I had noted in an earlier post that the Schaufeli’s Job Demand-Resources model was one that I wanted to come back to, to understand better. The model is straightforward: it states that work engagement results from the motivating influence of resources. Resources are bucketed two ways: job resources, meaning those resources that help achieve work goals, reduce demands, or stimulate growth and development; and personal resources, which include personal characteristics related to resiliency, such as optimism, self-efficacy, and emotional stability (W.B. Schaufeli, 2014). According to the model, these resources foster work engagement. On the other side of the model (or the equation, as I am thinking of it) stands job demands, that is, those aspects of the job that require sustained effort, such as work overload, time pressure, role conflict, or the demands of bureaucracy. These demands exhaust the employee, and can lead to burnout. On the positive side, however, demands that have the potential to promote mastery, personal growth, or future gains have the potential to increase work engagement. To help me understand the model, I drew it out:
As demands in my own work environment have been increasing, and as my team and I have struggled with increasing demands (both workload and bureaucracy, that is, red tape), I have had new insight into the model: as I noted above, I now see the model as an equation that must be kept in balance to maintain a steady state of engagement. In other words, every new demand must be balanced by a new resource.
What are resources? More team members are sometimes the solution, but not always, depending on the nature of the demands, and, of course, the budget. Other resources described in academic literature include job control, feedback, social support, and opportunities for learning (Schaufeli, Bakker, & Van Rhenen, 2009) The presence of these resources are motivational, and studies have shown the absence of these resources to lead to stress. In addition to these, though, another study found evidence supervisor support, innovativeness, appreciation, and organizational climate were important job resources (Bakker, Hakanen, Demerouti, & Xanthopoulou, 2007).
One takeaway here is the importance of supervisor support. Research has shown that supervisor support may alleviate the influence of job demands on strain because supervisors’ appreciation and support puts demands in another perspective (Bakker et al., 2007). Interestingly, Bakker’s research also indicates that job resources are particularly relevant under highly stressful conditions. My personal takeaway is to hone my coaching skills—I have coached associates for years, but with a better understanding of how high quality supervisor support can help balance the JDR equation, I know I need to be sure my skills are in peak form.
Bakker, A. B., Hakanen, J. J., Demerouti, E., & Xanthopoulou, D. (2007). Job resources boost work engagement, particularly when job demands are high. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(2), 274–284.
Schaufeli, Wilmar B. (2014). What is engagement? In Employee engagement in theory and practice (pp. 15–35). New York: Routledge.
Schaufeli, Wilmar B., Bakker, A. B., & Van Rhenen, W. (2009). How changes in job demands and resources predict burnout, work engagement, and sickness absenteeism. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(7), 893–917.