organizational
cultures. The focus on work resources in these
models acknowledges an intrinsic quality in
people to make full use of their skills and abilities
in their careers. Unfortunately, many work situations fail to provide the resources, leadership, or
guidance that would permit employees to fulfill
their aspirations. These gaps between potential
and reality reduce an organization’s capacity to
fulfill its mission while discouraging employees’
dedication to their roles.
Work engagement presents as serious a challenge to individuals as it does to organizations. In
the first instance, employees’ opportunities for
secure employment rest on their employers’
productivity. In competitive global markets,
companies that cannot make effective use of their
employees have a dim future. But engagement
remains important to individuals beyond their
contribution to their current employer. Career
tracks in the 21st century anticipate many more
changes and larger shifts than was the case in
the 20th century. As active participants in the
job market, individuals benefit from demonstrating their personal productivity. Demonstrating
one’s personal energy, dedication, and efficacy
will open more and better opportunities while
building a dynamic and rewarding career.
In conclusion, work engagement is not solely a
concern for management, it matters to each
employee. It is not enough for employees to
respond to management initiatives regarding
workplace resources or corporate values. Everyone shares responsibility for developing vibrant,
engaging work environments.

Structure of the book
We hope that this book will contribute to that
goal. The scope of the book includes a serious
reflection on the concept of work engagement.
We consider the source of the term, its position in
the complex world of organizational psychology,
and its distinguishing qualities. We devote considerable attention to identifying the qualities of
work environments that contribute to the experience of engagement and that help employees
avoid its negative alternative, burnout. Most
importantly we consider work engagement as

6

LEITER AND BAKKER

subject to change. The lack of work engagement
today does not condemn an individual, a work
group, or an organization to a dull worklife
forever. We consider how engagement fluctuates
from day to day in response to events, as well as
the potential of concerted effort on the local or
organizational level to support a more engaged
approach to worklife. Together, the chapters
in this book present work engagement as an
important focus for study and a vital target
for organizational development.

Work engagement and neighboring concepts
The book begins by pinning down the concept
of work engagement. While acknowledging a
diversity of perspectives as a healthy sign in the
early years of an idea, these chapters reflect on
the current state of things. In Chapter 2,
Schaufeli and Bakker address the question of
measurement. The capacity to derive a credible
quantitative indicator of work engagement provides a necessary prerequisite for assessing a work
setting’s current state and to evaluate the impact
of initiatives designed to enhance work engagement. The chapter considers current measures
and notes the virtues of the Utrecht Work
Engagement Scale (UWES).
In Chapter 3, Sonnentag, Dormann, and
Demerouti consider how engagement varies over
short periods of time. They review research that
identifies workplace events that precede changes
in work engagement as well as downstream
consequences of these changes. This perspective
underscores the extent to which work engagement
is a variable quality of worklife rather than an
enduring characteristic. It is a perspective that
encourages definitive action to build work
engagement among employees.
In Chapter 4, Taris, Schaufeli, and Shimazu
contrast work engagement with other constructs
with more mixed implications for the quality of
worklife. By positioning work engagement in
contrast to workaholism, burnout, and rust out,
the chapter clarifies the core elements of the
concept, contrasting the positive qualities associated with work engagement against the negative
end of those same continuums. Defining the
position of work engagement in this conceptual

space supports the concept’s distinct contribution
to organizational psychology.
Chapter 5 by Sweetman and Luthans considers
work engagement as a vital concept within the
domain of positive psychology. The chapter
presents the core rationale for positive psychology to provide a framework to consider work
engagement’s place within that domain. The
authors consider the quality of psychological
capital as a fundamental resource in developing
fulfilling and productive lives at work. Positive
psychology legitimizes the focus on energy and
dedication as fundamental dimensions of existence. Rather than focus on the problems that
arise when these qualities break down, positive
psychology considers in depth the psychological
benefits derived when these qualities are working
well.
In Chapter 6, Shirom extends this perspective
in his chapter on vigor. The chapter provides a
far-reaching consideration of the centrality of
subjective energy in personal experience at work
and beyond. The chapter considers a diverse
range of research and conceptual work to
support the central role of energy. In addition,
the chapter gives a strong consideration to the
health implications of work engagement.

The organizational context of
work engagement
The second part of the book considers the organizational context in which work engagement
thrives or fails. Chapter 7 presents the job
demands-resources (JD-R) model of work
engagement. This perspective has emphasized
the important role of resource access at work to
the development and sustaining of work engagement. It provides a direct contrast to models of
job burnout that place a greater emphasis on
demands such as work overload, unresolved
conflict, and values conflict. In this chapter,
Hakanen and Roodt examine research to demonstrate the model’s viability.
In Chapter 8, Halbesleben extends this
perspective by conducting a meta-analysis of work
engagement research. Although the research
record remains somewhat modest at this time,
there are sufficient studies to identify persistent

INTRODUCTION

patterns across samples and occupations. The
review supports core aspects of the JD-R model
while bringing fresh perspectives to the concept.
The analysis emphasizes both the quantity of
organizational resources and the diversity of
resources in sustaining the various components
of work engagement.
Chapter 9 considers the self-sustaining quality
of work engagement. Salanova, Schaufeli, Xanthopoulou, and Bakker consider longitudinal
research that affirms the long-term impact of
resource enrichment on employees’ experience of
engagement and the complementary relationship
of work engagement and the ongoing enhancement of resources. This perspective reflects upon
the conceptual challenges in untangling causal
pathways in complex social systems in which
major experiences have multiple influences and
multiple outcomes. The chapter’s encouraging
message is that efforts to enhance work engagement through enriched resources have a potential
to sustain over time.
Chapter 10 by Spreitzer, Lam, and Fritz
positions engagement in relation to thriving as
an alternative perspective on positive connections
with work. Their perspective emphasizes organizational learning as a critical dimension of
employees’ developments through their careers
and in their tenure in a job. The chapter provides
a thoughtful consideration of leadership as a
definitive quality of engaging work settings. This
chapter emphasizes the importance of both
senior leadership and first-line supervisors in
developing a workplace culture conducive to
engagement and thriving.
In Chapter 11, Demerouti and Cropanzano
examine the evidence for the crucial relationship
of work engagement with performance. In contrasting work engagement with job satisfaction,
the authors demonstrate robust relationships
between employees’ thoughts and feelings about
their work with the behaviors on the job. In their
review of the engagement–performance relationship, the authors acknowledge the scope of
unresolved questions that require extensive and
rigorous research to address.
In Chapter 12, Leiter and Maslach consider the
design and efficacy of interventions to enhance

7

work engagement. This chapter provides an overall conceptual model for considering intervention
while giving specific direction on the design of
effective organizational action. Through a case
example, the chapter reviews the specific points of
assessment, planning, action, and evaluation. The
chapter argues for management interventions
as a means of having the greatest impact on a
workplace.
In Chapter 13, we reflect on the diverse
perspectives included in the book and describe
our expectations for the future of work engagement. We also present a research agenda that
identifies seven key research questions that would
extend our perspectives on work engagement,
its relationship to other constructs related to
the quality of worklife, and strategies for increasing the prevalence of work engagement in
organizations.
Throughout the book the authors have provided specific points on their chapters’ practical
implications. While we intend to provide the state
of the art on high quality work engagement
research, we also intend to present engagement as
a practical idea. All of the research in this book
has occurred in collaboration with people working in real organizations facing the challenges of
productivity, health, and well-being. We are
constantly considering ways in which organizations can apply new ideas to their challenges.

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INTRODUCTION

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worker: How job resources generate positive emotions
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for publication.

2
Defining and measuring work
engagement: Bringing clarity to
the concept
Wilmar B. Schaufeli and Arnold B. Bakker

Engagement has become a rather popular term,
first in business and consultancy, and recently also
in academia. The origin of the term “employee
engagement” is not entirely clear, but most likely
it was first used in the 1990s by the Gallup
organization (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999).
Although the phrases “employee engagement”
and “work engagement” are typically used interchangeably we prefer the latter because it is more
specific. Namely, work engagement refers to the
relationship of the employee with his or her work,
whereas employee engagement may also include
the relationship with the organization. As we will
see in the section on “Engagement in business”,
by including the relationship with the organization the distinction between engagement and

traditional concepts such as organizational commitment and extra-role behavior gets blurred.
The current popularity of engagement is illustrated by Table 2.1. An internet search yielded
almost 650,000 hits though narrowing the search
down to only scholarly publications – many of
them from the gray area (e.g., white papers, fact
sheets, and consultancy reports) – reduced the
number of hits to less than 2000. These impressive numbers stand in sharp contrast to the dearth
of publications on engagement that are included
in PsycINFO, the leading database of academic
publications in psychology. The most comprehensive PsycINFO search revealed one hundred publications with either “employee engagement” or
“work engagement” in the title or in the abstract
10

DEFINING AND MEASURING WORK ENGAGEMENT

11

TABLE 2.1
The popularity of engagement (state: March 2008)
The internet
Google
Employee engagement
Work engagement
Total

PsycINFO
Google scholar

Anywhere

In title

626,000

1120

35

12

21,400

785

66

20

645,130

1898

100

32

of any publication. The most restrictive search
with either “employee engagement” or “work
engagement” in the title of any peer-reviewed
international journal yielded only about thirty
hits. If anything, Table 2.1 illustrates that compared to the popularity of engagement in business
and among consultants there is a surprising scarcity of academic research.
Moreover, almost all scientific articles appeared
after the turn of the century. This recent academic
interest in engagement links in with the emergence of the so-called Positive Psychology that
studies human strength and optimal functioning,
instead of the traditional four D’s: Disease, Damage, Disorder, and Disability. A telling example is
the switch from job burnout to work engagement
(Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001).
This chapter presents an overview of the way
engagement is conceptualized and measured, particularly in academia but also in business. Our
purpose is not only to present a state-of-the art
review of current scientific knowledge, but also to
link this with notions of engagement that are
being used in business contexts, particularly by
leading international consultancy firms. In doing
so, we focus on work engagement across all kinds
of jobs and not on such specific types of engagement as school engagement, athlete engagement,
soldier engagement or student engagement that
have been described in the literature as well.
The chapter sets out with an overview of various
concepts of engagement, including a discussion of
related concepts such as extra-role behavior, personal initiative, job involvement, organizational
commitment, job satisfaction, positive affectivity,

flow, and workaholism. Next, various engagement
questionnaires are presented and their psychometric quality is discussed in terms of reliability
and validity. The closing section attempts to integrate the various conceptualizations of engagement into a more comprehensive model of
employee motivation and engagement.

The concept of work engagement
Everyday connotations of engagement refer to
involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm,
absorption, focused effort, and energy. In a similar vein, the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes engagement as “emotional involvement or
commitment” and as “the state of being in gear”.
However, no agreement exists among practitioners or scholars on a particular conceptualization
of (work) engagement. Below the major business
and academic perspectives on engagement are
discussed in greater detail.

Engagement in business
Virtually all major human resources consultancy
firms are in the business of improving levels
of work engagement. Almost without exception
these firms claim that they have found conclusive
and compelling evidence that work engagement
increases profitability through higher productivity, sales, customer satisfaction, and employee
retention. The message for organizations is clear:
increasing work engagement pays off. However,
with the exception of the Gallup Organization
(Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002) this claim is not
substantiated by publications in peer-reviewed
journals. Instead of presenting scientific evidence

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