Developmental Job Experience Might Not Be for Everyone

Organizations often give top performing employees developmental job experience in order to prepare them for the next level. These experiences are useful for enhancing managerial skills, and employees with a preference for learning new things are likely to reap more benefits from them. However, research on the benefits of developmental experience shows mixed results.


The authors defined developmental job experience (DJE) as an individual’s experience of taking on demanding assignments that offer opportunity for learning and leadership. The extent to which an assignment brings DJE can depend on how the particular employee views the opportunity in his or her own mind. Developmental assignments usually share some common features: unfamiliar responsibilities, opportunity to create change, high levels of responsibility, working across boundaries, and managing diversity.

DJE is associated with growth and future benefits as well as with substantial risks and uncertainty. Depending on whether an individual perceives the assignment as a challenge or a threat, combined with their ability to use coping skills, he or she will experience pleasant or unpleasant feelings. These feelings lead to an overall positive or negative outcome. The authors examined advancement potential as a positive outcome and turnover intention as a negative outcome in the study. The authors explained that because DJE can contribute to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings at the same time, both positive and negative outcomes can occur. 


Results confirmed that when employees perceive that their job contains more developmental features, they also experience higher levels of both pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Pleasant feelings promote engagement (or how dedicated employees are to their work) and creativity, and it is actually because of these resulting pleasant feelings that developmental experiences are associated with higher advancement potential. The authors also found that when employees experience pleasant feelings, they also have lower levels of turnover intention. In the opposite direction, unpleasant feelings lead to defensive behavior and ineffective coping and were associated with higher turnover intention. In fact, it is because of these negative feelings that developmental experience is associated with turnover intention.

The researchers also studied the role that emotional intelligence plays in developmental experience. They found that when employees had higher levels of emotional intelligence, unpleasant feelings did not lead to higher turnover intention, as it did when employees had lower levels of emotional intelligence. 


First, it is recommended to have organizational practices in place to support those carrying out developmental assignments. This will help promote pleasant feelings in employees.

Similarly, organizations should develop a climate where errors and risk-taking are tolerated. Thus, employees are likely to experience fewer unpleasant feelings.

Also, organizations can identify employees with high emotional intelligence and give them more opportunities for developmental experience. Employees with low emotional intelligence can be trained to improve their emotional intelligence by enhancing their interpersonal skills regarding recognition and control of emotions.

Finally, it is important to monitor the amount and degree of developmental experience that employees are receiving, in order to make sure no one is overwhelmed by the challenges associated with developmental assignments.


Dong, Y, Seo, M.-G, & K. M. Bartol (2014). No Pain, No Gain: An Affect-Based Model of Developmental Job Experience and the Buffering Effects of Emotional Intelligence. Academy of Management Journal, 57, 1056-1077.