Emotionally exhausted? Believe it or not, this could make you happier!

New research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) suggests that the process of dealing with emotional exhaustion can sometimes increase happiness.

The study examined when and how dealing with emotional exhaustion can enhance happiness in a work environment. The research was focused on the role of perceived supervisor support (PSS) – the workers’ view of their manager’s level of supportiveness, caring and appreciation for their efforts – in stimulating ways to cope with exhaustion.

The research was conducted by Carlos Ferreira Peralta of UEA’s Norwich Business School and Maria Francisca Saldanha of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. They found that perceiving low supervisor support stimulates the employee’s engagement in developing an action plan which, when paired with what the researchers call instrumental social support – the activity of searching for advice, support or information from others – boosts happiness.

Dr Peralta, a lecturer in organisational behaviour, said: “Perceived supervisor support appears to be a double-edge sword, on the one hand preventing the emergence of emotional exhaustion but on the other hand diminishing the likelihood that employees will engage in planning to deal with the emotional exhaustion they are experiencing.

“It is important to note that it is not emotional exhaustion per se, but rather how people cope with it, that is beneficial for individuals. Our findings suggest that the activities people engage in have a key role in building happiness from an internally stressful experience and that emotional exhaustion can have a silver lining.”

The researchers conducted three complementary studies involving a total of 500 employees in Portugal and the United States. They worked in multiple occupations including management, architecture and engineering, computer and mathematical, business and financial operations, as well as office and administration support, sales, education and healthcare. The studies used different measures of emotional exhaustion, happiness and PSS and the participants were asked to complete questionnaires.

‘Can dealing with emotional exhaustion lead to enhanced happiness? The roles of planning and social support’, Carlos Ferreira Peralta and Maria Francisca Saldanha, is published in the journal Work & Stress, Volume 32 part 2, 2017.

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