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Is engagement contagious?

March 18, 2011

Clearly, we are not likening engagement to an outbreak of measles just yet, but apparently according to an article in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology there is some evidence that engagement can be contagious in the workplace.

Apparently, emotional contagion, which can be defined as the crossover of positive or negative experiences between people is something that has been widely researched (Bakker, Westman, & van Emmerik, 2001). This being the case, it is therefore possible that levels of employee engagement can transfer from one person to another promoting higher employee engagement levels throughout the workplace.

In an experiment by Barsade (2002) the transfer or moods was investigated. It was found in a lab based task where an actor demonstrated a positive mood that the other team members also exhibited more positive mood states and as a result there were more cooperative behaviours seen and task performance was improved. Similarly, results of an experiment conducted by Damen (2007) suggested that those who were exposed to more engaged leaders were shown to be more effective in task completion and more productive. In addition, Bakker, Van Emmerik, Euwema (2006) found that work engagement was related to individual team members engagement as measured by vigour, dedication and absorption factors.

Bakker, Albrecht & Leiter (2011) therefore propose that “team engagement influences individual employee performance through individual level engagement” and thereby engagement could be thought to be contagious...So, the key here is ditch the quarantine and embrace the emotional contagion of employee engagement across your workforce – start by exhibiting the employee engagement behaviours you want to see in others yourself and set the ball in motion...let us know how you get on.

Key Reference:

Bakker, A. Albrecht, S. Leiter, M. (2011). Key questions regarding work engagement. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 20(1), pp4-28.

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