Kenzie Dye, Saint Louis University; Lindsey Lane, University of Central Florida; Steve Jex, Ph.D., University of Central Florida

The purpose of this study was to examine the impacts of prosocial job characteristics on people with different personality traits (extroversion and prosocial personality) and levels of emotional labor. It was hypothesized that extroverts and prosocial individuals would have lower levels of burnout and job-related negative affect in response to prosocial job characteristics. It was also hypothesized that emotional labor would moderate these relationships in that prosocial job characteristics would interact with emotional labor, resulting in higher levels of burnout and negative affect.

The job impact framework (Grant, 2007) theorizes that employees’ contact with their work’s beneficiaries results in positive motivational outcomes and that this contact can be built into jobs via prosocial job characteristics (PSJC). Prosocial interactions have been shown to induce positive emotions and protect against burnout. However, some individuals benefit from prosocial interactions more than others; specifically, extroverts and those with prosocial personalities (Capara et al., 2005).

The job impact framework explores the positive or negative nature of a person’s interaction with their job beneficiaries. However, it does not consider the relationship between the level of job relational architecture and characteristics of the employee. Further, according to the theory of emotional labor, many individuals have to signal specific emotions to beneficiaries of their work to fit their job role. High levels of emotional labor may lead to burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and cynicism) (Hochschild, 1983).

To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study examining whether PJSC may have detrimental effects. Past research has examined PSJC as wholly positive without considering individual and circumstantial differences.

The sample (n= 229) was comprised of 145 MTurkers and 84 students. Participants from both sources answered the study’s focal variables comparably. Further, the university sourcing the students has a high nontraditional student population, increasing age variability. Combining the samples increased diversity and generalizability.

The slight majority of participants identified as men (50.2%) and Caucasian (55.2%), and their mean age was 34.05 (SD = 13.388). The study’s variables were measured using validated scales (van der Voet & Stejin, 2019; Kristensen et al., 2005; Van Katwyk et al., 1999; Lee & Brotheridge, 2006; Caprara et al., 2005; Rammstedt & John, 2006) and all participants completed identical surveys. The survey included three attention checks. Participants who failed two were excluded from analyses.

After completing correlation matrices in SPSS to determine sample response similarity, research questions were analyzed with moderated regressions.

Extraversion (b = -.04, p <.05) moderated the relationship between PSJC and work-related burnout (b = -.21, p <.01). This relationship was only significant at the mean level of extraversion.

PSJC was positively associated with job-related general negative affect (b = .17, p <.01). The interaction between PSJC and emotional labor (deep acting) on negative affect was significant only at low levels of emotional labor (deep acting) (b = .03, p <.05).

Faking and hiding emotions forms of emotional labor did not significantly interact with PSJC for neither negative affect nor burnout. Hypotheses regarding prosocial personality were not supported.

This study contributes to the existing PSJC literature by examining it through the lens of individual differences. In addition, the finding that employees with higher levels of extraversion experience less burnout related to PSJC has important implications for practice. Hiring managers may benefit from adding measures for extraversion into screening protocols for jobs high in PSJC, particularly if they wish to reduce negative employee outcomes such as burnout.

Contrary to hypotheses, PSJC and job-related negative affect were positively related. This relationship appeared to be weaker when an individual engaged in low levels of deep acting. More research should be conducted examining possible influences on the relationship between PSJC and emotional labor, and why engaging in some level of deep acting could decrease individuals’ job-related negative affectivity.

While this study employed diverse participants, future research could benefit with a larger sample size and longitudinal data. Causal relationships cannot be concluded from this study. Researchers should also explore reasons why PSJC and prosocial personality were not related, as this could have implications for prosocially-motivated employees being considered the best fit for prosocial jobs.

This study examined PSJC and two individual differences, extraversion and prosocial personality, finding that extraverted participants experienced lower levels of work-related burnout. PSJC, while previously only connected to positive employee outcomes, was associated with work-related negative affectivity. Low levels of deep acting, however, might weaken the PSJC-negative affect relationship.

Future research is needed to better understand the relationship between PSJC and negative affectivity, particularly considering that an increase in PSJC was associated with reductions in burnout.

Tags: Applicable to all occupations/industries, Basic research, Comprehensive Approaches to Healthy Work Design and Well-Being, Job and Task Design, Organization- and Job-Level Environments and Practices, Social and Organizational Environment, Theoretical and Conceptual Issues in Job Stress, Total Worker Health, Work Organization and Stress, Workplace Stress; Outcomes; and Recovery