Job Engagement and its Effect on Job Performance

{Rich, Lepine, & Crawford, 2010. Job Engagement: Antecedents and Effects on Job Performance. Academy of Management Journal Vol. 53, No. 3} 

Explaining performance 

Performance has been explained with emphasis on affect or cognition or the motives for physical persistence in tasks. However, more fundamental and distinct than these narrower aspects of the individual’s self is the employee’s agentic self, which can account for an individual’s investment of the complete self into a role in terms of physical, cognitive, and emotional energies. This more holistic investment of the self into one’s role is an act of choice. It is conceptualized as the motivational concept of engagement that links employee characteristics, such as value congruence and core self-evaluations, and organizational factors, such as perceived organizational support, to employee job performance outcome dimensions of task performance and organizational citizenship behavior (contextual performance). Engagement rests on a holistic view of the self in contrast to concepts, such as job involvement, job satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation, that rest on a relatively narrow view of the self.

Job Engagement Scale

Physical engagement

I work with intensity on my job.

I exert my full effort into my job.

I devote a lot of energy to my job.

I try my hardest to perform well on my job.

I strive as hard as I can to complete my job.

I exert a lot of energy on my job.

Emotional engagement

I am enthusiastic in my job.

I feel energetic at my job.

I am interested in my job.

I am proud of my job.

I feel positive about my job.

I am excited about my job.

Cognitive engagement

At work, my mind is focused on my job.

At work, I pay a lot of attention to my job.

At work, I focus a great deal of attention on my job.

At work, I am absorbed by my job.

At work, I concentrate on my job.

At work, I devote a lot of attention to my job.

Measures of the Job Engagement Scale

Core affect is a somewhat generalized emotional state consisting of two independent dimensions; pleasantness (feeling positive) and activation (a sense of energy) (Russell & Barrett, 1999). To measure the emotional aspect of engagement, items of the job engagement reflect both high pleasantness and high activation (enthusiasm, excitement, energy, interest). In keeping with research on emotions, defined as affective states directed toward something specific (Frijda, 1993), the scale items refer to feelings associated with a particular target, which in the context of job engagement is a respondent’s work role.

The scale items to measure the cognitive aspect of engagement include attention (level or amount of focus and concentration) and absorption (level of engrossment or the intensity of the focus and concentration). These are refined from Rothbard’s (2001) measure of engagement.

Job involvement, Job satisfaction, and Intrinsic motivation

Research on job performance has focused on different self-aspects in explaining why individuals choose to invest themselves in their work roles.

Job involvement focuses on the cognitive energy individuals invest in maintaining work-related identities. An employee exhibiting high job involvement identifies strongly with his or her job, thinks about the job outside of work, and interprets more situations as opportunities to perform work role activities. Job involvement is influenced by organization characteristics, supervisory behaviors, and individual differences and is reasoned to predict job performance.

Job satisfaction focuses on affective reactions associated with the need to maintain happiness and a desire to fulfill subjective psychological needs or values. Job satisfaction is promoted through favorable perceptions of job characteristics, supervisors, and coworkers and is also influenced by differences in individual personality. The positive feelings associated with high job satisfaction make people more willing to carry out task behaviors that contribute to organizational effectiveness.

Intrinsic motivation focuses on individuals’ effort and persistence primarily in terms of the physical energies that are focused on specific task activities resulting from the need to feel competent and maintain autonomy and control over courses of action in the absence of external constraints and contingencies.

The concept of engagement accounts for the simultaneous investment of available energies into a work role. It is the underlying mechanism by which cognitive, emotional, or physical energy manifest in job performance.


Engagement is a multidimensional motivational construct of the latent form with dimensions serving as indicators of the higher-order engagement concept reflecting the simultaneous investment of an individual’s physical, cognitive, and emotional energy in active, full work performance. Engagement is the common cause, the common ground, of the investment of various energies. It is motivational as it refers to allocating personal resources to role performance and how intensely and persistently those resources are applied.

People exhibit engagement when they become physically involved in tasks, whether alone or with others; are cognitively vigilant, focused, and attentive; and are emotionally connected to their work and others in service of their work (Kahn, 1990). Hands, head, and heart are invested in active, full work performance, driving personal energy into physical, cognitive, and emotional labors; observed as organization members being psychologically present, fully attentive, feeling connected, integrated, and focused in their role performance, open to themselves and others, connected to work and others, and bringing their complete selves to perform (Kahn, 1992).

Practices to increase job engagement

The conceptualization of engagement as motivational reveals a mechanism that transmits the effects of individual and organizational factors to different aspects of job performance. Other conceptualizations, such as those measured as an attitude or wellbeing, may function similarly to enhance job performance.

Practices that engender employee engagement enhance job performance in the form of task performance and organizational citizenship behavior.

Practices to increase the levels of value congruence, perceived organizational support, and core self-evaluations at work strongly impact engagement. Staffing practices to select employees possessing high core self-evaluations and values fit with the hiring organization should be followed by mentoring, socialization opportunities, and an aligned set of people management practices to communicate a consistent set of organizational values. Through leadership training and performance management practices providing developmental feedback, the organization fosters perceptions among employees that it is supportive.

Other relevant research questions

In addition to shaping the antecedents to enhance engagement, other variables of job involvement, job satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation are understood as reasons why an individual might become more engaged.

As a dynamic process, engagement refers to specific fluctuations of psychological presence in particular moments and situations, with ebbs and flows and calibrations of self-in-role (Kahn, 1990). In distinction, concepts such as involvement and commitment are more generalized states of which organizational members maintain average levels over time.

The antecedents considered: value congruence, perceived organizational support, and core self-evaluations, are more distal causes of engagement. Other psychological conditions have been identified in research to underlie the relationships among these antecedents and job engagement, such as meaningfulness, safety, and availability, caused by perceptions of self and work context and influenced by self-regulation. Meaningfulness is fostered by a sense of challenge and an incentive for an investment of the self in a role as a result of feedback regarding set goals and actual role performance and the resulting discrepancies. As long as discrepancies are not threatening to the individual’s self-image and therefore reduce feelings of psychological safety, the challenge of goal setting becomes a source of meaning. Psychological safety is promoted in non-threatening contexts in which there is consistency, predictability, and respect and through interactional justice, where communications embody truthfulness, respect, politeness, and dignity.


Individuals report being more engaged in their jobs when they also report higher levels of value congruence (using three items from Caldwell, Chatman, and O’Reilly (1990) that focus on the alignment of employee values with the organizational values), perceived organizational support (6-item scale; Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch, and Rhodes, 2001), and core self-evaluations (12-item measure; Judge and colleagues, 2003); they also receive higher supervisor ratings of task performance (task performance scale; Williams and Anderson, 1991) and organizational citizenship behavior (16-item OCB scale; Lee and Allen, 2002).

Job involvement (10-item scale; Kanungo, 1982) is predicted by value congruence and perceived organizational support. 

Job satisfaction (3-item scale of general or overall job satisfaction; Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, and Klesh, 1983) is predicted by largely perceived organizational support and lesser effects of value congruence and core self-evaluations.

Intrinsic motivation (the corresponding four items from the Situational Motivation Scale; Guay, Vallerand, and Blanchard, 2000) is predicted by perceived organizational support.

Engagement fully accounts for the relationships between the antecedents and the performance outcomes. Engaged employees invest their energy into executing the tasks and are helpful, courteous, and involved in organizational matters.

Why? Engaged employees throw their full selves into their role, which they understand to include any activity that could potentially contribute to their effectiveness.

Job performance consequences of engagement

Job performance is the aggregated value to an organization of the behaviors that an employee contributes directly and indirectly to the organizational goals. Behavior is largely under an employee’s voluntary control and thus reflects human agency. Different dimensions of behavioral performance transmit the effects of engagement to more “objective” outcomes, such as productivity, efficiency, and quality. Engaged behavior manifests as a focused physical effort on role-related goal pursuit, cognitively vigilant, and emotionally connected activity. Disengaged behavior reflected in task activity is, at best, robotic, passive, and detached.

What contributes to organizational goals?

Investment of physical energy into work roles facilitates the accomplishment of organizationally valued behaviors at increased levels of effort over extended periods.

Investment of cognitive energy into work roles promotes more vigilant, attentive, and focused behavior, termed heedfulness.

Investment of emotional energy into work roles contributes through increased connection among coworkers in pursuit of organizational goals and meeting emotional role demands in more complete and authentic ways.

Engaged individuals work with greater intensity on their tasks for longer periods. They pay more attention to and are more focused on responsibilities and emotionally connected to the tasks that constitute their role.

Engaged individuals more readily engage in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) that includes helpfulness, sportsmanship, conscientiousness, and civic virtue, fostering a social and psychological environment conducive to the accomplishment of work involved in the organization’s technical core.

Antecedents of job engagement

Psychological states influence people’s internal work motivation. Perceptions of their work contexts and their individual characteristics foster these psychological states or conditions that directly influence the willingness to engage in work roles personally. People ask themselves three questions before personally engaging or disengaging from their role: “How meaningful is it for me to bring myself into this performance?” “How safe is it to do so?” and “How available am I to do so?” Perceptions of work context and individual characteristics drive beliefs regarding these three questions of psychological meaningfulness, safety, and availability. Specifically, perceptions of organizational and work factors related to tasks and roles are the primary influences on psychological meaningfulness; perceptions of social systems related to support and relationships are the primary influences on psychological safety; self-perceptions of confidence and self-consciousness are the primary influences on psychological availability. Each of these psychological states or conditions has antecedents linked to job performance: value congruence, perceived organizational support, and core self-evaluations, the effects of which are transmitted through the engagement mechanism. Said otherwise, engagement mediates relationships among its antecedents and job performance activities. Value congruence, perceived organizational support, and core self-evaluations are positively linked to job performance through investments of the self as reflected by engagement, even when job involvement, job satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation are considered mediators.

Value congruence (Give Yourself)

Meaningfulness is a sense of reward for engagement in behaviors congruent to one’s self-image. Perceived value congruence facilitates individuals making greater personal investments in pursuing organizational goals because of the meaningfulness of their work roles, i.e., when they perceive that organizational role expectations are congruent with their preferred self-images. Feeling worthwhile, useful, valuable, and able to give oneself to one’s work and to others are experienced as meaningfulness.

Perceived organizational support (Choose Yourself)

Individuals feel safe in organizational contexts perceived to be trustworthy, secure, predictable, and clear regarding behavioral consequences. Factors contributing to psychological safety are supportive management, supportive and trusting interpersonal relationships in the organization, and perceptions of some control over one’s work leading to feeling trusted and valued. For example, individuals with trusting interpersonal relationships in supportive organizational environments can take risks, expose their real selves, and try and perhaps fail without fearing the consequences. Psychological safety thus increases willingness to engage fully in work roles.

Core self-evaluations (Know Yourself)

Psychological availability is the readiness to engage personally at a particular moment. Availability is linked to an individual’s confidence level in abilities, status, and self-consciousness. The concept of core self-evaluations defines an individual’s appraisal of his or her worthiness, effectiveness, and capability. People with high core self-evaluations are well-adjusted, positive, self-confident, and efficacious, and believe in their agency; they appraise demands more positively, have a greater ability to cope with these demands effectively, and thus have more resources available to invest in the performance of their work roles. As individuals with high core self-evaluations tend to feel more capable of dealing with work demands, they perceive a higher level of availability to invest themselves in their roles, resulting in higher job engagement.