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The meaning of employee engagement is ambiguous among both academic researchers and among practitioners who use it in conversations with clients. We show that the term is used at different times to refer to psychological states, traits, and behaviors as well as their antecedents and outcomes. Drawing on diverse relevant literatures, we offer a series of propositions about (a) psychological state engagement; (b) behavioral engagement; and (c) trait engagement. In addition, we offer propositions regarding the effects of job attributes and leadership as main effects on state and behavioral engagement and as moderators of the relationships among the 3 facets of engagement. We conclude with thoughts about the measurement of the 3 facets of engagement and potential antecedents, especially measurement via employee surveys.
The Meaning of Employee Engagement
Valtera Corporation
Valtera Corporation and University of Maryland
The meaning of employee engagement is ambiguous among both academic researchers and among practitioners
who use it in conversations with clients. We show that the term is used at different times to refer to psychological
states, traits, and behaviors as well as their antecedents and outcomes. Drawing on diverse relevant literatures, we
offer a series of propositions about (a) psychological state engagement; (b) behavioral engagement; and (c) trait
engagement. In addition, we offer propositions regarding the effects of job attributes and leadership as main effects
on state and behavioral engagement and as moderators of the relationships among the 3 facets of engagement.
We conclude with thoughts about the measurement of the 3 facets of engagement and potential antecedents,
especially measurement via employee surveys.
The notion of employee engagement is
a relatively new one, one that has been
heavily marketed by human resource (HR)
consulting firms that offer advice on how it
can be created and leveraged. Aca dem ic
researchers are now slowly joining the fray,
and both parties are saddled with compet-
ing and inconsistent interpretations of the
meaning of the construct.
Casual observation suggests that much of
the appeal to organizational management is
driven by claims that employee engagement
drives bottom-line results. Indeed, at least
one HR consulting firm (Hewitt Associates
LLC, 2005, p. 1) indicates that they ‘have
established a conclusive, compelling rela-
tionship between engagement and profit-
ability through higher productivity, sales,
customer satisfaction, and employee reten-
tion. Some practitioners view engagement
as having evolved from prior research on
work attitudes, directly implying that this
newer concept adds interpretive value that
extends beyond the boundaries of those tra-
ditions. We agree with this thought and hope
to show why we agree in what follows.
Although compelling on the surface, the
meaning of the employee engagement con-
cept is unclear. In large part, this can be
attributed to the ‘bottom-up’ manner in
which the engagement notion has quickly
evolved within the practitioner community.
This is not an unfamiliar stage in the incre-
mental evolution of an applied psychologi-
cal construct. Thus, similar to the manner in
which burnout was at first a construct attrib-
uted to pop psychology (Maslach, Schaufeli,
& Leiter, 2001) engagement is a concept
with a sparse and diverse theoretical and
empirically demonstrated nomological net—
the relationships among potential antece-
dents and consequences of engagement as
well as the components of engagement have
Correspondence concerning this article should be
addressed to William H. Macey. E-mail: wmacey@
Address: Valtera Corporation, 1701 Golf Road, Suite
2-1100 Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
William H. Macey, Valtera Corporation; Benjamin
Schneider, Valtera Corporation and University of
We appreciate the thoughtful comments of our col-
leagues Karen Barbera and Scott Young as well as con-
structive feedback from Paul Sackett and Allen Kraut.
Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1 (2008), 3–30.
Copyright ª 2008 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 1754-9426/08
not been rigorously conceptualize d, much
less studied. Indeed, many HR consultants
avoid defining the term, instead referr-
ing only to its presumed positive con-
sequences. At a minimum, the question
remains as to whether engagem ent is a
unique concept or merely a repackaging
of other constructs—what Kelley (1927;
quoted in Lubinski, 2004, p. 98) called the
‘Jangle Fallacy. This is a matter of particular
significance to those who develop and
conduct employee surveys in organizations
because the end users of these products
expect interpretations of the results to be
cast in terms of actionable implications.
Yet, if one does not kn ow what one is mea-
suring, the action implications will be, at
best, vague and, at worst, a leap of faith.
The academic community has been slow
to jump on the practitioner engagement
bandwagon, and empirical research that
has appeared on the topic in refereed outlets
reveals little consideration for rigorously
testing the theory underlying the construct
(for exceptions, see May, Gilson, & Harter,
2004; Salanova, Agut, & Peiro, 2005). Thus,
although research exists demonstrating
that some empl oyee attitudes called ‘en-
gagement’ are related to organizational
outcomes like turnover and product ivity
(Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002) these
employee attitudes do not conceptually
reflect the notion of engagement. Thus,
further development of the construct and
its measurement requires attention (for an
example, see Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova,
Our goal is to present a conceptual frame-
work that will help both researchers and
practitioners recognize the variety of mean-
ings the engagement construct subsumes
and the research traditions that give rise to
or support those meanings. We believe that
this is important in itself as it creates a
working model for how the research litera-
ture can influence practice and vice versa.
Thus, as we organize the various literatures
relevant to engagement, we establish a
research agenda that identifies further oppor-
tunities for science and improved science–
practice linkages.
Employee Engagement:
Getting Oriented
Numerous definitions of engagement can be
derived from the practice- and research-
driven literatures. Additional definitions
can be attributed to folk theory: the common
intuitive sense that people, and particularly
leaders within organizations, have about
work motivation. Common to these defini-
tions is the notion that employee engage-
ment is a desirable condition, has an
organizational purpose, and connotes
involvement, commitment, passion, enthu-
siasm, focused effort, and energy, so it has
both attitudinal and behavioral compo-
The antecedents of such attitudes
and behaviors are located in conditions
under which people work, and the conse-
quences are thought to be of value to orga-
nizational effectiveness (see Erickson, 2005).
As a folk theory, engagement is used i n
a manner that implies the opposite of dis-
engagement. For example, a number of
popular views of engagement suggest that
engaged employees not only contribute
more but also are more loyal and therefore
less likely to voluntarily leave the organiza-
tion. However, for present purposes, we
choose to focus on only those aspects of
engagement that have positive valence
(obviously from low to high). We believe
that this is crucial to developing conceptual
precision in that it maintains a clear inten-
tional focus on benefits that inure to the
organization. For example, certain behav-
iors that might be considered adaptive on
the part of the individual (e.g., taking
a ‘mental health day’ as a form of adaptive
withdrawal) would not be considered
within the present f ramework. At least tem-
porarily, we are not taking a position on
1. Some readers may feel that there are clear hints of
‘motivation’ in what we have just written and won-
der to themselves why we are not saying that this is
motivation. The answer is that the construct of moti-
vation isitself a hypothetical construct with consider-
able ambiguity surrounding it. Were we to introduce
it here, it might further confound the issues so we
leave the chore of integrating engagement with
‘motivation’ to others.
4 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
whether engagement and disengagement
are opposites (i.e., perhaps the opposite of
engagement is ‘nonengagement’ rather
than disengagement or perhaps even burn-
out; Gonzalez-Roma, Schaufeli, Bakker, &
Lloret, 2006). Rather, we simply choose to
arbitrarily exclude from consideration
models of behavior that focus on with-
drawal, maladaptive behavior, or other dis-
engagement phenomena.
Sources of Confusion:
State, Trait, or Behavior?
As a folk term, engagement has been used to
refer to a psychological state (e.g., involve-
ment, commitment, attachment, mood), per-
formance construct (e.g., either effort or
observable behavior, including prosocial
and organizational citizenship behavior
[OCB]), disposition (e.g., positive affect
[PA]), or some combi nation of the above.
For example, Wellins and Concelman
(2005a, p. 1) su ggested that engagement is
‘an amalgamation of commitment, loyalty,
productivity and ownership. As we shall
see, the use of engagement as a psychologi-
cal construct in the research literature is no
more precise; it is commonly used to refer to
both role performance and an affective state,
even within the same research context (for
an exception, see Kahn, 1990).
The reader may recognize that many
other important psychological constructs
have suffere d from a similar lack of precision
at early stages in their development. A par-
ticularly noteworthy example of such impre-
cision is job involvement (cf., Kanungo,
1982). Thus, the lack of precision in the
engagement concept does not imply that
the concept lacks conceptual or practical
utility. However, the concept would be more
useful were it to be framed as a model that
simultaneously embraces the psychological
state and the behavior it implies. In the
absence of such a model, including potential
antecedents and moderators, it does not
seem possible to either develop relevant
research hypotheses or apply the concept
in any meaningful way including the
design of surveys and the development of
organizational interventions based on sur-
vey results.
On a related point, confusion exists
because engagement is used by some to refer
to a specific construct (e.g., involvement,
initiative, sportsmanship, altruism) with
unique attributes and by others as a perfor-
mance construct defined as exceeding some
typical level of performance. For example,
Wellins and Concelman (2005a, p. 1) sug-
gested that engagement is ‘the illusive force
that motivates employees to higher (or
lower) levels of performance. Colbert,
Mount, Harter, Witt, and Ba rrick (2004,
p. 603) defined engagement in terms of a
‘high internal motivational state. Similarly,
Dvir, Eden, Avolio, and Shamir (2002, p. 737)
defined active engagement in terms of ‘high
levels of activity, initiative, and responsibil-
ity. Again, we see engagement defined both
attitudinally and behaviorally—and we sub-
scribe to both. However, both practitioners
and researchers must be clear about the kind
of engagement they are speaking about. We
will show later the varieties of engagement
constructs that exist. As we will also show,
the various conceptualizations of engage-
ment as state, trait, or behavior, as imprecise
as they may have been, are exceeded in
imprecision only by the various ways this
vague concept has been operationalized.
Toward Untangling the Jangle:
A Framework for Understanding
the Conceptual Space of
Employee Engagement
To move the discussion of what engagement
is to a more concrete level, consider the
overall framework for understanding the
various components that the engagement
construct might subsume (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 shows that engagement as a dis-
position (i.e., trait engagement) can be
regarded as an inclination or orientation to
experience the world from a particular van-
tage point (e.g., positive affectivity charac-
terized by feelings of enthusiasm) and that
this trait engagement gets reflected in psy-
chological state engagement. We conceptu-
alize psychological state engagement as an
Employee engagement 5
antecedent of behavioral engagement,
which we define in terms of discretionary
effort (e.g., Erickson, 2005; Towers-Perrin,
2003) or a specific form of in-role or extra-
role effort or be havior.
Figure 1 also shows that conditions of the
workplace have both direct and indirect
effects on state and behavioral engagement.
The nature of work (e.g., challenge, variety)
and the nature of leadership (especially
transformational leadership) are the condi-
tions that most interest us. Figure 1 shows,
for example, that work has direct effects
on state engagement (e.g., Hackman &
Oldham, 1980) and indirect effects as a
boundary condition (moderator) of the rela-
tionship between trait and state engage-
ment. With regard to leadership, Figure 1
shows it having a direct effect on trust and
an indirect effect through the creation of trust
on behavioral engagement (e.g., Kahn, 1990;
McGregor, 1960); more on Figure 1 later.
In our remaining comments, we outline
how various traditions and models within
the research and applied literatures fit the
model shown in Figure 1 and detail the
resulting implications. However, prior to
proceeding, it is important to note that we
do not choose a specific conceptualization
of engagement as ‘right’ or ‘true’ because
(a) this would not be useful at this early stage
in the development of thinking about
engagement; (b) any or all of these concep-
tualizations can be useful for specific pur-
poses; and (c) identifying these different
conceptualizations will help researchers
and practitioners have a firmer idea about
the locus of the issue when they work with
it. Our goal is to illuminate the unique attrib-
utes of prior research that most occupy the
conceptual space we would call engage-
ment so that future research and practice
can more precisely identify the nature of
the engagement construct they are pursuing.
Engagement as Psychological State:
Old Wine in New Bottles?
We begin our exploration of Figure 1 with
engagement as psychological state because
it is the state of engagement that has received
more attention, either implic itly or explic-
itly, than either of the other perspectives. In
addition, as both dependent and indepen-
dent variable in Figure 1, it is central to the
engagement issue.
Engagement as a psychological state has
variously embraced one or more of several
related ideas, each in turn representing some
form of absorption, attachment, and/or
enthusiasm. Operationally, the measures of
engagement have for the most part been
composed of a potpourri of items represent-
ing one or more of the four different
Trait Engagement State Engagement Behavioral Engagement
(Positive views of life and work) (Feelings of energy, absorption) (Extra-role behavior)
Proactive Personality Satisfaction (Affective) Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)
Autotelic Personality Involvement Proactive/Personal Initiative
Trait Positive Affect Commitment Role Expansion
Conscientiousness Empowerment Adaptive
Work Attributes
Figure 1. Framework for understanding the elements of employee engagement.
6 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
categories: job satisfaction, organizational
commitment, psychological empowerment,
and job involvement. We summarize the rel-
evance of each of these to the concept of
engagement. We then review some more
recent thinking about the state of engage-
ment, especially with regard to the affect of
that state. More specifically, it becomes clear
as our review unfolds that thinking and
research about engagement have evolved
to be both more precise and conceptually
appropriate. This clarity reflects an increas-
ing emphas is on absorption, passion, and
affect and a lessening emphasis on satisfac-
tion and perhaps also job involvement and
organizational commitment.
Engagement as satisf action. To some,
engagement and satisfaction are linked
directly if not regarded as completely iso-
morphic. Thus, Harter et al. (2002) explicitly
referred to their measure (The Gallup Work
Place Audit) as ‘satisfaction-engagement’
(p. 269) and defined engagement as ‘the
individual’s involvement and satisfaction
with as well as enthusiasm for work’ (p. 269,
italics added). The Gallup survey items
tap evaluative constructs traditionally con-
ceptualized as satisfaction facets, including
resource availability, opportunities for
development, and clarity of expectations.
Perhaps even more directly, some practi-
tioners (e.g., Burke, 2005) measure engage-
ment as direct assessments of satisfaction
with the company, manager, work group,
job, and work environment characteristics.
Others distinguish between an affective, or
emotional, component of engagement and
rational or cognitive elements, linking the
emotional compone nt to job satisfaction.
Thus, Towers-Perrin (2003) suggested that
‘the emotional factors tie to people’s per-
sonal satisfaction and the sense of inspira-
tion and affirmation they get from their
work and being part of their organization’
(p. 4, italics added). The reader mayalso note
that despite the emphasis on affect in many
definitions of satisfaction (e.g., Locke,
1976), contemporary job satisfaction mea-
sures are largely considered descriptive
(Brief & Weiss, 2002). Consider, for exam-
ple, the measurement of engagement with
the Gallup measure (Buckingham & Coff-
man, 1999; Harter et al., 2002) where the
items used to define engagement are all
items descriptive of the conditions under
which peop le work. The results from survey
data are used to infer that reports of these
conditions signify engagement, but the state
of engagement itself is not assessed—at least
insofar as one accepts our proposed co ncep-
tualization as one that connotes passion,
commitment, involvement, and so forth.
Erickson (2005, p. 14) articulated a view
consistent with our thoughts:
Engagement is above and beyond
simple satisfaction with the employment
arrangement or basic loyalty to the
employer—characteristics that most
companies have measured for many
years. Engagement, in contrast, is about
passion and commitment—the willing-
ness to invest oneself and expend one ’s
discretionary effort to help the employer
Interestingly, many traditional measures
of satisfaction include items that would
seemingly tap facets that fit our conceptual
space for engagement. For example, one
item included in Brayfield and Rothe’s
(1951) measure of job satisfaction reads,
‘Most days I feel enthusi astic about my
work. Enthusiasm is regarded as a marker
of engagement by some (e.g., Harter,
Schmitt, & Keyes, 2003) , and the relevance
of satisfaction is clear in that people invest
more time in roles they find enjoyable
(Rothbard & Edwards, 2003). Noneth eless,
the conceptual similarity of items used in
engagement and satisfac tion surveys indi-
cates confusion between the concepts.
Looking ahead to our later comments, the
lack of conceptual clarity in distinguishing
engagement from satisfaction parallels the
conceptual confusion in understanding the
different uses of the term ‘positive affect,
where the common use of the term broadly
encompasses the hedonic dimension of
pleasantness, happiness, or cheerfulness
yet is portrayed more accurately when
Employee engagement 7
characterizing a high level of activation or
energy and a state of pleasantness.
In fact, the measures of engagement we
have seen in use in the world of practice are
highly similar to the measures used for
assessments of job satisfaction (or climate
or culture), albeit with a new label. Although
there may be room for satisfaction within the
engagement construct, engagement con-
notes activation, whereas satisfaction con-
notes satiation (Erickson, 2005). In addition,
although ‘satisfaction’ surveys that ask
employees to describe their work conditions
may be relevant for assessing the conditions
that provide for engagement (state and/or
behavioral), they do not directly tap engage-
ment. Such measures require an inferential
leap to engagement rather than assessing
engagement itself. This has practical signifi-
cance because the advice the practitioner
offers management on addressing engage-
ment issues requires a similar inferential leap
all too evident to the insightful executive.
A very significant exception to this dismal
portrait is work being done in Europe by
researchers from Holland and Spain (Schau-
feli et al., 2006). They have designed and
validated (against customer satisfaction; Sal-
anova et al., 2005) a nine-item measure of
state engagement that defines three factors
that conceptually link to issues we will dis-
cuss next: dedication (i.e., commitment),
absorption (i.e., involvement), and energy
(i.e., positive affective state).
Proposition 1 summarizes the points
made with regard to the relationship be-
tween satisfaction and engagement:
Proposition 1: Satisfaction when assessed
as satiation is not in the same conceptual
space as engagement. Satisfaction when
assessed as feelings of energy, enthusi-
asm, and similarly positive affective states
becomes a facet of engagement.
Engagement as commitment. Some
practitioners define engagement in terms of
organizational commitment. For example,
Wellins and Concelman (2005b, p. 1) sug-
gested that ‘to be engaged is to be actively
committed, as to a cause. The Corporate
Executive Board (2004, p. 1) suggested that
engagement is ‘the extent to which employ-
ees commit to someone or something in their
organization, how hard they work, and how
long they stay as a result of that commit-
ment. In these and similar definitions, two
possible threads of reasoning are implied:
organizational and task/goal commitment;
we deal first with organizational commitment.
Commitment is regard ed as a psychologi-
cal state of attachment (O’Reilly & Chatman,
1986) or binding force between an individ-
ual and the organization (Meyer, Becker, &
Vandenberghe, 2004). In fact, the items com-
prising Meyer and Allen’s (1997) affective
commitment scale focus on the concept of
belonging, personal meaning, and ‘being
part of the family’ (p. 118), and the items
in Mowday, Porter, and Steers’ (1982) mea-
sure of organizational comm itment define
not only the concept of belonging but also
the additional concepts of effort and pride
(see Items 1 and 6, p. 221). In both cases,
commitment as a psychological state is
regarded as an antecedent of various organi-
zationally relevant outcomes, including var-
ious forms of prosocial behavior and/or
organizational/job withdrawal. Based sim-
ply on the commonly specified antecedents
and consequences of commitment and state
engagement, affective commitment must be
regarded as a facet of state engagement but
not the same as state engagement. Thus, as
we will show later, there are other facets
or psychological states (e.g., feeling psycho-
logically safe; Kahn, 1990) that make com-
mitment only one of a number of states that
legitimately comprise the full state engage-
ment construct.
It is important to note that the measures of
commitment cited (Meyer & Allen, 1997;
Mowday et al., 1982) are measures of the
psychological state of commitment and are
not descriptions of the conditions that might
yield that commitment. In this sense, they
clearly fit with our approach to the opera-
tionalization of engagement as psychologi-
cal state. By way of summary:
Proposition 2: Organizational commit-
ment is an important facet of the state of
8 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
engagement when it is conceptualized
as positive attachment to the larger orga-
nizational entity and measured as a will-
ingness to exert energy in support of the
organization, to feel pride as an organiz a-
tional member, and to have personal
identification with the organization.
Engagement as job involvement. At a cas-
ual level, job involvement as a construct
clearly occupies a portion of the conceptual
space labeled state engagement. Indeed, as
indicated earlier, Harter et al. (2002) specifi-
cally equated engagement with both satis-
faction and involvement. Similarly, building
on the work of Lodahl and Kejner (1965),
Cooper-Hakim and Viswesvaran (2005)
defined job involvement ‘as the degree to
which an employee psychologically relates
to his or her job and the work performed
therein (p. 244) and specifically equated
job involvement and job commitment. Simi-
larly, in his review and meta-analysis of job
involvement, Brown (1996) indicated that
a ‘state of involvement implies a positive
and relatively complete state of engagement
of core aspects of the self in the job’ (p. 235,
italics added).
Switching now to task engagement and
job commitment, these have been discussed
in the engagem ent literature albeit in a lim-
ited form. Erickson (2005) is one exception
who places the work people do as central to
the state of engagement. In his review of
transformational leadership, Bass (1999)
suggested that when the self-worth of the
individual is involved, higher levels of com-
mitment to the activity (i.e., job or task com-
mitment as opposed to organizational
commitment) follow from increased levels
of task engagement because a lack of com-
mitment to the leader’s goals would be dis-
sonant with the feelings of self-worth that
follow from goal attainment. Self-engage-
ment in this context refers to the willingness
to invest effort toward task goal attainm ent.
The difference between work as the referent
of engagement and the organization as the
referent of engagement is critical here, and
such a distinction is even more apparent
when discussing the relationship between
job involvement and engagement.
As noted earlier, Erickson (2005) de-
scribed the job as the key antecedent of the
state of engagement, so for her, engagement
or involvement in the task is critical to over-
all psychological state engagement. The key
referent of engagement here is the job, not
the organization. In addition, it follows that
the logical consequences of involvement
would be with regard to task/job outcomes
and not directly to organizational-level
In this regard, based on a comparison of
his meta-analytic results to those of Mathieu
and Zajac’s (1990) earlier meta-analysis of
organizational commitment relationships,
Brown (1996) concluded that job involve-
ment is an antecedent of organizational
commitment rather than a consequence.
He based his conclusion on the fact that the
relationship between involvement and vari-
ous work outcomes is typically weak, yet the
relationship between involvement and com-
mitment is quite strong. Brown further
concluded that organizational withdrawal
decisions are less related to job involvement
than to organizational commitment.
As was true for the concept of organiza-
tional commitment, job involvement is seen
in contemporary definitions of engagement
as a facet of engagem ent, a part of engage-
ment but not equivalent to it (Salanova et al.,
2005), and we would agree with this per-
spective. Within the broader research litera-
ture, Maslach et al. (2001) have proposed
that engagement can be characterized by
energy, involvement, and efficacy. As others
have done (e.g., Brown, 1996), these
scholars positioned job engagement as con-
ceptually distinct from organizational com-
mitment because the focus is on work
rather than the organization (much as job
commitment can be regarded as different
from organizational commitment) and as
different from involvement in that engage-
ment is a broader concept encompassing
energy and efficacy. On balance, it seems
appropriate to regard Maslach et al.s and
Salanova et al.s views of job engagement
as a broad multidimensional construct
Employee engagement 9
encompassing a family of related and more
specific constructs focused on individuals’
relationships with their work roles. By way
of summary:
Proposition 3: Job involvement (including
task engagement and job commitment)
as traditionally conceptualized and as-
sessed is an important facet of the psy-
chological state of engagement.
Engagement as psychological empower-
ment. Psychological empowerment has
been treated within both two- and four-
dimensional frameworks (Mathieu, Gilson,
& Ruddy, 2006). Within the two-dimen-
sional framework, Mathieu et al. (p. 98) sug-
gested that empowerment is the ‘experience
of authority and responsibility. Conceptu-
ally, empowerment defined in this manner
might be considered an antecedent or a con-
dition of engagem ent, and the reader can see
the conceptual slipperiness with which we
are dealing.
Indeed, any distinction between the state
of engagement and psychological empower-
ment becomes considerably less clear when
considering the four-dimensional model
suggested by Spreitzer (1995). These dimen-
sions include meaning (sense of purpose),
competence (self-efficacy), feelings of self-
determination (feelings of control), and
impact (belief that one’s efforts can make
a difference). These connote a readiness
and/or an inclination toward action that fits
our perspective of state engagement as ener-
gic (see below). Indeed, Spreitzer articulated
the idea that the four cognitions imply an
active way of ‘wishing to’ shape one’s work
role and context, a meaning clearly aligned
with folk conceptualizations of engagement.
In this perspective, the state of feeling
empowered, as represented in an orientation
toward action, would seem to occupy a por-
tion of the conceptua l space we would
regard as a state of engagement. Supporting
an interpretation of psychological empower-
ment as engagement, Spreitzer (1995) sug-
gested that outcomes of empowerment
include effort, persistence, and initiative.
We would include these as indicants of
behavioral engagement, a topic we consider
in detail later.
This discussion of state engagement as
feelings of empowerment leads us to the
Proposition 4: Feelings of empowerment
that connote an inclination to action
-vis work (feelings of self-efficacy and
control and impact from one’s action) com-
prise another facet of state engagement.
Summary: State engagement as old wine in
a new bottle. Job satisfaction, organiza-
tional commitment, job involvement, and
feelings of empowerment all can have rele-
vance for the state engagement construct.
The state engagem ent construct we have
presented to this point in the review is thus
a new blend of old wines with distinct char-
acteristics and ‘feel. More specifically,
although aspects of these older constructs
are relevant to state engagement (those con-
noting affect and feelings of energy), those
facets of the older constructs connoting sati-
ation and contentment are not.
The measurement of these older con-
structs in practice leaves something to be
desired with regard to the kinds of affect
and sense of energy the state engagement
construct we propose would requ ire. Some
measures of job satisfaction that have been
used to infer engagement are not affective in
nature at all and frequently do not connote or
even apply to a sense of energy but represent
conditions that might promote the state of
engagement (e.g., Harter et al., 2002), a topic
discussed in some detail later.
The next section of the review considers
in greater detail the affective nature of state
engagement. It will become clear to readers
that the state engagement construct is one
comprising not only facets of old wine but
those of new wines, too, with a focus on
affect. As we move further into the world of
affect that engagement connotes, ways in
which the old constructs and measures are
inadequate will become increasingly clear.
What will also become clear is that the state
engagement construct suggests a different
10 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
emphasis than is evident in the independent
discussion of these related constructs in the
traditional indust rial–organizational (I–O)
Engagement as Positive Affectivity (PA).
Engagement has been regarded by some as
a distinct affect ive state. Larsen and Diener
(1992) positioned PA as halfway between
(45 degrees to) the positive end of the acti-
vation dimension and the pleasant end of the
hedonic valence dimension, thus character-
izing PA as ‘activated pleasant affect’ (p. 31)
characterized by adjectives that connote
both activation and pleasantness. This dis-
tinction between PA with its high activation
component and pleas antness, which is neu -
tral with respect to activation level, is similar
to the one we made earlier when discussing
satisfaction and its relationship to en-
gagement. Although there is considerable
ongoing debate regarding the primary
dimensionality of affect (e. g., Russell &
Carroll, 1999; Watson & Tellegen, 1999),
our concern here is with regard to the
descriptors (markers) used to characterize
PA. PA markers for the Positive and Negative
Affect Schedule (PANAS) include among
others attentive, alert, enthusiastic, inspired,
proud, determined, strong, and active
(Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988, p. 1064),
precisely the kinds of descriptors occasion-
ally explicitly but more often implicitly used
in contemporary engagement definitions.
In keeping with Staw (2004), Larsen and
Diener (1992), Warr (1999), and others,
these markers of PA connote high levels of
activation. This is consis tent with the practi-
tioner literature. For example, within the
popular manage ment press, this is referred
to as passion and excitement (Wellins &
Concelman, 2005b) or simply emotional
engagement (Fleming, Coffman, & Harter,
PA is variously used to describe mood
states, more temporary and intense emo-
tional states, and as a dispositional trait, or
the tendency to experience events, circum-
stances, and situations more positively
(Thoresen, Kaplan, Barsky, Warren, & de
Chermont, 2003), further adding to the
potential confusion. By implication, some
people are dispositionally more prone to
be engaged, but for the present discussion
of states (compared with the later discussion
of traits) that is somewhat irrelevant; we deal
with antecedents of state engagement later.
Most interesting for present purposes is that
in the folk, practitioner, and researchers’
conceptual use of the term, engagement pre-
sumes a relatively stable state unlike the
implied ebb and flow of a transient psycho-
logical state. That is, engagement is
expected to be relatively constant, given
the continued presence of specific and rec-
ognizable job and organizational factors.
In what follows, other models of engage-
ment as an affective state are described,
some more and some less relatively persis-
tent and transient psychological states.
More immediately relevant to state
engagement at work, Schaufeli and his col-
leagues define engagement as a ‘persistent,
positive affective-motivational state of fulfill-
ment in employees that is characterized by
vigor, dedication, and absorption’ (Maslach
et al., 2001, p. 417). From a measurement
perspective, questionnaire items (Schaufeli,
Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma, & Bakker, 2002;
Schaufeli et al., 2006) tap constructs similar
to involvement and satisfaction but with an
additional emotional, energic, or affective
tone, suggesting a high degree of overlap
with PA: ‘I’m enthusiastic about my job’
and ‘I feel happy when I am working
intensely. The important considerations for
present purposes are (a) the distinct charac-
terization of persistence or stability, if not
consistency of experience of that state, and
(b) the elevated emot ional tone of the state
itself (Schaufeli et al., 2002).
In a related view, Shirom (2003) sug-
gested the notion of vigor as an affective state
experienced as a respons e to the character-
istics of the job. Shirom defined vigor as an
affective state but not a mood state in that
individuals can attribute their feelings of
vigor specifically to the job and the work-
place. He positioned vigor as the feeling of
physical strength, cognitive liveliness, and
emotional energy. Shirom’s measure of vigor
includes items such as ‘I feel energetic,
Employee engagement 11
‘I feel I am able to contribute ne w ideas,
and ‘I feel able to show warmth to others.
Shirom argued, and we agree, that vigor is
not equivalent to engagement behavior,
with the feeling of vigor being a psychologi-
cal state that, in combination with other pos-
itive affective states, can lead to engagement
Shirom positioned vigor within the affect
circumplex in a manner similar to though
not perfectly aligned with PA: a mixture of
moderate arousal and moderate pleasant-
ness. Furthermore, his conceptualization of
vigor is entirely consistent with the notion of
engagement as a relatively enduring affec-
tive state as presented here. Of particular
importance, he attributed the feeling of vigor
directly to workplace characteristics, espe-
cially the job itself. But it is useful to note
that, like Warr (1999), Shirom is ex plicitly
speaking about state engagement with
regard to work rather than state engagement
as a generic or general psychological state.
Proposition 5: PA associated with the
job and the work setting connoting or
explicitly indicating feelings of persis-
tence, vigor, energy, dedication, absorp-
tion, enthusiasm, alertness, and pride
occupies a central position in the con-
ceptualization and measurement of state
engagement. Conversely, measures of
psychological states that are devoid of
direct and explicit indicants of affective
and energic feeling are not measures of
state engagement in whole or part.
One can see in Proposition 5 a summary
of the role of job satisfaction, job involve-
ment, organizational commitment, and
empowerment in understanding state
engagement. Additionally, however, there
are the required importance and centrality
of the energic state and positive affectivity
that are central to the uniqueness of the state
engagement construct.
Engagement as involvement of the self.
In Proposition 5 and the prior discussion
and propositions, the affective feelings and
energic states referred to are with respect to
the job and the organization. Although com-
prehensive with regard to state engagement,
a significant omission involves feelings with
regard to the involvement of the self: self-
esteem, self-efficacy, and self-identity.
Kahn (1990), in an early and especially
insightful exploration of engagement, spe-
cifically suggested that ‘People can use vary-
ing degrees of their selves, physically,
cognitively, and emotionally, in the roles
they perform . . . the more people draw
on their selves to perform their roles . . .
the more stirring are their performances’
(p. 692). This is highly similar to the defini-
tion of involvement provided by Brown
(1996) and cited ea rlier. Kahn defines per-
sonal engagement as ‘harnessing’ of the
individual self with the work role. As such,
engagement is a binding force, similar to
commitment as defined by Meyer et al.
(2004), although Kahn (1990) also refers to
the expression of that self in task behavior.
Thus, the experience of personal engage-
ment encompasses elements of both
involvement and commitment as psycholog-
ical states and also a sense of personal iden-
tity in role behavior.
Kahn (1992) later elaborated on the con-
cept of engagement by implicitly differenti-
ating the notion of psychological presence
and engagement behavior. He suggested
that a true psychological presence at and
identity with work go beyond questions of
simple task motivation. Rather, true identity
with work reflects an ‘authenticity’ that
results in employees connecting with work
and addressing difficult issues (i.e., the
engagement behavior). It is from the experi-
ence of being psychologically present in
the work—that the work is a part of one’s
identity—that employee development and
productivity follow. Such behavioral
engagement follows because when psycho-
logically present, employees are attentive
and focused, connected (including the con-
notation of absorption), and integrated. The
‘experience’ of being integrated would
entail simultaneously drawing upon all of
one’s skills, abilities, and other personal
resources in order to respond to the demands
of a role. Kahn’s (1992 ) description of
12 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
psychological presence clarifies the distinc-
tion between the experiential state (psycho-
logical presence) and personally engaging
behaviors that may accompany that state.
Thus, engagement as behavior, a topic we
will move to shortly, is regarded as the man-
ifestation of presence, a psychological state.
Building on Kahn’s view, Rothbard (2001,
p. 684) operationalized engagement through
self-reported attention (e.g., ‘I focus a great
deal of attention on my work.’) and absorp-
tion (e.g., ‘When I am working, I often lose
track of time.’).
Proposition 6: State engagement addi-
tionally refers to the investment of the self
in the person’s work and the perceived
importance of work outcomes and orga-
nization memb ership to that person’s
A note on the durability of state engage-
ment. By definition, psychological states,
like engagement, have boundaries set in
time (Weiss & Kurek, 2003). Different per-
spectives of engagement as a psychological
state might vary in the limi ts placed on these
boundaries but (a) time frames are rarely if
ever explicitly referred to in perspectives
related to engagement like those we have
described here, and (b) the previous litera-
tures referred to seem to implicitly assume
a relatively durable engage ment state. Thus,
we unfortunately do not yet have either ap-
propriate conceptual boundaries or adequate
operationalization of those boundaries.
Within the notion of a ‘mind-set,
engagement can be considered a relatively
enduring state and one that serves to explain
persistence as well as direction of job and
organizationally focused behavior. As such,
individual measures of engagement should
be relatively stable, and intra-individual dif-
ferences would be considered a reflection of
measurement error. However, engagemen t
can also be represented as a temporary tran-
sient state. Here, engagement measures
would be expected to fluctuate, representing
the daily ebb and flow of experiences in
response to the work environment or other
aspects of personal life. Given these distinc-
tions, it would seem important for measures
of engagement to bound survey items in
time—perhaps explici tly asking respondents
how often they have specific engagement
feelings and experiences and how long they
persist to provide data on the possible
transient nature versus the durability of the
In both conceptualizations, engagement
can be viewed as a causal antecedent of
organizationally relevant behavior and out-
comes. Distinguishing the short- and long-
term characterizations of state engagement
serves to highlight the observation that either
the focus of engagement must be regarded as
varying in salience over time (if engagement
is a relatively enduring mind-set; see Meyer
et al., 2004) or engagemen t itself varies.
In either case, a comprehensive engagement
model should provide a theoretical basis for
understanding intra-individual variance in
engagement and/or engagement-related
outcomes. For example, Sonnentag (2003)
demonstrated that engagem ent (vigor,
absorption, and dedication) varies around
an average or ‘trait’ level (trait here might
be better interpreted as a state with longer
term boundaries) and that significant varia-
tion in state engagement can be accounted
for by off-work recovery opportunities. In
a related vein, depletion theories of the ef-
fects of multiple-role obligations (Rothbard,
2001) suggest that there is a limited amount
of energy people possess that they can share,
suggesting in turn that engagement in some
roles comes at the expense of engagement in
other roles. Such a view strongly implies
considerable intra-individual variance. We
will not further consider state engagement
in its transient form and will write in what
follows under the assumption that state
engagement is relatively durable over time,
with work and organizational conditions as
well as personal traits (all to be considered
soon) supporting this durability in time.
Summary: Engagement as state. We have
now reviewed the many ways in which the
psychological state of engagement has been
conceptualized and measured. Although
there is considerable variability in concepts
Employee engagement 13
and measures, there appears to be consider-
able agreement that engagement as a state
has a strong affective tone connoting, at
a minimum, high levels of involvement (pas-
sion and absorption) in the work and the
organization (pride and identity) as well as
affective energy (enthusiasm and alertness)
and a sense of self-presence in the work.
Existing measures of the more traditional
concepts of satisfaction, job involvement,
and organizational commitment frequently
contain items referring to affect, energy, and
identity. Therefore, we would expect that
measures designed to tap state engagement
more directly will correlate significantly
with them. To be more precise, we would
expect correlations in the range of .50 among
these measures but further hypothesize that
if such measures are included with the one
designed to specifically tap state engagement
as represented in Propositions 1–6, an obli-
que factor analysis of the resultant items
would yield an engagement factor that
includedthe more affective and energic items
and be distinguished from the other items.
Importantly, we do not conceive of a mea-
sure of state engagement to be necessarily
incomplete if any facet of engagement as
described in Propositions 1–6 is missing.
Rather, these facets as we have positioned
them and as they have been characterized
in the I–O literature should be regarded as
representative of the affective and energic
aspect of state engagement.
We have carefully argued that the state of
engagement that results in and/or accompa-
nies engagement behavior differs from that
behavior. The separate focus on behavior is
critical as it is key to the distinction between
psychological outcomes that are personally
relevant and those that are organizationally
relevant. These organizational consequences
obviously must emerge from the states being
reflected in engagement behaviors, the topic
to which we turn next.
Engagement as Behavior:
An Introduction
Within our model, engagement can be
regarded as a directly observable behavior
in the work context. Clearly, the scope of
engagement is something less than the entire
domain of be havioral work performance
and thus begs the question as to how it differs
from any other form of performance-related
behavior. To this point, within the folk mean-
ing of the term, engagement implies some-
thing special, extra, or at least atypical.
Having said that, it is conceivable that an
entire organization may have behaviorally
engaged employees with the frame of refer-
ence being other organizat ions, and/or
within an organization, some employees
may be engaged more than others—with
other empl oyees within the organization
being the frame of reference.
Thus, it is common to define employee
engagement as putting forth ‘discretionary
effort, defined as extra time, brainpower,
and energy (Towers-Perrin, 2003), with the
frame of reference implied but perhaps not
having been made explicit. Others refer to
‘giving it their all’ (Bernthal, 2004), and
some combine effort with commitment in
the definition (e.g., Corporate Executive
Board, 2004; Wellins & Concelman,
2005a) with similarly somewhat ambiguous
frames of reference. A caution then is that the
frame of reference for the measurement of
engagement behaviors be specified.
As to engagement behaviors reflecting
‘effort, unfortunately effort has been an elu-
sive and ill-defined construct in the litera-
ture. Traditionally, effort has been regarded
as comprising (a) duration, (b) intensity, and
(c) direction (Campbell & Pritchard, 1976;
Kanfer, 1990). Campbell (1990) suggested
‘demonstrating effort’ as one of the dimen-
sions of a taxono my of performance and
defined the dimension as consistency of per-
formance, maintaining work levels under
adverse conditions, and in other ways,
expending extra effort when required—all
of which speak strongly to the issue of per-
sistence. However, translating the notion of
extra effort into measurement terms has been
a challenge. Brown and Leigh (1996) found
little guidance in the literature regarding
how to measure effort and wrote items to
reflect both time commitment (e.g., ‘Other
people know me by the long hours I keep,
14 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
p. 367) and work intensity (e.g., ‘When I
work, I really exert myself to the fullest,
p. 367). Van Scotter and Motowidlo (1996)
measured job dedication, a higher order
dimension of OCB, by gathering supervisory
ratings of employees putting in extra time
and effort as well as demonstrating persis-
tence and initiative.
A construct related to effort is ‘role invest-
ment’ (Lobel, 1991; Rothbard & Edwards,
2003), which is typica lly operationalized in
terms of time spent— again the issue of per-
sistence—performing specific activities.
Rothbard and Edwards demonstrated that
people are more likely to invest their time
in roles that are import ant to them in terms
of their self-identity, even when the utilitar-
ian value of the investment is held constant.
Thus, consistent with self-concordance the-
ory (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999), people will-
ingly contribute their time when their roles
are consistent with their personal goals and
when they see themselves invested in their
role performance.
From our perspective, it is limiting to
define engagement solely in terms of ‘extra
effort, that is, just doing more of what is
usual. Kahn (1990), for example, suggested
that those who are psychologically present
bring more of themselves to their work, tran-
scending typical boundaries in relating to
others and thereby doing something differ-
ent and not just something more. Similarly,
Brown (1996) suggested that involvement
might lead to both doing things ‘smarter’
and investing greater effort. Thus, highly
engaged employees might exemplify behav-
ior both qualitatively and quantitatively dif-
ferent from those less engaged.
Summary. The notio n of extra effort is
a compelling one in that it implies that
employees possess a reservoir of en ergy from
which they can draw should they so choose;
organizations that learn how to harness this
potential will likely enjoy distinct compe-
titive advantage. Nonetheless, defining
engagement as ‘extra’ or ‘discretionary’
effort presents a challenge for at least four
reasons. First and most importantly, effort is
not easily defined, and there is little evi-
dence of construct validity of corresponding
measures (Brown & Leigh, 1996). Second,
extra effort is an overly limiting view of
engagement if it simply connotes doing
more of the same; what may be most impor-
tant is doing something different. Third,
‘extra’ or ‘atypical’ implies a reference or
standard that is generally left unspecified.
Fourth, discretion in itself is a complex issue,
leading to ambiguous boundary conditions
on the meaning of engagement. However,
there is more here than simple persistence
or responsiveness to the demands of the
moment. More specifically:
Proposition 7: Engagement behaviors
include innovative behaviors, demon-
strations of initiative, proactively seeking
opportunities to contribute, and going
beyond what is, within specific frames of
reference, typically expected or required.
Engagement as Extra-Role Behavior
When we think of engagement behaviors
this way, that is, in terms of the behaviors
that extend beyond typical or expected in-
role performance, three major threads of
research are relevant to this notion. These
include OCB and related variants (proso cial
behavior, contextual performance, and
organizational spontaneity; see Organ, Pod-
sakoff, & MacKenzie, 2006), role expansion
and the related constructs of proactive
behavior (Crant, 2000), and personal initia-
tive (Frese & Fay, 2001).
The reader may note that unlike the liter-
ature addressing engagement as a psycho-
logical state, the relevant literatures we will
now discuss do not use the term engage-
ment. However, it will become clear that
these theoretical and research threads are
directly applicable to our search for an
engagement behavior definition, and we
begin the discussi on with OCB.
Engagement as OCB. Early theoretical
work on OCB emphasized the discretionary
nature of certain behaviors that were
regarded as essential to organizational suc-
cess but not formal ly defined as part of the
Employee engagement 15
job and therefore not explicitly rewarded.
More recently, conceptual problems have
been discussed in the literature regarding
limiting discretion to extra-role behaviors,
and the working definition of OCB has been
modified to include those behaviors that
support or in some way enhance the social
and psychological environment essent ial for
individual task performance (Organ, 1997), a
term more closely aligned with the meaning
of contextual performance (LePine, Erez, &
Johnson, 2002). Although the dimensionality
of OCB has recently been questioned, the
original behaviors comprising OCB can be
conceptualized as falling into the larger
themes of support for others, organizational
support, and conscientiousness (Borman,
2004; LePine et al., 2002). Note that the
behaviors falling within the latter category
imply doing ‘something extra, a notion con-
sistent with a folk definition of employee
engagement (e.g., ‘going the extra mile’’)
and distinct from the notion of simply raised
levels of job facet performance, functional
participation (Van Dyne, Graham, & Dien-
esch, 1994), self-discipline (Van Scotter &
Motowidlo, 1996), or generalized compli-
ance (LePine et al., 2002).
One conceptual challenge in considering
OCB as engagement (i.e., as doing some-
thing extra) arises in addressing the issue of
whether employee engagement refers ex-
clusively to going ‘above and beyond. The
significance of the issue resides in the obser-
vation that the boundaries between in-role
and extra-role performance are weak at best.
Vey and Campbell (2004), for example, dem-
onstrated that certain forms of OCB (consc i-
entiousness and courtesy) were more likely
to be considered in-role by a panel of survey
respondents with supervisory experience.
Fundamentally, the conceptual issue is
whether the behavior of interest must be dis-
cretionary—the person made a choice to do
it—to be considered an example of engaged
behavior. This would require all behaviors to
be evaluated for the degree to which they
involved making a choice to do more, to
do something different, and so forth. We
conclude from an OCB perspective that
engaged behavior is a behavior that, given
specific frames of reference, goes beyond
what is typically or normally displayed or
expected and that attributions about
whether the behavior was discretionary or
not are unnecessary. We acknowledge that
this places a conditional value on such
behaviors—they may be normal or typical
in some circumstances (some groups and
some companies), whereas the same behav-
ior may be unusual in other circumstances.
As we have noted earlier, ‘atypical’ implies
a frame of reference. That frame of reference
may originate in a variety of ways; attempts
here at greater precision are not use ful.
For example, Meyer et al. (2004) sug-
gested that under circumstances where fail-
ure to perform a task as usual might be
excused because of extraordinary cond i-
tions, otherwise in-role behaviors might be
considered extra-role. This implies that cer-
tain conditions allow for freedom of choice
as to whether to engage in certain task
behaviors; engagement, as in ‘doing some-
thing extra, would be considered doing
what is normal when normal conditions do
not apply. However, defining engagement
behavior exclusively in such a manner
would seem limiting in that it begs the ques-
tion as to the frequency with which opportu-
nities to demonstrate such beh aviors arise.
By way of summary, the ‘going beyond’
label associated with the OCB construct is
an attractive one, and we use it as a basis for
defining one facet of engaged behavior as
going beyond the ordinary, yield ing:
Proposition 8: Engagement behavior
includes actions that, given a specific
frame of reference, go beyond what is typ-
ical, usual, ordinary, and/or ordinarily
We say that engagement behavior is
inclusive of behaviors norma lly character-
ized as OCB, implying that there are other
behaviors that reveal other facets of engage-
ment, and we turn to one of these, role
expansion, next.
Engagement as role expansion. Role
expansion is not a part of the OCB
16 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
landscape, but it has recently been
addressed as extra-role behavior, and we
see it as another indicant of behavioral
engagement. The choice to perform extra-
role tasks can be regarded as role expansion.
Coyle-Shapiro, Kessler, and Purcell (2004),
for example, suggested that an individual
might perform certain behaviors motivated
by the norm of reciprocity, paying back for
having been treated well, whereas another
might simply consider that behavior part of
their job. In either case, of course, the
observer of the same behavior may also
make different attributions about the causes
of it, but it is still seen as a positive behavior.
Once again, it is clear that the definition of
going beyond is a relative one depending
upon the vantage point from which the
behavior emerges, but observers can appar-
ently agree on these behaviors without refer-
ence to the attributions they might make
about their causes (Organ et al., 2006).
Morgeson, Delaney-Klinger, and Hem-
ingway (2005) demonstrated that within
homogenous job families, some employees
perform a greater breadth of tasks than others
and found that role breadth was related to
the autonomy accorded to workers as well
as cognitive ability. Conte, Dean, Ringen-
bach, Moran, and Landy (2005) found that
within a relatively homogenous occupa-
tional group (travel agents), organizational
commitment and job satisfaction wer e both
related to the frequency with which agents
were rated as working at a narrow versus
a wide variety of tasks, the latter revealing
role expansion. Thus, role expansion by def-
inition implies behavior that is atypical in
a comparative sense (or else it would not
be expansion) and has been found to be
related to self-efficacy (Parker, 1998) as well
as autonomy and cognitive ability (Morgeson
et al., 2005). We will have more to say about
the conditions that get reflected in engage-
ment behaviors, both personal conditions
and contextual conditions, later. For now:
Proposition 9: Role expansion, behavior
that reveals attention to a wider range of
tasks than is typical or usual, is a facet of
engagement behavior.
Engagement as proactive behavior and
personal initiative. As mentioned earlier,
Dvir et al. (2002) defined active engagement
(what we are calling behavioral engage-
ment) in terms of initiative as well as activity
and responsibility. Although not referencing
the term engagem ent, Frese and his col-
leagues (Frese & Fay, 2001; Frese, Kring,
Soose, & Zempel, 1996) have suggested that
personal initiative comprises three facets:
self-starting, proactivity, and persistence.
Essential to Frese’s viewpoint is that these
three aspects refer to behaviors that go
beyond expectations. Frese and Fay ana-
lyzed in considerable detail the logical
issues that surface when discussing expect-
ations and conclude that personal initiative
implies going beyond what is normal or
obvious. As Frese and Fay suggested, this
may vary by level within the organization
and by the organizational context in which
the behavior occurs, so there is again the
issue of the conditional natur e on whether
a specific form of engagement behavior will
always be seen as being unexpected, going
beyond, and so forth.
A similar emphasis on proactivity has been
offered by Crant (2000; Bateman & Crant,
1993), Morrison and Phelps (1999; referred
to as ‘taking charge’’), and Parker (1998; ‘role
breadth self-efficacy’’). Like Frese and Fay
(2001), Crant (2000) emphasized the impor-
tance of personal characteristics as well as
situational characteristics as antecedents of
the behavior. Morrison and Phelps (1999)
and Parker (1998, 2003), in contrast, empha-
sized the importance of situational cues. We
will say more about the dispositional nature
of engagement later as well as conditions
under which they are more likely. For present
purposes, the critical feature of these views
is the common emphasis on proactivity and
initiative compared to role prescriptions as
the behavior of interest.
Morrison and Phelps (1999) specifical ly
suggested the noti on of taking charge as
a means of extending what they viewed to
be an overly na rrow interpretation of OCB,
namely, a focus on maintaining the status
quo. In contrast, Morrison and Phelps and
Kahn (1992) emphasized the value of
Employee engagement 17
employee-driven change for the success of
the organization. That change can be in
response to something existing or antici-
pated. What these behaviors share is a com-
mon emphasis on adaptation. Importantly,
unlike the notion of adaptive behavior that
has an employee-driven focus (e.g., Miller
and Rosse, 2002), the focus here is on adap-
tive behavior in response to job and organi-
zational challenges and opportunities. This
is similar in notion to that of LePine and Van
Dyne (2001), although their emphasis was
on voice as a manifestation of ‘constructive
change-oriented communication’ (p. 326).
Viewing engagement as organizationally
focused adaptive beh avior is consistent with
the recent increasing emphasis on the
changing nature of work, the dynamic
nature of job roles, and the active nature of
responding to problems and events in the
business environment (e.g., Ilgen & Pulakos,
1999). Here, the emphasis is still on the
choice of behavior, but the beh avior of inter-
est has an adaptive and proactive focus.
Thus, this view of employee engagement
might encompass certain dimensions of
adaptive performance as suggested by
Pulakos, Arad, Donovan, and Plamondon
(2000). Also, reflecting the emphasis of Frese
and Fay (2001) on the action orientation of
initiative, it would also seem that an adap-
tive definition of engagement would more
readily align with nonpassive behaviors,
calling into que stion whether conscientious-
ness and courtesy as defined within tradi-
tional OCB resea rch would appropriately
be considered components of engagement.
Interestingly, the common interpretation of
engagement suggests that those behaviors
that are more likely regarded as passive
(e.g., conscientiousness; Parks & Kidder,
1994) may also be more likely to be consid-
ered in-role than extra-role (Vey & Camp-
bell, 2004).
Thus, engagement as adaptive behavior is
a useful concept for describing a range of
behaviors that support organizational effec-
tiveness. What is common is the fundamen-
tal notion that engagement behaviors are
discretionary (not prescribed) in that they
go beyond preserving the status quo and
instead focus on initiating or fostering
change in the sense of doing something more
and/or different, whether in response to
a temp orary condition or a more permanent
solution to a perceived existing organiza-
tional challenge. Engagement behavior
viewed this way is clearly an aggregate mul-
tidimensional construct, in the sense that
contextual performance (Motowidlo, 2000)
and OCB (Organ et al., 2006) are also mul-
tidimensional in nature. However, the
emphasis here is not on all behavior that
contributes to the social, psychological, or
organizational functioning of the organiza-
tion. Rather, the emphasis is on those behav-
iors that represent responses (or anticipatory
responses) to organizational challenges:
doing more of what needs to be done, chang-
ing whatneeds to be changed, and/oractively
resisting change to the status quo when that
change would result in diminished organiza-
tional effectiveness. In other words, average
task performance does not (typically) define
engagement; coming to work on time does
not (typically) define engagement; and doing
what one’s boss expects one to do does not
(typically) define engagement.
The notion of engagement as adaptive
behavior is entirely consistent with Kahn’s
positioning of psychological presenc e and
its behavioral manifestation as engagement
behavior. Specifically, Kahn (1992) empha-
sized the adaptive requirements of modern
organizations, suggesting that the compet i-
tive business environment requires individ-
uals who direct their efforts to reflecting on
what is necessary to create change so that
their organ izations can be increasingly com-
petitive and effective.
A fundamental aspect of our positioning
of behavioral engagement is that it is strate-
gically focused an d is bounded by purpose
and organizational relevance.
Proposition 10: Behavioral engagement
is adaptive behavior intended to serve
an organizational purpose, whether to
defend and protect the status quo in
response to actual or anticipated threats
or to change and/or promote change in
response to actual or anticipated events.
18 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
Summary. Behavioral engagement, like
state engagement, has numerous facets to
it. Behavioral engagement is simultaneously
citizenship behavior (OCB), role expansion,
proactive behavior, and demonstrating per-
sonal initiative, all strategically focused in
service of organizational object ives. Many
of the facets reviewed and comprising
behavioral engagement contain the notion
of ‘going beyond the usual or typical and,
as such, imply a frame of reference for such
judgments. Frames of reference can be other
individuals, other groups/teams, and/or
other organizations so that the members
of groups and organizations can be said
to demonstrate behavioral engagement.
Behavioral engagement has to do with per-
formances that are adaptive a nd innovative
and in that sense not usual or typical, and the
behavioral engagement construct as we
have defined it has not been captured well
by the individual constructs that comprise
our definition. To more fully understand
these affective and behavioral dimensions
of engagement, it is useful to consider poten-
tial antecedents of these, and it is to such
consideration we turn next.
Antecedents of State and
Behavioral Engagement
We have shown to this point that there are
a variety of ways to conceptualize and
measure both state and behavioral engage-
ment. This explication of the various con-
they can pursue additional work, for exam-
ple, the relationships existing among the
various kinds of adaptive behaviors and/or
the various facets of state and behavioral
engagement we have explicated. It also
offers practitioners a conceptual founda-
tion on which to base decisions when con-
ducting engagement projects, especially
the design of the so-called engagement
But neither state nor be havior engage-
ment springs forth whole; both are obviously
dependent for their existence on still more
variety, this time variety in the personal
attributes of those who are engaged and the
conditions under which they work. So,
although it is easy to state that people who
have passion for their work are more likely to
engage in adaptive behaviors, it is more dif-
ficult to state why some people have passion
for their work and others do not and why in
some organizations passion characterizes
employees, whereas in other organizations
it does not.
In what follows, we first consider the
attributes of individuals that might yield state
and behavioral engagement, including how
such individual attributes might interact with
conditions encountered in the workplace to
produce engagement. Then, we detail the
main issues that have been discussed as the
work conditions necessary for engagement
to exist.
Engagement as a
Dispositional Construct
Within our structure depicted in Figure 1,
engagement can be regarded as a disposi-
tion, either as a personality characteristic
or more generally as a tendency to experi-
ence state affect over time. Additionally,
certain dispositional constructs have been
suggested as causal factors in proactive
behavior, personal initiative, and the experi-
ence of ‘flow. Four thre ads of research are
relevant to the notion of trait engagement,
and we address each in turn.
PA as trait engagement. The conceptua l
similarity of PA markers to the meaning of
engagement was highlighted earlier in our
discussion of engagement as an affective
state. In fact, trait PA would be a precise def-
inition of the engaged person (i.e., energetic,
enthusiastic). PA as a trait, or enduring ten-
dency to experience PA as state, has been
broadly considered in the organizational
behavior literature. Although PA has been
explored as a dispositional component of
job satisfaction, trait job satisfaction would
seemingly be more appropriately defined in
terms of the hedonic dimension of the affect
circumplex (Larsen, Diener, & Lucas, 2002).
Specifically, satisfaction or well-being judg-
ments can be regarded as a function of
Employee engagement 19
pleasant affect experiences at work (Brief &
Weiss, 2002).
Our reading of this perspective suggests
that PA would be considered more an indi-
cator of trait engagement than trait satisfac-
tion. Staw (2004) noted that items included
in PANAS are weighted to include those with
an activation component (e.g., enthusiastic
and attentive) rather than evaluative in tone
(i.e., happy, cheerful, pleased). A matter of
considerable confusion in the literature is
that PA is associated with feelings of ‘enthu-
siasm and excitement and not with happi-
ness’ (Huelsman, Furr, & Nemanick, 2003,
p. 658). Again, within that theoretical frame-
work, satisfaction and engagement would
be correlated but not equivalent. Trait
engagement (i.e., trait PA) would serve as
a predisposition to frame organizational
experiences and determine how the individ-
ual behaves in response to those experiences
(Larsen et al., 2002; Weiss, 2002).
It is worth noting that our logic that trait
PA is more relevant to engagement than to
satisfaction also suggests that state engage-
ment would be a stronger correlate of what
we have called adaptive behaviors than
would job satisfaction. Thus, one of the cen-
tral accomplishments of researchers who
study OCB and similar constructs was show-
ing that satisfaction is in fact related to
behavior. Our logic suggests that an even
stronger correlate of such adaptive behaviors
would be measures of state engagement.
Proactive personality as trait engagement.
As indicated earlier, Crant (2000) suggested
that proactive behavior is a product of both
dispositional and situational factors. Char-
acterizing proactive personality as the gen-
eral tendency to creat e or influence the
work environment, Crant (1995) demon-
strated that this k ind of personality is corre-
lated with sales success of real estate
professionals; other studies have indicated
significant relationships between the proac-
tive personality and career success (Seibert,
Kramer, & Crant, 2001). Moreover, Crant
(1995) found that proactive personality
accounted for variance in performance even
after considering the effects of both Consci-
entiousness and Extraversion (or trait PA in
Big Five terms).
Conscientiousness as trait engagement.
Roberts, Chernyshenko, Stark, and Gold-
berg (2005) investigated the hierarchical
structure of conscientiousness as repre-
sented in major personality questionnaires
and identified the proactive aspects of
conscientiousness to include both indus-
triousness and order. The former would
be characterized by individuals who are
‘hard working, ambitious, confident, and
resourceful’ (p. 119). Viewed through a
proactive lens, it would be expected that
conscientiousness would correlate with
measures of contextual performance, espe-
cially generalized compliance as a facet of
OCB, as was demonstrated in a meta-analysis
by Organ and Ryan (1995).
Autotelic personality as trait engagement.
The state of psychological engagement,
encompassing the notion of ‘flow’ or ‘being
present, has also been investigated in rela-
tion to the ‘autotelic’ personality. The auto-
telic personality refers to people who engage
in activities for their own sake rather than for
specific gains or rewards. Csikszentmihalyi
and his colleagues (see Nakamura &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2002, for a review) have
operationalized the autotelic personality in
terms of the Jackson Personality Research
Form factors of Sentience, Understanding,
Achievement, and Endurance, reasoning
that autotelic individuals should be open
to new challenges, persist in challenging
tasks, and be ready to engage, factors that
contribute to arriving at and maintaining
a state of flow.
Summary and partial integration. There
are clear points of view suggesting that state
engagement and engagement behaviors are
at least partially the result of dispositional
influences. More directl y, research on PA,
the proactive personality, conscientious-
ness, and the autotelic personality suggests
that trait engagement can be construed as
a broad dispositional construct and that
the markers of that construct are entirely
20 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
consistent with conventional definitions of
engagement (i.e., passion and activation).
Moreover, this view suggests that those more
likely to experience feelings of engagement
and who demonstrate engagement behav-
iors are also more likely to choose the envi-
ronments that provide the opportunity to do
so (e.g., Holland, 1997; Schneider, 1987;
Schneider, Goldstein, & Smith, 1995). That
is, consistent with the interpretation of
engagement as adaptive behavior, engaged
employees both select and proactively work
to create the environment in which these
behaviors will be encouraged and sup-
ported. Our proposition with regard to trait
engagement is therefore offered as:
Proposition 11: Trait engagement com-
prises a number of interrelated facets,
including trait positive affectivity, consci-
entiousness, the proactive personality,
and the autotelic personality. These all
suggest the tendency to experience work
in positive, active, and energic ways and
to behave adaptively (i.e., displaying
effort by going beyond what is necessary
and initiating change to facilitate organi-
zationally relevant outcomes).
Importantly, as shown in Figure 1, we
conceptualize trait engagement as more
likely distal than proximal causes of engag e-
ment behavior (Kanfer, 1990). George
(1991), for example, demonstrated that
mood PA but not trait PA predicted prosocial
behavior. Frese and Fay (2001) similarly
highlighted the distal impact of such person-
ality variableson personalinitiativebehaviors
and further suggested that such personality
characteristics influence orientations and
feelings (e.g., self-efficacy) and only then, in
turn, behavior. Thus, it is likely that disposi-
tional engagement interacts with situational
factors to determine engagement state and/or
behavior, and we turn to a consideration of
those situational characteristics now.
The Situation and Engagement
Much of the early work on engagement
placed the task as central to engagement
(Kahn, 1990, 1992). For some (e.g., Erickson,
2005), the attributes of tasks are still the key
issue for promoting engagement. Not sur-
prisingly, reference is made to the job char-
acteristics research program (Hackman &
Oldham, 1980) and work on the intrinsic
nature of rewards (i.e., the intrinsic nature
of tasks; Gagne & Deci, 2005) for specifica-
tion of some of the issues that drive passion,
commitment, involvement, and so forth.
Interestingly, althou gh the task is central, it
is the degree to which the person can imple-
ment his or her preferred self in the work that
is key—but certain characteristics of tasks
like autonomy, challenge, and variety seem
to have main effects for most people.
In addition to the task itself, the condi-
tions surrounding working havebeen a target
of practice and research. For example, in the
Gallup research program (emerging from
many consulting projects; see Harter et al.,
2003), a series of 12 key work conditions
was identified, which, when present, were
correlated with unit performance—the infer-
ence being that when these work conditions
existed, employees demonstrated engage-
ment behaviors that resulted in the improved
unit performance. These conditions are very
diverse, referring among other conditions to
attributes of the work, the boss, the availabil-
ity of resources, coworkers, and career prog-
ress issues. Gallup researchers deduced,
however, that there was an overriding issue,
management and the degree to which man-
agers made these things happen was key to
having a produ ctive work unit. Having this
insight resulted in an additional set of
research efforts to understand what differen-
tiated effective and ineffective managers,
especially with regard to scores those man-
agers received on the 12 items when their
employees were surveyed. A central answer
was the following: Effective managers are
those who get the work done with the people
they have, do not try to change them, and
attempt to capitalize on the competencies
their people have, not what they, the man-
agers, wished they had (Buckingham &
Coffman, 1999).
What is clear from the Gallup research is
that units that score more highly on the 12
Employee engagement 21
items have superior performance in terms of
productivity, customer satisfaction, reve-
nues, and turnover. However, the state and/
or behavioral engagement that these 12
items result in is not clear. But research on
transformational leadership helps under-
stand these relationships.
The relevant literature on transforma-
tional leadership provides examples of
engagement state and behavior that closely
align with conventional conceptualizations
of engagement, including an investment of
identity in the organization and work such
that there is a sense of passion for work as
well as the capacity to think independently,
develop new ideas, and challenge conven-
tion when no longer relevant (e.g., Bass &
Avolio, 1990; Dvir et al., 2002). Indeed, Dvir
et al. demonstrated that under transforma-
tional leadership conditions, soldiers will
engage in behaviors not in their personal
best interest, which the authors described
as self-sacrifice.
Proposition 12: State and behavioral
engagement are more likely under some
conditions than others with the nature of
the work people do and the leadership
under which they work central to their
choosing to be attitudinally and behavior-
ally engaged.
Some of the reasons why these condi-
tions seem to create state and behavioral
engagement have now been made clear.
Psychologically, it appears to follow that
when people have certain kinds of work to
do (e.g., the work has challenge, variety,
and autonomy) and when they work under
certain kinds of managers (e.g., the manag-
ers make expectations clear, are fair, and
recognize superior behavior), they feel
engaged and behave in adaptive and con-
struc tive ways t hat produce results that
were perhaps unexpected. Note that the lit-
erature on perceived organizational sup-
port would also be relevant here (Rhoades
& Eisenberger, 2002).
Central to the network of antecedent con-
ditions is trust. Engage d employees invest
their energy, time, or personal resources,
trusting that the investment will be rewarded
(intrinsically or extrinsically) in some mean-
ingful way. The fundamental motivation for
this may be instrumental based upon the
norm of reciprocity (Coyle-Shapiro & Con-
way, 2005) or social identity (Moorman &
Byrne, 2005). For example, Hui, Lee, and
Rousseau (2004) found in a Chinese sample
of employed MBA students that instrumen-
tality mediated the relationship between
relational contract obligations and five forms
of OCB. As the authors suggested, this sup-
ports the view that employees reciprocate on
the basis of an anticipated reward, whether
concrete or abstract. This suggests that the
important distinction may be between those
demonstrated behaviors that are performed
for more explicit and clearly defined contin-
gencies and those that are based on more
open-ended expect ations, where some
degree of trust is implied and strict regulation
of behavior is unnecessary.
It logically follows from this line of rea-
soning that trust (in the organization, the
leader, the manager, or the team) is essential
to increasing the likelihood that engagem ent
behavior will be displayed. Trust becomes
important even for intrinsically motivated
behavior, as the conditions that contribute
to the investment of self require what Kahn
(1990) identified as psychological safety.
This is the belief people have that they will
‘not suffer for their personal engagement’
(p. 708). One example of punishment for
extending oneself is ‘job creep, where ‘dis-
cretionary contributions (such as OCB)
become viewed as in-role obligations by
supervisors and peers’ (Van Dyne & Ellis,
2004, p. 184). Job creep does not yield trust,
so it does not yield engagement behaviors.
A second example would be performing
above the norms of a group and then being
socially punished as a rate buster.
Proposition 13: Feelings of trust mediate
the relationship between leadership
behavior and behavioral engagement
such that feelings of trust is the psycholog-
ical state between leader behavior and
behavioral engagement. Thus, leaders
create trust in followers, and it is the trust
22 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
followers experience that enables behav-
ioral engagement.
Person–Environment Fit Issues and
Implicitly, the discussion of trait engagement
and the conditions under which state and
behavioral engagement are more likely
leads to the thought that perhaps the traits
and the conditions interact, and we consider
that issue now. For example, building on
self-concordance theory (Sheldon & Elliot,
1999), self-determination theory (Ryan &
Deci, 2000), and self-concept–based theory
(Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993), Bono and
Judge (2003) equated self-e ngagement with
‘engagement with their work, suggesting
that employees who see their work as con-
sistent with their personal values will be
more engaged. This clearly infers the notion
of fit as the determinant rather than either the
individual attribute or the environment
alone as causal.
In the frameworks of self-concordance
and self-determination theories, motivation
(and, by extension, work motivation) reflects
a continuum ranging from complete external
motivation to co mplete internal or intrinsic
motivation. When the goals of the organiza-
tion (or leader) and the goals of the individ-
ual are entirely consistent, it follows that the
level of employee state engagement will be
higher and that a variety of ad aptive behav-
iors are likely to be displayed.
Kahn (1990, 1992) in particular saw the
interaction of the individual and the organi-
zation as central to issues of both state and
behavioral engagement. He noted that it is
when people can use their preferred selves in
their work that they experience being
engaged by that work (state engagement)
and also perform to their fullest capacities
(behavioral engagement). Kahn did not iden-
tify the dimensions of self that might be pre-
ferred, but he did indicate that these include
interests, values, and competencies. For
Kahn, the work itself is the focus of engage-
ment, for it is the attributes of the work with
which the preferred self is seen as interact-
ing; Ka hn (1992) called this psychological
presence as we noted earlier, clear ly sug-
gesting that such presence emerges as a func-
tion of the interaction of the person’s
attributes and the work he or she does.
There is strong evidence to indicate that
the organization itself, especially its goals
and values, can also be a source of attach-
ment and commitment that lead people to
identify with the organization as a whole
and, in turn, to display adaptive behaviors
consistent with its long-term interests. Earlier
called ‘organizational identification’ (cf. Hall
& Schneider, 1973) and later identification-
based commitment (O’Reilly & Chatman,
1986) and affective commitment (Meyer &
Allen, 1997), the key issue here is the fit of
personal values to organizational values.
Organizational identification, then, is a spe-
cific form of organizational commitment in
that it implies identity fit or identity matching,
a key issue in definitions of what the engaged
person might experience.
We pursue this issue of fit in some detail
because it has not characterized the research
on engagement. In brief, engagement prac-
tice and research might best be called
‘main effects’ research—implying that if
certain specific conditions are appropriately
altered, employee engagement will follow. It
may be more complex in that when a specific
combination of pe ople and con ditions
exists, what results is more a product of the
two than a simple addition. That said, we
offer the following by way of summary:
Proposition 14: Trait engagement inter-
acts with work and organizational condi-
tions to produce state and behavioral
engagement. Alternatively, work condi-
tions not only have a main effect on state
and behavioral engagement, but they also
may moderate the rel ationships between
trait engagement and state engagement as
well as relationships between state and
behavioral engagement (see Figure 1).
Summary Thoughts on the
Engagement Construct
The picture we have painted of engagement
comprises a complex nomological network
Employee engagement 23
encompassing trait, state, and behavioral
constructs, as well as the work and organi-
zational conditions that might facilitate state
and behavioral engagement. Although
engagement may at best fit what Law, Wong,
and Mobley (1998) described as a profile
model of a multidimensional construct, we
see engagement as not only a set of con-
structs but also a tightly integrated set, inter-
related in known ways, comprising clearly
identifiable constructs with relationships to
a common outcome. In what follows, first
we review our position as to why we believe
that psychological engagement differs con-
ceptually from other relevant constructs. We
follow with speci fic con clusions and recom-
mendations for research and practice.
We proposed that state engagement con-
cerns PA associated with the job and the
work setting connoting or explicitly indicat-
ing feelings of persistence, vigor, energy,
dedication, absorption, enthusiasm, alert-
ness, and pride. As su ch, state engagement
has components of organizational commit-
ment, job involvement, and the positive
affectivity components of job satisfaction.
Thus, we would predict that measures of
state engagement and these older constructs
would be significantly related. In addition to
the positive feelings noted, state engagement
also includes the sense of self-identity peo-
ple have with the work they do; work is a part
of how they define themselves and that in
which they are personally invested.
We focused extensively on which con-
ceptualizations of job satisfaction occupy
common conceptual space with state
engagement. In our view, state engagement
is characterized by feelings of passion,
energy, enthusiasm , and activation. This
reflects both the common folk wisdom
of the concept and the markers used to
reflect feelings of PA/high activation when
describing either trait or mood states (see
Warr, 1999). Although correlated with en-
gagement, satisfaction is sufficiently charac-
terized by a sense of well-being and
pleasantness connoting at best moderate
levels of activation or energy. It is the sense
of energy and enthusiasm in engagement
that makes the construct different, and this
is what executives wish to capture. This
implies that survey questions directed at sat-
isfaction, whether global or facet, havea mis-
placed emphasis. Questions such as ‘How
satisfied are you with the company you work
for?’ do not measure engagement.
We proposed that behavioral engage-
ment follows from state engagement and fur-
ther that it is most broadly defined as
adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior is
a useful concept for describing a range of
behaviors that support organizational effec-
tiveness. What is common is the fundamen-
tal notion that engagement be haviors are
typically not prescribed and that they go
beyond preserving the status quo and
instead focus on initiating or fostering
change in the sense of doing more and/or
something different. There are obvious refer-
ences in our conceptualization of engage-
ment behaviors to existing constructs such
as OCB and role expansion, but we had
a specific emphas is on proactive and per-
sonal initiative kinds of behaviors, leading
to our use of the label ‘adaptive’ to summa-
rize our position.
We acknowledged that what is normal
task behavior under some circumstances,
for example, everyday working conditions,
may be seen as engaged behavior under
other circumstances, for example, during
Katrina or other disasters and challenges.
So we finessed the specific behaviors that
characterize engaged behavior and assume
that under specific conditions there will be
agreement on what it is.
We pr opos ed tha t trait engagement
comprises a number of interrelated per-
sonality attributes, including trait positive
affectivity, consc ientiousness, the proac-
tive personality, a nd the autotelic person-
ality. These all suggest the inclination to
experience work in posi tive, active, and
energic ways and to behave adaptively in
displaying effort at going beyond what is
necessary and initiating change to facili-
tate organizationally relevant outcomes.
In these senses, trait engagement wou ld
be a significant cause of and be directly
related to state engagement and indirectly
to behavioral engagement.
24 W.H. Macey and B. Schneider
Our conceptualization extende d to work
and organizational conditions that might
enhance (moderate) these proposed rela-
tionships and to ways those same conditions
might directly facilitate and encourage state
and behavioral engagement. Doing work
that has positive mot ivational attributes
(Hackman & Oldham, 1980) and the pres-
ence of a transformational leader who
behaves fairly and engenders trust (Kahn,
1990, 1992) were the two conditions on
which we mostly focused. Thus, we would
hypothesize as shown in Figure 1 that (a) job
design attributes would directly affect state
engagement, (b) the presence of a transfor-
mational leader would directly affect state
engagement, and (c) the presence of a trans-
formational leader would directly affect trust
levels and, thus, indirectly affect behavioral
Thus, we think of engagement as having
some cost in the form of risk to the
employee. Our view is that organizations
must promote a sense of trust that employ-
ees will benefit from the psychological and
behavioral relational contracts in which
they enter with the organization. Promoting
a sense of psychological safety (Kahn,
1990; May et al., 2004) and emphasizing
fairness and other antecedents of trust may
be critical to the development of an en-
gaged workforce.
What we have not previously discussed is
the idea that, to at least some degree, there
are limits on the pool of energy and resour-
ces available to employees for state engag e-
ment on the one hand and behavioral
engagement on the other hand; sustained
levels of engagement will be difficult to
achieve. As Kahn (1992) suggested, psycho-
logical presence can be draining in terms of
the personal level of effort required, which,
depending on other demands on the individ-
ual, may not always be possible to sustain.
This is not to say that job satisfaction or other
forms of work attitudes we have considered
are invariant but rather that psychological
presence, activation, extra behavioral
energy, and the like represent an investment
on the part of the employee; satisfaction
presumes nothing of that kind. This is yet
a further characteristic that disting uishes
satisfaction and engagement.
Organizations, then, can have some, but
not complete, control over the competition
for people’s resources. Thus, Sonnentag
(2003) demonstrated the positive impact of
off-work recovery on engagement, but
Maslach et al. (2001) implied that very high
levels of engagement can cause burnout. At
the same time, there is some evidence that
behavioral engagement in one role may con-
tribute to higher levels of engagement in
other roles (Rothbard, 2001), perhaps impli-
cating the importance of dispositional fac-
tors in determining (a) cross-situational
consistency and (b) the degree to which high
levels of engagement yield positive versus
negative outcomes for people and their
Consideration of trait engagement here
implies a critical link between interventions
focused on the early stages of the employ-
ment period (i.e., ‘on-boarding’’) and other
management-driven activities that relate to
the development of state and behavioral
engagement at work. Thus, we would further
hypothesize that dispositional (trait) engage-
ment is a more significant determinant of
behavioral and psychological engagement
earlier than later in the employment life
Relatedly, engagement may be a conse-
quence of both environmental conditions
and dispositional characteristics and their
interaction. Not all investments in job design
and/or the training and performance man-
agement of leaders in organizations with
the goal of improving engagement levels will
be productive for all employees. We briefly
discussed this notion of the contingencies
under the heading of person–environment
fit and suggested that values fit in particular
might contribute to both state and behav-
ioral engagement.
Summary Thoughts on
Engagement Measurement
From both research and practice perspec-
tives, it is one thing to get the conceptualiza-
tion correct and another thing to get the
Employee engagement 25
operationalization correct. Most of the
engagement measures we have seen failed
to get the conceptualization correct, so the
measures do not, if you will, measure up (for
exceptions, see Salanova et al., 2005;
Schaufeli et al., 2002) . Especially in the
world of practice, we have seen measures
of what we have called conditions for
engagement labeled as measures of engage-
ment (Buckingham & Coffman, 1999), and
many measures used for years as indicators
of employee opinions have been relabeled
as indicants of employee engagement. The
latter has been true especially with mea-
sures of job satisfaction where there is little
indication of affect, energy, passion, and
so forth. As we noted earlier, any measure
that asks how satisfied a n employee i s with
conditions at or of work or asks about the
presence of particular conditions of or at
work is not a measure of any of the three
facets of the engagement construct we have
In a recent edited volume, Kraut (2006)
presented a number of chapters that are
instructive with regard to the measurement
of engagement. For example, Macey and
Schneider (2006) proposed that careful con-
ceptualization of constructs precedes any
operationalization, and they distinguish
among other things generic employee atti-
tudes (job satisfaction) and behavior (OCB)
from strategically focuse d attitu des (cus-
tomer orientation) and behavior (custom er-
focused engagement behaviors). Schiemann
and Morgan (2006) carefully delineated in
their article the issue of assessing strategi-
cally focused employee attitudes if the goal
is to provide information for use as a basis for
making change to achieve those goals. The
conclusion from these articles is to focus
the measurement on the construct of inter-
est; if engagement is the target, ensure that
the measure maps the content of the
In another chapter, Harter and Schmidt
(2006) used evidence they previously pre-
sented as indicating engagement correlates
with unit performa nce and treated the data
as if they indicated job satisfaction correlates
with unit performance—which is the same
measure with which they had assessed work
conditions but inferred engagement as noted
earlier in discussion of the article of Harter
et al. (2002). This highlights the point that to
some, the concepts are indeed interchange-
able. We agree with them that the unit of
analysis in employee survey and behavior
research and practice has been at the indi-
vidual level of analysis and that it is time to
add additional levels of analysis to the
research repertoire. The Gallup research
they reported is all at the unit level of an aly-
sis; they and other s (e.g., Schneider, White,
& Paul, 1998) continued to show that such
a change in the level of analysis reveals the
usefulness of employee survey data to man-
agers in terms with which they empathized.
In a world that is changing both in terms of
the global nature of work and the aging of the
workforce (Erickson, 2005), having engaged
employees may be a key to competitive
advantage. This will be especially true if we
can show how the engagement construct
produces effects at levels of analysis of con-
cern to management. As with all good
things, the challenge of establishing the con-
ditions for state and behavioral employee
engagement will be great. Once again, there
seems to be no silver bullet. The beauty of
this conclusion is that companies that get
these conditions right will have accom-
plished something that competitors will find
very difficult to imitate. It is easy to change
price and product; it is another thing to
create a state and behaviorally engaged
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... Engagement theory suggests that individuals are more likely to invest their time and energy in roles that closely align with their self-identity; however, when faculty enter department chair roles they adopt an additional temporary identity as leaders while remaining deeply committed to their research (Macey & Schneider, 2008;Gmelch, et al., 2017). Engagement and succession planning are therefore a recurring concerns since most faculty return to research and teaching activities after completing a five-to-six-year term in the role, rather than pursuing further leadership appointments (Boyko, 2009;Preston & Price, 2012;Gmelch & Buller, 2015;Mitchell & Eddy, 2015). ...
... In Canada, department chair appointments are typically facilitated by an academic recruitment committee that makes recommendations to a dean, and, in the vast majority of the cases, faculty are selected from within the department, although procedures allow for external recruitment (Boyko, 2009). However, internal applicants who step into the role out of a sense of duty or obligation may lack the engagement to commit to it with vigor which is associated with successful performance and job satisfaction (Dvir et al., 2002;Colbert et al., 2004;Macey & Schneider, 2008). ...
... Their comments seem to indicate that they successfully maintained these dual identities without limiting their engagement with the department chair role. The literature suggest that their use of the words "grateful," "energizing," "fortunate," and "stimulating" to refer to their experience in the role is a strong indicator of their psychological and behavioural engagement (Macey & Schneider, 2008). The finding, although consistent with the literature indicating that chairs are highly satisfied with their institutions and the role, exists in tension with the notion that chairs "feel plagued by excessive stress and unresolved conflict" (Cipriano & Riccardi, 2015b;Gmelch & Buller, 2015). ...
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One of the many important debates in the post-secondary sector is whether scholars are fit to lead universities. Effective leadership is important in all settings but particularly at these institutions because of their size, complexity, and dynamic social, economic, and political contexts. Having a thorough understanding of this context is considered indispensable for leadership success. This qualitative study explores the leadership development experiences of 17 department chairs at one research-intensive university located in Alberta, Canada. Department chairs are key university leaders who are accountable for many education, service, and research activities; they act as crucial links between institutional strategy and its implementation. Their development merits careful attention because entry into these leadership roles requires no prior training or experience, making them the least prepared leadership group at universities. The study findings revealed that leadership networks play a central role in the development of these leaders. These networks serve as valuable instruments that help them to enter and understand their role, develop new skills, and practise self-reflection. Furthermore, these networks facilitate the transformation of these scholars from researchers and teachers to academic leaders. Prior to this study, the influence of leadership networks on the development of academic chairs was largely unknown and had been only marginally described in the literature.
... B. Schneider and W. H. Macey (2008). Employee Engagement (EE) is a relatively new concept that has received much appreciation from human resource professionals. ...
The purpose of the study is to see how leadership styles affect employee engagement at the Ethiopian Army Foundation's headquarters in Addis Ababa. The study used a quantitative research method and a descriptive research design. Specifically, Simple Random Sampling and non-random, which are purposive sampling selection techniques. The primary datasets were chosen from 162 targeted populations. As a result, 115 respondents were chosen as a sample, and questionnaires were given, with 114 being retrieved and used. The study employed Gallup's Employee Engagement Q12 Survey for employee engagement rating scale and standardized Multifactor Leadership Questionnaires for leadership. Using the SPSS software version 25, the obtained data was transformed into descriptive statistics, namely, frequencies, percentages, and mean and inferential statistics such as correlation and regression analyses. The results of the research indicate that both transformational and transactional leadership styles have a positive and significant influence on employee engagement, according to regression analysis results. The researcher made recommendations for the EAFHQs based on the findings, which included offering the appropriate training as well as new strategies to apply both leadership styles because they positively influence employee engagement.
... The most compatible work engagement model for the millennial generation workforce is the key to the organization's success in winning the highly competitive business world in the industrial era 4.0 (Mulyati, et al., 2019). Macey and Schneider (2008) say that work engagement is a positive psychological state related to work which is characterized by a genuine desire to contribute to organizational success. Schiemann (2011) states that work engagement describes how far employees are willing to go beyond the minimum requirements of their role to provide additional energy or advocate (defend) their organization against other companies as a good place to work or invest. ...
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Indonesia has a demographic bonus where the millennial generation of employees is more dominant than the previous generation. Millennial employees as one of the organizational resources must be ready to face changes in order to improve organizational performance. There are various factors that can affect employee readiness for change, including job crafting and work engagement. This study aims to determine the effect of job crafting and work engagement toward the readiness for change among millennial. This study involved 150 employees, male or female, aged 23-39 years. The data collection method in this study used a Likert scale model using the Work Engagement Scale, the Job Crafting Scale, and the Readiness for Change scale. The results showed that partially job crafting and work engagement had a positive effect on readiness for change on millennial employees with t-count values of 6.375 and 2.851 with a significance of 0.000 (p<0.005). Simultaneously, the variables of job crafting and work engagement have a significant effect on the readiness for change of millennial employees with an F-count of 57.443 and a significance of 0.000; p<0.05). Job crafting and work engagement contributed to the readiness for change by 43.9% (R-square=0.439). a b c
... There has been much debate regarding the meaning and measurement of work engagement (e.g., Byrne, Peters, & Weston, 2016;Macey & Schneider, 2008;Newman & Harrison, 2008). Kahn (1990: 700) defined engagement as "the simultaneous employment and expression of a person's 'preferred self' in task behaviors that promote connections to work and to others, personal presence (physical, cognitive, and emotional), and active, full performances." ...
... Hewitt (2010) submits that engagement is the state of emotional and intellectual involvement that drives employees to put in their best at work. Engaged employees are energetic, enjoy work and are happy with their work environment (Macey and Schneider, 2008). Soane et al. (2012) conceptualised employee engagement as comprising three aspectsintellectual, social and affective (AE). ...