Affectivity, Emotional Exhaustion, and Service Sabotage Behavior: The Mediation Role of Rumination

By Luo, Ping; Bao, Zhao | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Affectivity, Emotional Exhaustion, and Service Sabotage Behavior: The Mediation Role of Rumination


Luo, Ping, Bao, Zhao, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


Over the past two decades, rumination has drawn considerable interest from scholars, especially from personality and clinical psychologists, and has evolved as an important construct in understanding the development of negative mood (Smith & Alloy, 2009). Nolen-Hoeksema and Jackson (2001) defined rumination as "engaging in a passive focus on one's symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences of these symptoms [italics added]" (p. 37). Most personality, social, and clinical psychologists have accepted this definition (McCullough, Bono, & Root, 2007). However, some scholars have emphasized other definitions of rumination. For example, Skinner, Edge, Altman, and Sherwood (2003) regarded rumination as a coping strategy that is a "passive and repetitive focus on the negative and damaging features of a stressful transaction [italics added]" (p. 242). Although there is still no unified definition of rumination, researchers have reached agreement on the counter-productive effect of rumination on psychosocial adjustment and interpersonal functioning (Smith & Alloy, 2009). Therefore, rumination can be treated as a critical construct when understanding emotions. However, in the organizational area, we found few studies dealing with rumination and its negative impact on employees' emotions and behavior. We believed that employees' emotions at work have a significant influence on both their performance and other important organizational outcomes (Wang, Liao, Zhan, & Shi, 2011), in which rumination may play an important role.

Therefore, in our research, we studied rumination in the organizational context and examined the antecedents (i.e., positive affectivity and negative affectivity) and outcomes (i.e., emotional exhaustion and service sabotage behavior) of rumination in an integrated model. We chose the participants in a call center in China because employees in call centers need to deal with a large number of calls (around 50 per day) from customers. Furthermore, they also have to provide service that can satisfy customers' different needs, giving the employees plenty of opportunities to experience emotionally unpleasant events (such as customer mistreatment; Grandey, Dickter, & Sin, 2004) and many opportunities to remain in a ruminative state. Overall, our aim in this study was to provide evidence of the mechanism of rumination. Figure 1 shows our hypothesized model.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses

Positive affectivity can be defined as an individual's disposition to feel happy and positive across time and situations (Watson, Pennebaker, & Folger, 1987). Negative affectivity is an individual's disposition to experience discomfort and other negative feelings across time and situations (Watson & Clark, 1984). An individual's general emotional state can be predicted by these two affectivities. Individuals high in positive affectivity tend to be more extraverted, social, and can retain a positive mood over time and across situations. However, individuals high in negative affectivity tend to be more depressed, unhappy, and are more

likely to pay attention to the negative aspects of their surroundings (Agho, Price, & Mueller, 1992). It has been found that, in many kinds of jobs, individuals rated higher in positive affectivity showed higher job satisfaction than did those rated lower in positive affectivity (Cropanzano, James, & Konovsky, 1993; Levin & Stokes, 1989; Watson & Stack, 1993).

Researchers have found that rumination is related to an individual's stable cognitive mechanism. For example, Papageorgiou and Wells (2003) argued that rumination was generated from a cognitive bias, which led individuals to concentrate on the negative aspects of things without taking positive actions. They believed that this kind of cognitive mechanism resulted from early life experience (e.g., stress), which made those individuals much more sensitive to negative information than those who have not had such experiences.

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