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This study investigates the associations between job stressors and accommodation (i.e., constructive and nondestructive reactions to negative behavior) in romantic relationships. We propose that situational constraints and workload negatively relate to self-regulatory resources that, in turn, are associated positively with constructive reactions and negatively with destructive reactions. To test our hypotheses, we surveyed 238 employees with online questionnaires twice on one workday. In general, results showed that job stressors were negatively associated with self-regulatory resources that, in turn, were associated with accommodation. In particular, situational constraints, but not workload, negatively related to self-regulatory resources. Self-regulatory resources were negatively associated with destructive reactions, but unrelated to constructive reactions. Self-regulatory resources mediated the indirect effect of job stressors on destructive reactions assessed with a scenario method. We discuss the importance of replenishing self-regulatory resources and suggest ways how to do so. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Running head: JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS 1
Love Won’t Tear Us Apart but Work Might: How Job Stressors Relate to Constructive and
Destructive Reactions to One’s Romantic Partner’s Negative Behavior
Dana Unger
ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Sabine Sonnentag
University of Mannheim
Cornelia Niessen
Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
Angela Kuonath
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
International Journal of Stress Management (in press)
Corresponding author:
Dr. Dana Unger
Department of Management, Technology, and Economics
ETH Zurich
Zurich 8092
Switzerland
dunger@ethz.ch
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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Abstract
This study investigates the associations between job stressors and accommodation (i.e.,
constructive and non-destructive reactions to negative behavior) in romantic relationships. We
propose that situational constraints and workload negatively relate to self-regulatory resources
that, in turn, are associated positively with constructive reactions and negatively with destructive
reactions. To test our hypotheses, we surveyed 238 employees with online questionnaires twice
on one workday. In general, results showed that job stressors were negatively associated with
self-regulatory resources that, in turn, were associated with accommodation. In particular,
situational constraints, but not workload, negatively related to self-regulatory resources. Self-
regulatory resources were negatively associated with destructive reactions, but unrelated to
constructive reactions. Self-regulatory resources mediated the indirect effect of job stressors on
destructive reactions assessed with a scenario method. We discuss the importance of replenishing
self-regulatory resources and suggest ways how to do so.
Keywords: job stressors, self-regulatory resources, accommodation, constructive and
destructive reactions, negative partner behavior, worklife interface
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
3
Introduction
After a demanding day at work, there should be nothing as sweet as home, especially
when a caring and loving partner is waiting for you. At home you can unwind from work,
recover from job stressors (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007), and enjoy the emotional and instrumental
support of your romantic partner (cf. King, Mattimore, King, & Adams, 1995). But imagine what
happens when your partner meets you with anger and annoyance instead of comfort and care.
After experiencing stress at work, will you still accommodatethat means, respond
constructively and non-destructively—to the negative behavior of your partner (Rusbult, Verette,
Whitney, Slovik, & Lipkus, 1991)? Reacting constructively and non-destructively to negative
spousal behavior is not merely a nice response pattern; it prevents romantic couples from ending
up in a conflict spiral, and it is beneficial for relationship survival (Gottman, 1998). Thus,
accommodation in romantic relationships is crucial for accomplishing one of the most important
relationship goals; namely, the maintenance of the relationship (cf. Parsons, 1951). Our study
examines whether one romantic partner’s job stressors negatively relate to his or her own
constructive and non-destructive reactions to the other partner’s negative behavior. We propose
that job stressors deplete the finite stock of self-regulatory resources and thus jeopardize spousal
accommodation at home. Self-regulatory resources are “an inner energy or strength” (Converse
& DeShon, 2009, p. 1318) which a person uses to exert control over the self and to “change the
way [it…] would otherwise think, feel, or behave” (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000, p. 247).
The goal of our study was to test whether self-regulatory resources mediate the negative
effects of job stressors (i.e., situational constraints and workload) on accommodation (i.e.,
constructive and non-destructive reactions to the negative behavior of one’s partner) within
romantic relationships. We contribute to existing research in two important ways. First, we aim
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
4
to investigate the association between job stressors and accommodation in romantic relationships
(Rusbult et al., 1991). To the best of our knowledge, previous research has not shed light on this
association. There are several studies that have looked into job stressors and their link to negative
behavior in private life (e.g., Bakker, Demerouti, & Dollard, 2008; Hoobler & Brass, 2006;
Restubog, Scott, & Zagenczyk, 2011), but these studies rarely have looked at one partner’s
reaction to the other partner’s behavior. Constructive and non-destructive reactions, however, are
crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship (Gottman, 1998). Moreover, it is conceivable that
escalating arguments at home might have a negative impact on the jobs of both partners because
experiences in the home domain tend to spill over to the work domain (Edwards & Rothbard,
2000). Therefore, it is important to better understand the relationship between stressors on the
job and accommodation behavior at home. We adopt the ego-depletion framework (Muraven &
Baumeister, 2000) and propose a process model with depleted self-regulatory resources as the
mediator between job stressors and accommodation. Knowing the mediators of the association
between job stressors and accommodation helps to identify potential interventions that can
attenuate negative effects (Muller, Judd, & Yzerbyt, 2005). Second, we aim to further reconcile
research on the work–life interface and self-regulation by explicitly addressing the ego-depletion
process (cf. Hagger, Wood, Stiff, & Chatzisarantis, 2010). The integration of these two
literatures is a fruitful endeavor because self-regulation is highly relevant within all life domains
(cf. Carver & Scheier, 1990) and, thus, also for the interface of work and private life. In this
study, we propose that dealing with job stressors draws on employees’ self-regulatory resources
that, in turn, make them unavailable when responding to negative partner behavior. As a
consequence, the reactions to negative partner behavior are less constructive and more
destructive. Accordingly, we propose a mediation model, which is depicted in Figure 1.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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How Job Stressors Deplete Self-Regulatory Resources
Job stressors are associated with strain and loss of resources in general (Hobfoll, 2001),
and with a reduction in self-regulatory resources in particular (Diestel & Schmidt, 2009). Self-
regulatory resources are needed to exert self-control (Muravan & Baumeister, 2000).
Accordingly, when using self-regulatory resources, people can suppress inner tendencies and
pursue long-term goals instead (e.g., refrain from eating a tempting cake). Self-regulatory
resources and acts of self-control are highly related but distinct concepts. Like a muscle, self-
regulatory resources become depleted when they are used (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000).
Consequently, individuals may lack self-regulatory resources when they face continual self-
regulatory demands—regardless of the origin of these demands (e.g., work, romantic
relationship). To replenish depleted self-regulatory resources and to undo this process of ego-
depletion, individuals have to rest and refrain from over-riding their reflex-like reactions. When
facing strain-evoking job stressors (Kahn & Byosiere, 1992), employees exert self-regulatory
resources in order to meet work-related goals despite these adverse conditions and other
competing goals (cf. Muraven & Baumeister, 2000).
We investigate the effect of (a) situational constraints and (b) workload on self-regulatory
resources. In choosing these two job stressors, we follow earlier research (Jex, 1998; Sonnentag,
Mojza, Demerouti, & Bakker, 2012) that has identified situational constraints and workload as
prototypically stressful experiences at work.
Workload refers to “the sheer volume of work required of an employee” (Spector & Jex,
1998, p. 358). When employees react to high workload demands with the expenditure of extra
effort, they have aversive experiences (cf. Kahneman, 1973). Consequently, they have to
overcome inner resistances and invest their self-regulatory resources when they are not willing to
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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lower their goal standards (Muraven, Tice, & Baumeister, 1998). Furthermore, workload is
related to the need to suppress one’s impulses to withdraw from the situation and the need to
ignore distractors (for instance, chatting with colleagues or watching Internet videos at work;
Diestel & Schmidt, 2009; Schmeichel, 2007). Both suppressing one’s impulses and ignoring
distractors depletes self-regulatory resources (Schmidt & Neubach, 2009).
To sum up, our first hypothesis reads:
H1: (a) Situational constraints and (b) workload are negatively associated with self-
regulatory resources.
How Accommodation Draws on Self-regulatory Resources
Like work, the home domain also draws on employees’ self-regulatory resources because
things do not always go as they should and, consequently, employees might find that their
romantic partner behaves negatively at least once in a while (Vinokur & Van Ryn, 1993). For
example, a romantic partner might be rude or might act in a thoughtless way. In such a situation,
only “a pro-relationship response […] can preempt the vicious cycle of negative reciprocity that
is characteristic of distressed relationships” (Finkel & Campbell, 2001, pp. 263-264). In
particular, accommodative behaviors (i.e., highly constructive and minimal destructive responses
to a partner’s negative behavior) prevent relationship conflicts from escalating. Because bad
experiences have more impact than good ones (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs,
2001, p. 323), escalating relationship conflicts may harm relationship quality substantially. Thus,
accommodation at home in order to avoid conflict escalation is crucial for maintaining romantic
relationships (cf. Gottman, 1998; Rusbult, Bissonnette, Arriaga, & Cox, 1998).
The accommodation process occurs in three steps. First, individuals appraise their
partner’s negative behavior. For those who are able to change the appraisal of their partner’s
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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negative behavior in the first place, constructive and non-destructive reactions are facilitated. For
instance, with respect to their partner’s laziness, employees could appraise it differently and not
regard it as an offense. Changing one’s thoughts and using different appraisals are by no means
without cost: They deplete self-regulatory resources (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). Second,
individuals suppress negative impulses when accommodating. These more or less strong,
negative impulses are very likely due to the widespread preference for reciprocity (Cropanzano
& Mitchell, 2005). Third, individuals show behaviors that are more constructive and less
destructive than the initially intended reaction that has been suppressed.
Whereas constructive reactions are defined as active attempts “to improve conditions,”
destructive reactions refer to actions that aim at “destroying the relationship” (Rusbult et al.,
1991, p. 53). Examples of constructive reactions include discussing the situation with one’s
partner or trying to resolve the problem; examples of destructive reactions include yelling back at
the partner or threatening to leave the relationship. Finkel and Campbell (2001) postulate that
motivational as well as ability factors bring reactions to negative partner behavior in line with
long-term relationship goals. Specifically, partners need to control themselves when
transforming automatic impulses into more constructive and less destructive reactions. While
performing this transformation, self-regulatory resources become further depleted. In line with
this idea, an experiment has shown that suppressing one’s emotions when watching a movie, in
contrast to letting emotions flow honestly, resulted in less constructive reactions to hypothetical
negative partner behavior afterwards (Finkel & Campbell, 2001). Changing the appraisal of
one’s partner’s behavior and refraining from reflex-like impulses in order to bring one’s behavior
in line with long-term goals requires self-regulatory resources (cf. Mischel, 1996). Therefore, we
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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propose in our second hypothesis that accommodation should be hindered when self-regulatory
resources are depleted:
H2: Self-regulatory resources are (a) positively associated with constructive reactions and
(b) negatively associated with destructive reactions.
In sum, after employees experience job stressors, they will struggle more with
accommodation because dealing with both job stressors and the negative behavior of one’s
partner draws on the same finite stock of self-regulatory resources. Thus, we propose indirect
effects of job stressors on constructive and destructive reactions via self-regulatory resources:
H3: Self-regulatory resources mediate the negative associations between (a) situational
constraints and (b) workload on the one hand, and constructive reactions on the other hand.
H4: Self-regulatory resources mediate the positive associations between (a) situational
constraints and (b) workload on the one hand, and destructive reactions on the other hand.
Method
Procedure and Sample
We tested our hypotheses with a sample of employees working in a broad range of
occupations. Our sample was approached by Respondi AG. This is an online panel provider that
operates in 10 European countries and offers bonus points that the respondents can use to
purchase goods (see also Selenko, Batinic, & Paul, 2011). The online panel provider constantly
monitors the integrity of its members (Stiglbauer & Batinic, 2012) and has strong quality
management. Respondi AG is ISO 26362 certified, meaning it was awarded a certificate for
being a quality online sampling provider because they, for instance, randomly draw samples
from the panel and they exclude cheating participants with inconsistent answers across the
surveys.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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Our study participants had to answer two questionnaires in total. In line with the
approach taken by Christian and Ellis (2011) who studied self-control processes within one day,
we asked our study participants to answer two questionnaires on a regular working day: a first
online questionnaire directly after work (Time 1) and a second some hours later in the evening
(Time 2), with an average time lag of 249 minutes (SD = 112 minutes). At Time 1, we requested
the respondents to have worked for at least six hours on that particular day. This condition was
met by 804 persons, of which 767 respondents (i.e., 95.5%) finished the first questionnaire. At
Time 2, 415 persons (i.e., 51.7% of the initial sample) responded to the second questionnaire. To
be included in the final sample, our respondents had to meet two additional requirements. First, it
was necessary that they had spent at least 10 minutes with their romantic partner
1
in the evening.
Second, they had to provide correct answers to six comprehension questions. We imposed this
requirement to identify any careless responses (ref. Meade & Craig, 2012). In sum, 238 persons
(i.e., 29.6% of the initial sample) met all requirements. Respondents in the final sample and
respondents whose data were dropped from analyses did not report different levels of situational
constraints (t(801) = 1.47, ns, d = 0.10), workload (t(799) = 1.06, ns, d = 0.08), or self-regulatory
resources (t(780) = 1.60, ns, d = 0.08).
Mean age of our respondents (57.6% males) was 40.85 years (SD = 9.61). Among all
respondents, 218 persons (i.e., 91.6%) worked as employees and 20 persons (i.e., 8.4%) were
self-employed. In total, 107 respondents (i.e., 45.0%) held a managerial position. Mean working
time was 8.39 hours (SD = 1.13). Two-hundred-twenty-seven persons (i.e., 95.4%) co-habited
with their partner and 147 respondents (i.e., 61.8%) were married. Mean relationship length in
our sample was 13.15 years (SD = 10.09).
Measures
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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All items were provided in German. In case there was no originally developed scale or
validated scale translation in German, we applied the back-translation method by Brislin (1970).
Job stressors and self-regulatory resources were measured at Time 1, with response scales
ranging from 1 = not true at all to 5 = very true. We assessed the situational constraints
participants experienced on the day of data collection with a four-item scale of Semmer’s
Instrument for Stress Oriented Job Analysis (1984; e.g., "Today, I had to work with outdated
information"). Cronbach’s alpha was .73. We measured participants’ day-specific workload by
using Spector and Jex five-item quantitative workload scale (1998) and adapting the items to the
particular day. An example item is “Today, there was a great deal to be done.” Cronbach’s alpha
was .90. Participants’ current level of self-regulatory resources was measured with the Brief
Self-Control Scale (Bertrams & Dickhäuser, 2009; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). The
original scale contains 13 items. We adapted the time frame of 10 items to the particular moment
(e.g., “Now, people would say that I have iron self-discipline) and disregarded three items that
could not be adapted in a meaningful way (e.g., “I say inappropriate things”). Cronbach’s alpha
of the measure was .76. These 10 items refer more to self-regulatory resources as a reservoir of
assets to be used to override impulses than to self-control as an actual behavior.
To test whether the variables measured at Time 1 represent distinct constructs, we
conducted confirmatory factor analyses (CFA). The results revealed that the measurement model
with situational constraints, workload, and self-regulatory resources as three distinct factors (χ
2
=
289.86, df = 144, RMSEA = .07, CFI = .91) showed a better fit than the best two-factor solution
(Δχ
2
= 104.70, Δdf = 1, p < .001) and the one-factor solution (Δχ
2
= 379.86, Δdf = 2, p < .001).
At Time 2, we assessed constructive and destructive reactions to negative partner
behavior. To account for a presumably low base rate of negative partner behavior, respondents
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
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had to report constructive and destructive reactions in two different ways—an approach that
helped us to test our hypotheses with two different methods. First, to measure actual constructive
and destructive reactions, we asked respondents at Time 2 to fill in whether their romantic
partner had behaved in a negative way during the particular evening (Rusbult et al., 1991). In
total, 82 participants reported that their partner showed at least one of the following behaviors:
doing something thoughtless, saying something mean, behaving in an unpleasant manner, or
being rude. We measured the actual constructive and destructive reactions to these behaviors
with an adapted three-item voice measure and an adapted three-item exit measure of the Rusbult
et al.’s (1991) accommodation scale. An example item of constructive voice measure is “When
my partner did something thoughtless, I talked to my partner about what’s going on, trying to
work out a solution.” An example item of a destructive exit measure is “When my partner was
rude, I did things to drive my partner away.” The response scales for these actual constructive
and destructive reactions to negative partner behavior ranged from 1 = not true at all to 5 = very
true. We computed a mean score of the constructive reactions to the different types of negative
partner behaviors because the inter-correlations between the reactions ranged from .67 to .87.
Similarly, we computed a mean score of the destructive reactions (the inter-correlations between
the reactions ranged from .76 to .89).
Second, we measured hypothetical constructive and destructive reactions of all 238
respondents; specifically, we asked about the most likely response to negative partner behavior
described in three scenarios (see Appendix; Arriaga & Rusbult, 1998). We chose these relatively
extreme, but still realistic scenarios to ensure that our respondents would appraise the partner’s
behavior as negative. We instructed the respondents to imagine the scenarios vividly and report
how they would react in the given situation if their partner behaved in the described way. Their
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
12
hypothetical constructive and destructive reactions to the scenarios were assessed with the voice-
and exit-measure of the accommodation scale (Rusbult et al., 1991), each consisting of four
items. Example items are “In this situation, I talk to my partner about what’s going on, trying to
work out a solution” and “In this situation, I do things to drive my partner away” respectively.
Again, we treated the reactions in three scenarios as items and computed mean scores of the
constructive reactions as well as the destructive reactions over all scenarios. The reliabilities of
both scales were satisfactory (α
hypothetical constructive reactions
= .84; α
hypothetical destructive reactions
= .94). The
response scales for hypothetical accommodation ranged from 1 = not true at all to 5 = very true.
A CFA on the hypothetical reactions at Time 2 showed that the two-factor solution with
constructive and destructive reactions as two distinct factors (χ
2
= 34.33, df = 8, RMSEA = .12,
CFI = .96) outperformed the one-factor solution (Δχ
2
= 170.28, Δdf = 1, p < .001). Thus,
confirmatory factor analyses revealed constructive and destructive reactions to negative partner
behavior to be not just two ends of one continuum, but rather distinct constructs.
We assessed age, gender, job control, and working time as control variables when
predicting self-regulatory resources. Because individualsself-control might develop with age
(Muraven & Baumeister, 2000), a positive association between age and self-regulatory resources
is conceivable. Furthermore, the society ascribes impulsiveness and emotionality (i.e., low self-
regulatory resources) to women (Parsons & Bales, 1955), which might prompt women to
correspond according to the stereotype (Eagley, 1987) and show less self-regulation. Moreover,
employees with high job control (i.e., a job resource) can decide how to do their job according to
their personal preferences. Therefore, it is conceivable that employees with high job control
spend less self-regulatory resources during work than do others. We asked respondents to
indicate their job control on that particular day with the adapted self-determination scale
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
13
(Spreitzer, 1995; e.g., “Today, I had significant autonomy in determining how I do my job”). The
response scale ranged from 1 = not true at all to 5 = very true. Cronbach’s alpha of the three-
item scale was .93. We controlled for working time because the “model of personal–relational
equilibrium“ by Kumashiro et al. (2008, p. 95) posits that the longer people invest resources in
one life domain (e.g., spent time at work), the more they are inclined to invest resources in
another life domain (e.g., spent time with one’s partner). Thus, long work hours might deplete
one’s self-regulatory resource because the impulse to do something else needs to be suppressed.
In the prediction of constructive and destructive reactions, we controlled for age, gender,
length of relationship, relationship commitment, and negative affect. Carstensen, Fung, and
Charles (2003) argued that age is associated with a higher preference for maintaining positive
affect and avoiding negative affect. Thus, to prevent a vicious circle of social conflicts, older
people could react more constructively and less destructively to negative partner behavior. With
respect to gender, stereotypes regard females as being less rational than are males, especially
during conflict situations (Parsons & Bales, 1955). As described in the social role theory
(Eagley, 1987), men and women behave in a manner that fits their social role. Therefore, it could
be that women react differently than men to negative partner behavior. Because couples
engaging in accommodation are likely to outlive other couples, there might be a positive
association between relationship length and constructive reactions on the one hand, and a
negative association between relationship length and destructive reactions on the other hand.
Furthermore, it is important to figure out whether self-regulatory resources predict
accommodation over and above the affective resource relationship commitment because
relationship commitment is a central motivational factor for accommodative behavior (Finkel &
Campbell, 2001). Accordingly, we assessed relationship commitment with a six-item measure by
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
14
Stanley and Markman (1992; α = .92). An example item is “I want to grow old with my partner.
The response scale ranged from 1 = not true at all to 5 = very true. Finally, we controlled for
negative affect to rule out the possibility that negative mood spillover (Eby, Maher, & Butts,
2010; Judge & Ilies, 2004) causes the link between job stressors and accommodation. Other
studies (Ferguson, 2012; Restubog et al., 2011) have already shown negative emotional states to
mediate the effect of job stressors on undermining social interaction at home. We measured
negative affect with negative-affect items from the PANAS (Krohne, Egloff, Kohlmann, &
Tausch, 1996; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). In order not to overburden our respondents
with a long survey, we used a subset of six items (Sonnentag, Binnewies, & Mojza, 2008). We
validated this six-item measure in another sample of 27 persons (74.1% female) with a mean age
of 24.4 years (SD = 3.3) and found that it was highly correlated with the ten-item scale (r = .96).
The respondents reported how much they felt—for instance, “nervous”—on a scale ranging from
1 = not at all to 5 = extremely. Cronbach’s alpha of the 6-item scale was .87.
Results
Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations, and zero-order correlations of all study
and control variables.
------
INSERT TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE
------
We tested our hypotheses with ordinary least squares regression analyses. Hypotheses 1a
and 1b proposed that situational constraints and workload are negatively related to self-
regulatory resources. Entering the control variables age, gender, job control, and working time in
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
15
Model 1 explained a significant proportion of the variance in self-regulatory resources (see Table
2).
------
INSERT TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE
------
In Model 2, we entered the predictors situational constraints and workload, which
improved the prediction of self-regulatory resources. Situational constraints were negatively
associated with self-regulatory resources over and above, for instance, the resource job control,
whereas workload did not relate to self-regulatory resources. Thus, data supported Hypothesis
1a, but not Hypothesis 1b. The results did not change when considering the predictors situational
constraints and workload in two separate regression analyses.
------
INSERT TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE
------
Hypothesis 2a stated that self-regulatory resources and constructive reactions are
positively associated with each other (see Table 3). Model 1, which included the control
variables age, gender, relationship length, relationship commitment, and negative affect, did not
explain variance in actual constructive reactions. Control variables entered in Model 1 explained
variance of hypothetical constructive reactions. Specifically, the affective resource relationship
commitment was positively associated, and negative affect was negatively associated with
constructive reactions. Entering self-regulatory resources as a core predictor variable in Model 2
did not significantly explain more variance in constructive reactions, neither for the actual nor
for the hypothetical measure. Thus, there is no support for Hypothesis 2a.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
16
In Hypothesis 2b, we proposed that self-regulatory resources are negatively related to
destructive reactions (see Table 3). Model 1, with the control variables age, gender, length of
relationship, and the resource relationship commitment, explained a significant proportion of
variance in actual and hypothetical destructive behavior. So, being highly committed to one’s
relationship was negatively associated with both actual and hypothetical destructive reactions.
Furthermore, females and participants with higher levels of negative affect indicated more
hypothetical destructive reactions in the scenarios. Entering self-regulatory resources in Model 2
contributed significantly to the prediction of actual destructive reactions as well as of
hypothetical destructive reactions. Self-regulatory resources negatively related to destructive
reactions. In sum, Hypothesis 2b was supported.
Hypothesis 3a and 3b proposed that self-regulatory resources mediate the indirect effect
of job stressors on constructive reactions. Bootstrapping analyses (cf. Hayes, 2013; see Table 4)
showed that the indirect effects of situational constraints and workload on both actual and
hypothetical constructive reactions were not significant. In sum, there was no support for
Hypothesis 3a and Hypothesis 3b.
------
INSERT TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE
------
Hypotheses 4a and 4b proposed an indirect effect of the job stressors situational
constraints and workload on destructive reactions via self-regulatory resources. Considering
situational constraints, we found an indirect effect on destructive reactions in the hypothetical
situations, .0263, 95%CI [.0037, .0662]. There was no indirect effect of situational constraints on
actual destructive reactions. Thus, support for Hypothesis 4a is mixed. Furthermore, there were
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
17
no indirect effects of workload on actual and hypothetical destructive reaction. Therefore, we
rejected Hypothesis 4b.
Discussion
In this study, we investigated the mediating role of self-regulatory resources in the
associations between situational constraints and workload on the one hand, and constructive and
destructive reactions to negative partner behavior on the other hand. The results support the
hypothesis that situational constraints negatively relate to self-regulatory resources. There was no
association between workload and self-regulatory resources. Situational constraints might
consume more self-regulatory resources than workload because workload could come with
positive features, such as a sense of achievement and fulfillment (Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling,
& Boudreau, 2000). Furthermore, workload is conceivably associated with a higher salience of
deadlines and goals, which improves the attentional pull of work tasks (Beal, Weiss, Barros, &
MacDermid, 2005). Employees save self-regulatory resources when experiencing task attentional
pull because it “help[s] individuals [to] resist the pull of off-task attentional demand” (Beal et al.,
2005, p. 1059).
Data supported the hypothesis that self-regulatory resources relate negatively to
destructive reactions, but there was no support for the proposition that self-regulatory resources
relate positively to constructive reactions. Considering the process of accommodation, we have
to differentiate between the suppression of destructive behavior and the engagement in
constructive behavior. Whereas the suppression of negative impulses draws on self-regulatory
resources (cf. Muraven & Baumeister, 2000), the engagement in positive behaviors might need
more than that. Constructive reactions most likely also require good communication skills.
Furthermore, it is conceivable that employees who experience a high level of work-related
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
18
resources have an elevated positive affect (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) at home and, that in turn,
might enable them to show constructive reactions to negative partner behavior (ref. Gable, Reis,
& Elliot, 2000).
Overall, evidence for indirect effects of job stressors and constructive as well as
destructive reactions was weak. This pattern of results can be mainly explained by the findings
that workload was unrelated to the depletion of self-regulatory resources, and that self-regulatory
resources were unrelated to constructive reaction. We found mixed support for the hypothesis
that self-regulatory resources mediate the indirect effect of situational constraints on destructive
reactions. This result is in line with the work–home resources model (ten Brummelhuis &
Bakker, 2012) that suggests that work demands have a negative indirect effect on home
outcomes via depleted personal resources. What is more, the lack of support for the mediation
hypothesis in the actual situation might have been caused by a relatively low statistical power, as
compared to the hypothetical situations.
Strengths, Limitations, and Future Research
The study has two major strengths. First, we separated measurement points and measured
the predictor variables and accommodation outcomes at different times to reduce common
method bias (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Second, we used two different
operationalizations and measured actual and hypothetical accommodation to account for the low
base rate of actual negative partner behavior. This way we also could test our hypotheses with
two different methods.
But we also have to consider several limitations of our study. The two-wave correlational
design does not allow a causal interpretation of our results. An alternative interpretation could be
that a lack of self-regulatory resources aggravates the appraisal of situational constraints.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
19
Moreover, we did not sample enough individuals to analyze thoroughly the effects of job
stressors and self-regulatory resources on actual accommodation. Lastly, we used the Brief Self-
Control Scale (Tangney et al., 2004) to measure self-regulatory resources in which we adapted
the time frame to capture the resource at the moment of data collection. In hindsight the measure
validated by Bertrams, Unger, and Dickhäuser (2011) would have been preferable.
Future research should investigate a more comprehensive model of the associations
between stressors at work and reactions to the negative behavior of one’s partner at home. Our
study offers several starting points to do so. First of all, it is a worthwhile endeavor to study other
job stressors that may have an effect on destructive reactions to negative partner behavior via
depleted self-regulatory resources. For instance, when facing conflicts at work (ref. Giebels &
Janssen, 2005) and when accommodating as a response to a negative co-worker behavior, an
employee should have less self-regulatory resources and, thus, a higher level of destructive
reactions to negative partner reactions. Moreover, facing customer incivility, that is clients
showing “rude, impolite, or discourteous” behavior (Sliter, Sliter, & Jex, 2012, p. 122) , might be
particularly drawing on self-regulatory resources. Many organizations in the service sector
prescribe so-called display rules (Diefendorff & Gosserand, 2003) that set a norm for the
expression of emotions during the interaction with clients. Employees who suppress their initial
emotional response when facing impolite and aggressive costumers and instead show emotions
that are in line with the display rule might exert self-regulatory resources (ref. Sliter, Jex,
Wolford, & McInnerney, 2010). As a consequence, employees should have a higher level of
destructive reactions to negative partner behavior on days with high customer incivility.
Relatedly, we investigated the short-term effects of work demands on constructive and
destructive reactions to negative partner behavior only. It would be highly relevant to study the
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
20
long-term effects as well. For example, it is conceivable that due to repeated escalating
arguments work demands have a detrimental effect on marital stability and divorce via depleted
self-regulatory resources and impaired accommodation in the long run (ref. Gottman, 1998).
Second, our conceptual model (see Figure 1) offers the possibility to include moderators.
For instance, it might be fruitful to investigate factors that buffer the association between
situational constraints and self-regulatory resources. Possible moderators in this association are
instrumental support provided by co-workers or the supervisor (Halbesleben, 2006) or
rejuvenating experiences during breaks (Trougakos, Beal, Green, & Weiss, 2008). Moreover,
future research might also shed light on moderators of the relationship between self-regulatory
resources depleted at work and accommodation at home. For example, leisure activities that
replenish self-regulatory resources may attenuate the relationship between the self-regulatory
resources as reported directly after work and destructive reactions to negative partner behavior at
home. Particularly, the relevance of eating sugary food should be investigated as sugar may be
the biological essence of self-control (Gailliot et al., 2007). Furthermore, the intensity and
frequency of negative partner behavior in every-day life could help set boundary conditions for
the relationships of the focal person’s self-regulatory resources with his or her constructive and
destructive reactions. It is conceivable that the stronger or more frequently the partner engages in
negative behavior, the more the focal person habituates to this behavior. Thus, his or her
reactions to this negative behavior would not be very pronounced, irrespective of the level of
available self-regulatory resources.
Third, an accommodating person is embedded in a greater social context and future
research could include more contextual factors when studying the relationship between job
stressors and accommodation. For instance, more attention should be paid to variables pertaining
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
21
to the partner who possibly instigates the negative behavior and to couple-level variables.
Romantic partners might have different opinions about the same situation. Obviously, both
partners’ experiences at work and the negative behavior itself could be relevant for
accommodation. Also, a couple’s imbalance of power (Dunbar & Burgoon, 2005) should be
important for the course of an argument within a romantic relationship and for the prevalence of
accommodation.
Finally, future research on accommodation might also want to shed light on effects that
run from home to work. For instance, it is an interesting question whether partners showing
accommodation at home suffer from a depletion of self-regulatory and energetic resources,
which deteriorates their well-being (cf. Hobfoll, 2001). As a consequence of accommodating at
home, their performance at work might suffer (cf. Rothbard & Wilk, 2011).
Theoretical and Practical Implications
From a theoretical point of view, the results of our study show that it is important to
differentiate between constructive and destructive reactions to negative partner behavior. In line
with Cooper-Hakim and Viswesvaran’s approach (2005) to identify the overlap between related
constructs, we showed that constructive and destructive reactions to negative partner behavior
related differently with another variable; namely, self-regulatory resources. Thus, constructive
and destructive reactions are not just two ends of one continuum.
In terms of practical implications, our study highlights the relevance of reducing
situational constraints. Furthermore, with our findings we underline the necessity to replenish
one’s self-regulatory resources again after work when they have been the depleted. That means
that, directly after work, employees might consider to engage in activities that are attractive in
itself and, thus, do not exert self-regulatory resources. Examples for these activities that can be
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
22
easily integrated in the daily life are having a coffee, window shopping, or playing a video game
while commuting. During these activities exerted self-regulatory resources can be replenished.
The suppression of destructive reactions when one appraises negative partner behavior
may prevent detrimental effects in the home domain as well as in the work domain. Following
the argumentation of Baumeister and colleagues’ that “bad is stronger than good” (2001, p. 323),
reducing destructive reactions could be even more important than encouraging constructive
reactions for the de-escalation of relationship conflicts and the maintenance of romantic
relationships. When relationship conflicts escalate, both partners’ work might suffer from this
development. In line with Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, and Schilling (1989), escalating
relationship conflicts might be related to impaired mood, and therefore are a risk factor for
strain-based workfamily conflict (see also Bakker et al., 2008). The established link between
workfamily conflict and negative organizational outcomes (Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering, &
Semmer, 2011) also points to the relevance of reducing relationship conflicts. Next to being
important for the de-escalation of relationship conflicts, self-regulatory resources are also
relevant for other critical topics in the private domain, such as refraining from cheating on one’s
partner, exercise activities, and diet success (Ritter, Karremans, & van Schie, 2010; Sonnentag &
Jelden, 2009; Vohs & Heatherton, 2000). To sum up, we think it is worthwhile for both the work
and home domains to invest resources in the primary prevention of job stressors (Burke, 1993).
Reducing situational constraints at work (cf. Semmer, 1984) should be particularly helpful:
providing access to state-of-art tools and materials will not only improve the employees’ output,
but will also save their self-regulatory resources. Also employees themselves can do something
to save their self-regulatory resource. When equipped with a certain amount of job control and
skill variety (Hackman & Oldham, 1976), they may plan their day such that more and less
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
23
attractive tasks alternate throughout the work day. By doing this, self-regulatory resources that
were depleted when dealing with a less attractive task can be replenished afterwards. If
employees are particularly interested in shielding their private life from negative work
influences, they may end their workday with a task that is attractive and that does not require
many self-regulatory resources. Eventually, engaging in job crafting (Wrzesniewski & Dutton,
2001) might be an avenue for employees to get rid of their unattractive tasks in favor of
attractive tasks and pleasant activities.
Conclusion
Accomplishing goals as an employee and as a romantic partner is crucial for being
satisfied with the two roles, and for performing well both at work and in a romantic relationship.
We think that reconciling research on the work–life interface and self-regulation has high
potential to inform us about how individuals pursue their goals at work and in their private lives,
and how they can be supported in doing so.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
24
Endnote
1
We did not have any restrictions regarding the legal status of the couple or the sexual
orientation of the partners.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
25
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Appendix
Scenarios for the Measurement of Hypothetical Accommodation
Scenario 1: “You feel neglected by your partner, who has been really busy lately. Nevertheless,
you plan a dinner for an upcoming evening, which your partner reluctantly agrees to.
Your partner is over half an hour late, not ready for dinner, and explains to you that
he/she has to cancel the dinner because work is due the next day.”
Scenario 2: “Your partner invites you to a family reunion but spends most of the evening talking
to others. Without telling you, your partner leaves with his/her cousins. You are left alone
for several hours, until your partner finally returns.”
Scenario 3: “You and your partner have agreed to go to a pub. Later, your partner decides not to
go to the pub because he/she is tired. You go to the pub with friends. When you come
back home, your partner is gone. He/She left a note telling you that he/she went out with
a new [opposite-sex/same-sex] colleague.” [In this scenario, we adapted the gender of the
colleague with respect to the respondent’s sexual orientation.]
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
36
Table 1
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations Among the Study Variables
Note. Correlations in lines 1 to 12 (N = 238) and correlations in lines 13 and 14 (N = 82). Cronbach’s alphas are shown in parentheses.
The inter-correlations between the actual constructive reactions and between the actual destructive reactions ranged from .67 to .87
and from .76 to .89 respectively. * p < .05; ** p < .01.
a
0 = female; 1 = male.
Variable
M
SD
1
3
4
6
7
8
9
10
11
13
14
1
Age
40
.85
9
.61
-
2
Gender
a
0
.58
.08
3
Job control
4
.00
0
.99
.12
-
.08
(.93)
4
Working time
8
.39
1
.13
.07
.15*
.10
-
5
Situational constraints
2
.31
0
.87
-
.07
.07
-
.22**
.12
6
Workload
3
.15
0
.93
.05
-
.07
-
.08
.27**
.41**
(.90)
7
Self-regulatory resources
3
.40
0
.61
.17**
.18**
.14*
.07
-
.25**
-
.10
(.76)
8
Negative affect
1
.68
0
.53
-
.08
.14*
-
.06
.10
.28**
.21**
-
.27**
(.87)
9
Relationship commitment
4
.42
0
.72
.00
-
.05
.01
-
.15*
-
.13
-
.12
.09
-
.19**
(.92)
10
Length of relationship
13
.15
10
.09
.66**
-
.02
.08
.02
-
.08
.02
.14*
-
.04
.08
-
11
Hypothetical constructive reactions
3
.47
0
.67
.06
.04
.05
.00
-
.01
-
.10
.18**
-
.23**
.39**
.05
(.84)
12
Hypothetical destructive reactions
2
.36
0
.81
-
.24**
-
.29**
-
.12
-
.07
.16**
.18**
-
.32**
.19**
-
.30**
-
.19**
-
.48**
13
Actual constructive reactions
2
.70
0
.99
-
.03
.02
-
.13
.05
.00
.01
.15
-
.16
.13
-
.09
.49**
-
.14
-
14
Actual destructive reactions
1
.84
0
.71
-
.05
.15
.02
.02
.13
.29**
-
.21
.15
-
.39**
.04
-
.15
.34**
.05
-
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
37
Table 2
Hierarchical Regression Predicting Self-regulatory Resources from Job Stressors
Self-Regulatory Resources
Variables
Model 1
Model 2
Control variables
Age
.14*
.13*
Gender
a
.17**
.18**
Job control
.13
.08
Working time
.02
.05
Main effects
Situational constraints
-
.24**
Workload
-
.00
R
2
.08
.13
Adjusted R
2
.06
.11
F (R
2
)
4
.71 **
5
.71***
ΔR
2
.05**
F (ΔR
2
)
7
.19**
Note. N =238. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.
a
0 = female; 1 = male.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
38
Table 3
Hierarchical Regressions Predicting Constructive and Destructive Reactions from Self-regulatory Resources
Constructive reactions
Destructive reactions
Actual constructive reactions
(N = 82)
Hypothetical constructive
reactions (N = 238)
Actual destructive reactions
(N = 82)
Hypothetical destructive
reactions (N = 238)
Variable
Model 1
Model 2
Model 1
Model 2
Model 1
Model 2
Model 1
Model 2
Control variables
Gender
a
.08
.04
.08
.06
.12
.21
-
.32***
-
.28***
Age
.04
.03
.06
.05
-
.17
-
.16
-
.15
-
.13
Length of relationship
-
.12
-
.14
-
.03
-
.03
.16
.19
-
.07
-
.06
Relationship commitment
.11
.12
.36***
.36***
-
.38**
-
.40***
-
.28***
.27***
Negative affect
-
.16
-
.13
-
.17**
-
.14*
.03
-
.04
.17**
.12*
Main effect
Self-regulatory resources
.14
.10
-
.29**
-
.18**
R
2
.05
.07
.18
.19
.19
.26
.26
.29
Adjusted R
2
-
.01
-
.00
.17
.17
.13
.20
.24
.27
F (R
2
)
0
.84
0
.94
10
.43***
9
.10***
3
.49**
4
.34**
16
.05***
15
.40***
ΔR
2
.02
.01
.07
.03
F (ΔR
2
)
1
.43
2
.19
7
.17**
9
.27**
Note.
* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.
a
0 = female; 1 = male.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
39
Table 4
Indirect Effects of Job Stressors on Constructive and Destructive Reactions via Self-Regulatory Resources
Confidence Interval
Indirect effect
significant (p <
.05)?
Predictor
Outcome
N
Indirect effect
SE
Lower limit
Upper limit
Situational
constraints
Actual constructive
reactions
82
-
.0069
.0373
-
.1305
.0385
No
Hypothetical
constructive reactions
238
-
.0143
.0109
-
.0443
.0002
No
Actual destructive
reactions
82
.0095
.0409
-
.0501
.1276
No
Hypothetical
destructive reactions
238
.0263
.0155
.0037
.0662
Yes
Workload
Actual constructive
reactions
82
.0014
.0385
-
.0666
.0973
No
Hypothetical
constructive reactions
238
-
.0021
.0062
-
.0224
.0056
No
Actual destructive
reactions
82
-
.0019
.0380
-
.0707
.0847
No
Hypothetical
destructive reactions
238
.0049
.0121
-
.0152
.0341
No
Note. Bootstrap sample size = 5000.
JOB STRESSORSRELATION TO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
40
Figure 1. Conceptual model.
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