The social psychology of work engagement: state of the field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Research on work engagement is flourishing and shows important links between work engagement and career success. However, a systematic account of the social-psychological origins of engagement is largely lacking. In the paper, the author develops a theoretical model and discusses how employees actively influence and are influenced by employees' leader's, colleagues' and partner's work engagement. Design/methodology/approach: The author integrates literatures on emotional contagion, team work engagement, leadership, proactive work behavior and work-to-family spillover. This results in a model of the social-psychological processes involved in work engagement. Findings: Work engagement is the result of various social-psychological processes. First, work engagement is contagious – colleagues, leaders and the intimate partner can be important causes of engagement. Second, work engagement emerges at the team-level when team members collectively experience high levels of vigor, dedication and absorption. Team members of engaged teams synchronize their activities well and perform better. Third, leaders may influence employee work engagement through fast (unconscious) and slow (conscious) influence processes. Fourth, employees may use social forms of proactive behavior to stay engaged in their work, including job crafting and playful work design. Finally, work engagement may spill over and enrich the family domain. The social-psychological model of work engagement shows how leaders, followers and family members provide, craft and receive (i.e. exchange) resources and facilitate each other's work and family engagement. Practical implications: Organizations may increase work engagement by using social-psychological interventions, including training sessions that foster fast and slow leadership, team-boosting behaviors and (team-level) job crafting and playful work design. Originality/value: Whereas most previous studies have focused on job demands and resources as possible causes of work engagement, the present article outlines the state of the field regarding the social-psychological processes involved in engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-53
Number of pages18
JournalCareer Development International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2022


  • Emotional contagion
  • Job crafting
  • Leadership
  • Teams
  • Work engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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