The crossover of work engagement between working couples

Arnold B. Bakker (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Evangelia Demerouti (Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Publication date: 27 March 2009



The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of empathy (empathic concern and perspective taking) in the crossover process. Specifically, it aims to test whether empathy moderates the crossover effect of women's work engagement to their men's work engagement. Additionally, it seeks to investigate the relationship between men's engagement and colleague ratings of job performance.


Hypotheses were tested using a cross‐sectional design with three sources of information: 175 Dutch women and their partners working in different occupational sectors, as well as 175 colleagues of the male participants.


Results of moderated structural equation modeling analyses showed that the crossover of work engagement from women to men was strongest when men were high (vs low) in perspective taking (the spontaneous tendency of a person to adopt the psychological perspective of other people). Empathic concern did not moderate the crossover effect. In addition, men's work engagement was positively related to in‐role and extra‐role performance.

Practical implications

Results suggest that work engagement is not only important for one's own, but also for one's partner's performance. This implies that companies should try to facilitate engagement.


The findings shed light on the crossover process, and indicate under which conditions employees are influenced by their partners and consequently change their work behavior.



Bakker, A. and Demerouti, E. (2009), "The crossover of work engagement between working couples", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 220-236.

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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