Emotional Journeys at Work Have Hidden Costs for Employees

worried employee
Topic(s): stress, wellness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2022)
Article: What Does It Cost You to Get There? The Effects of Emotional Journeys on Daily Outcomes
Authors: E.L. Frank, F.K. Matta, T.B. Sabey, J.B. Rodell
Reviewed by: Shayla Bianchi

Positive emotions are generally perceived to be beneficial to employees, and the pursuit of these feelings is often encouraged. However, research has also shown that changes in emotion throughout the day can have negative consequences.


The researchers (Frank et al., 2022) conducted daily surveys for 10 workdays that asked employees about the valence (i.e. positive or negative) and activation (i.e. high or low arousal) of their emotions at different times throughout the day. They also answered questions about their performance outcomes, how drained they felt at the end of the day, and their overall level of neuroticism.

Employees felt less drained when they ended the day with more positive emotions. However, changing from negative to positive emotions (referred to as “emotional journeys”) led to increased depletion at the end of the day. This depletion further impacted employee behavior by increasing counterproductive work behaviors (actions that are harmful to others), and decreasing job performance and organizational citizenship behavior (voluntary acts of helping). Employees with higher levels of neuroticism experienced more depletion and more harmful effects as a result of changes in emotional levels.

A second study used an experiment that manipulated emotions using a writing task. This study confirmed that changing from negative to positive emotions resulted in employees feeling more drained. The researchers also found that these draining “emotional journeys” cancel out the benefits of ultimately arriving at positive emotional states.


The results show that there can be negative consequences to pursuing positive emotions and avoiding negative ones. The authors warn that the benefits of these positive emotions may not be worth it when the change process needed to get to them requires too much effort from the employee. Because individuals are likely to have more energy and self-regulatory resources earlier in the day, it is suggested that managers encourage “emotional journeys” in the mornings before employees have used up these resources. Managers may also wish to select employees lower in neuroticism for jobs that require more emotional regulation.


Frank, E. L., Matta, F. K., Sabey, T. B., & Rodell, J. B. (2022). What does it cost you to get there? The effects of emotional journeys on daily outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 107(7), 1203–1226.