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Crossover of engagement in groups

Heleen van Mierlo (Center of Excellence for Positive Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Arnold B. Bakker (Center of Excellence for Positive Organizational Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 10 January 2018

Issue publication date: 19 February 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to extend the current knowledge on psychological contagion and crossover by investigating the crossover of task-specific engagement (a positive, fulfilling state of mind) among group members. The paper also examines whether this crossover process is reinforced by strong group cohesion or by higher a priori levels of task engagement of the most engaged group member.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors operationalized crossover as within-group convergence on individual engagement over time. The authors studied this process in 43 newly formed groups performing a dynamic, interactive building task under controlled laboratory conditions, allowing the authors to observe the crossover process from a “zero” point, before any mutual influences had occurred.

Findings

Group member engagement scores indeed converged over time, supporting the proposed crossover effect of engagement, especially when the most engaged group member was highly engaged at the beginning of the group task. Unexpectedly, the explanatory role of group cohesion was not convincingly supported; the crossover of engagement was no stronger in groups with high cohesion.

Practical implications

These findings show that task-specific engagement is indeed transferred among group members, particularly when the most engaged group member is highly engaged.

Originality/value

Previous studies on psychological contagion and crossover were mainly focused on dyadic relationships and specific emotions or impaired well-being. The findings add to this literature by addressing the crossover of engagement – a more complex, beneficial psychological state – among group members and provide new input for developing and sustaining engagement in and of groups.

Keywords

Citation

van Mierlo, H. and Bakker, A.B. (2018), "Crossover of engagement in groups", Career Development International, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 106-118. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-03-2017-0060

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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