Salima Hamouche, PhD, Canadian University Dubai Annick Parent-Lamarche, PhD, Universit? du Qu?bec ? Trois-Rivi?res

Purpose/objectives: COVID-19 is an unexpected health crisis that significantly altered workplaces all over the world, destabilizing individuals? life and weighing heavily on their physical as well as mental health. in their process of coping with the stress generated by this pandemic, many individuals have been at risk of emotional exhaustion. This situation was challenging for employees as well as organizations. This research aims at investigating the mediating effect that emotional exhaustion has on the relationship between, work organization conditions, human resource management (HRM) practices, and job performance. It also aims at analyzing the moderating effect of organizational communication in the relationship between work organization conditions, HRM practices, emotional exhaustion, and job performance.

Background: Employees’ job performance is the key to the success of organizations. However, in a period of crisis such as COVID-19, this performance can be significantly and negatively affected, which can, in turn, jeopardize the sustainability of organizations. In fact, besides being a threat to the employees’ physical health, this pandemic has proven to be also a threat to their mental health (Giusti et al., 2020). It has drained their emotional energy, leading many of them to severe emotional exhaustion (Giusti et al., 2020). This later refers to a feeling of overload and a chronic state of physical and emotional fatigue, which results from excessive job demands and continuous strains (Maslach & Leiter, 2006). Many stressors have emerged or have been intensified during this pandemic, such as teleworking, workload, working hours, and job insecurity (Hamouche, 2020; Parent-Lamarche & Boulet, 2021). This pandemic highlighted also the importance of HRM practices, such as organizational support, organizational communication, and health and safety practices to support employees during this challenging period (Hamouche, 2020). Emotional exhaustion has a significant impact on employees? performance (Prajogo et al., 2020), however, to the best of our knowledge, very few studies have examined its mediating effects on employees? performance in a period of crisis such as COVID-19. Moreover, in the same context, the moderating role of organizational communication has sparsely been addressed.

Methods: This research is cross-sectional, based on data collected during the COVID-19 pandemic between June and December 2020 in (Quebec) Canada within 13 companies from various industrial sectors. The total of respondents was 146 employees. Moderated mediation analyses were performed using Mplus software (Muth?n & Muth?n, 2017).

Findings: The obtained results showed that three significant associations. 1) a positive association between workload and emotional exhaustion; 2) a negative association between organizational communication and emotional exhaustion, and 3) a positive association between organizational support and job performance. In this case, the mediating effects of emotional exhaustion have not been confirmed in the relationship between work organization conditions, HRM practices, and job performance. Whereas the interaction between low-level job insecurity and organizational communication had a significant effect on emotional exhaustion. That interaction did not, however, show a moderated mediation effect.

Discussion, practical implications, and future research: This study revealed that emotional exhaustion does not have a mediating effect in the relationship between work organization conditions, HRM practices, and job performance. This suggests that some work organization conditions and HRM practices have direct significative effects on job performance, such as workload and organizational communication. In this case, workload represents a stressor associated with a high level of emotional exhaustion, whereas organizational communication is associated with a lower level of emotional exhaustion. This study revealed also that the interaction between low-level job insecurity and organizational communication had a significant effect on emotional exhaustion. Hence, organizational communication seems to accentuate the resource of low job insecurity but does not seem to alleviate the effect of high job insecurity. In terms of practical implications, this research can help organizations firstly, to address the workload and prevent its effect on employees? health; to develop also proper interventions related to communication, such as developing a communication plan that can prevent emotional exhaustion among employees, during times of crisis and beyond. This study has some limitations, mainly the cross-sectional method adopted which has not helped to examine causality effects. It is recommended for future research to adopt a longitudinal method. Moreover, this study focused mainly on employees in the private sector, which cannot help to generalize the obtained results. Future research can broaden the scope of this research by examining emotional exhaustion and job performance of employees in the public sector during COVID-19.

Conclusions: This study contributes to the literature by broadening the scope of previous research on emotional exhaustion and job performance during an intense and unexpected health crisis: The COVID-19 pandemic. It sheds light on the importance of organizational communication during times of crisis.

Tags: Applicable to all occupations/industries, Applied research, Basic research, COVID-19, Emerging Issues, Empirical study, Evaluation, Organization- and Job-Level Environments and Practices, Organizational Practices, Psychological and Biological Effects of Job Stress, Research-to-practice, Workplace Stress; Outcomes; and Recovery