Good Moods Can Protect Employees Facing Emotional Exhaustion

Sometimes work is just exhausting; emotionally exhausting to be specific. Emotional exhaustion (EE) refers to feeling overwhelmed or drained at work. Not surprisingly, recent research has linked EE to decreases in performance through the Conservation of Resources (COR) theory. This theory suggests that EE impairs performance because employees feel that they do not have the adequate resources to meet the current job demands, but is this always the case? When an employee begins to feel depleted, do they automatically attribute it to lack of personal resources? The authors of the current article suggest not.


The current study found that emotional exhaustion has a greater negative impact on performance when perceived distributive justice (adequate compensation for effort expended) is high. The authors reason that when distributive justice is high, employees attribute their depletion to personal inadequacies rather than poor compensation or other external factors. Additionally, the authors found that positive mood protects against these harmful effects because it enables employees to seek out additional resources.


In sum, emotional exhaustion hinders performance, and this is especially the case when those employees can’t blame their exhaustion on the company. So does this mean that distributive justice is a bad thing? Of course not; organization should continue to pay their employees the wages they deserve. Rather, it is best to try to prevent EE. In fact, those without EE who also had high distributive justice were the best performers overall. Additionally, in this study, good moods protected against the negative effects of high distributive justice and EE. Accordingly, the authors suggest creating a work environment that will lead employees to have good moods. In this case, a happy worker does seem to be a productive worker.


Janssen, O., Lam, C. K., & Huang, X. (2010). Emotional exhaustion and job performance: The moderating role of distributive justice and positive affect. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(6), 787-809.