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How Dispositional Gratitude Shapes Employee Well-being and Organizational Commitment: The Mediating Roles of Leader-Member Exchange and Coworker Exchange

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Dispositional gratitude has recently emerged as a variable of interest in organizational contexts. However, it remains unclear whether dispositional gratitude is predictive of employee well-being, with limited theoretical and empirical elucidation of the underlying mechanisms. To address these limitations, the present study investigated dispositional gratitude as a predictor of employee well-being and organizational commitment. Drawing on the broaden-and-build theory of positive affect, the study also examined whether the social bonding resources of leader-member exchange (LMX) and coworker exchange (CWX) mediated these effects. The participating employees ( N = 300) completed the survey in three waves at one-week intervals. The results of structural equation modeling (SEM) confirm that dispositional gratitude is positively related to employee well-being and organizational commitment and that these effects are mediated by LMX and CWX. The paper concludes by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of these findings, the study’s limitations, and future research directions.
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Original Research Article
Journal of Career Assessment
2022, Vol. 0(0) 123
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/10690727221099867
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How Dispositional Gratitude
Shapes Employee Well-being
and Organizational
Commitment: The Mediating
Roles of Leader-Member
Exchange and Coworker
Exchange
Teng Zhao
1
, Hairong Li
2
, Lu Zheng
3
, and Yuyan Zhang
2
Abstract
Dispositional gratitude has recently emerged as a variable of interest in organizational contexts.
However, it remains unclear whether dispositional gratitude is predictive of employee well-being,
with limited theoretical and empirical elucidation of the underlying mechanisms. To address these
limitations, the present study investigated dispositional gratitude as a predictor of employee well-
being and organizational commitment. Drawing on the broaden-and-build theory of positive
affect, the study also examined whether the social bonding resources of leader-member exchange
(LMX) and coworker exchange (CWX) mediated these effects. The participating employees (N=
300) completed the survey in three waves at one-week intervals. The results of structural
equation modeling (SEM) conrm that dispositional gratitude is positively related to employee
well-being and organizational commitment and that these effects are mediated by LMX and CWX.
The paper concludes by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of these ndings, the
studys limitations, and future research directions.
Keywords
dispositional gratitude, leader-member exchange, coworker exchange, employee well-being,
organizational commitment
1
Department of Psychological Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA
2
School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China
3
School of Management, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China
Corresponding Author:
Hairong Li, School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, 59 Zhongguancun St., Haidian District,
Beijing 100872, China.
Email: lihairong@ruc.edu.cn
Gratitude is a moral affect that arises when an individual perceives other people have intentionally
acted in a way that promotes the beneciarys well-being (McCullough et al., 2001). Gratitude has
been dened in studied as both trait-like and state-like (McCullough et al., 2002,2004). Dis-
positional gratitude, also known as trait gratitude, is an individual disposition reecting a
generalized tendency to recognize and respond with grateful emotion to the roles of other peoples
benevolence in the positive experiences and outcomes that one obtains(McCullough et al., 2002,
p. 112). Individuals with greater dispositional gratitude feel gratitude more frequently and in-
tensely, in more domains of life, and to more entities at a given time point (McCullough et al.,
2004). As a fundamental construct in positive psychology (Seligman, 2002;Seligman &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), dispositional gratitude has consistently been found to relate posi-
tively to general individual well-being (e.g., Emmons & McCullough, 2004;Portocarrero et al.,
2020;Wood et al., 2010).
Recent empirical studies have also noted the benets of dispositional gratitude in organi-
zational contexts, reporting a positive association with desirable work outcomes such as job
performance (Wang et al., 2020), job satisfaction (Cortinietal.,2019;Kim et al., 2019), and
organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) (Chen et al., 2020;Guzzo et al., 2020). However,
despite these reported benets, it remains unclear whether dispositional gratitude is a predictor
of employee well-being that is, the overall quality of employee experience and functioning at
work (War r, 1987,1999). Some recent studies have addressed the links between dispositional
gratitude and general subjective or psychological well-being (i.e., general well-being; Cho,
2019;Da Silva, 2019). However, these indicators are not domain-specic, and there is a need to
distinguish between employee well-being and general well-being, as work situations are likely
to differ from general life and so require a more targeted approach to accurately capture
employee experiences.
As about a third of the average adults life is now spent at work, the workplace experience has a
signicant impact on employeesquality of life (Harter et al., 2003). The well-being of employee
is also critical for organizational development and thriving (Wright & Huang, 2012). For instance,
employee well-being has been linked to many important workplace outcomes, including job
performance, employee retention, innovativeness, and cardiovascular health (Huhtala & Parzefall,
2007;Rath & Harter, 2010;Wright & Bonett, 1992;Wright et al., 2009). Therefore, employee
well-being, a positive affective or emotional state grounded in perceived quality of life at work, is
a key issue for researchers and practitioners alike.
Affective organizational commitment was included as a measure of employee affective attitude
to the organization as a whole, which has received little attention in the existing literature on
workplace gratitude (Di Fabio et al., 2017;Portocarrero et al., 2020;Wood et al., 2010). As to the
distinction between employee well-being and organizational commitment, the former refers to the
individuals quality of life and work experience while the latter refers specically to the workers
identication with the organization in question. Organizational commitment is an important
organizational concern because it relates to critical workplace outcomes including turnover in-
tention and retention (e.g., Neininger et al., 2010;Somers, 1995;Tett & Meyer, 1993). Incor-
porating both variables as parallel outcomes more accurately capture employeesaffective
experiences in an organizational setting.
Gratitude is thought to contribute to social harmony and stronger connections (Emmons &
Mishra, 2011;Wang et al., 2015). As these qualities are highly valued in China, which is often
characterized as a collectivist society (e.g., Hofstede, 2001), it seems valuable to explore the
effects of dispositional gratitude on employee well-being and organizational commitment among
Chinese workers. To the best of our knowledge, these relationships have not been investigated in
any depth in Chinese work settings: previous studies have focused primarily on outcomes such as
2Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
OCBs (Sun et al., 2019;Zhan et al., 2021), job satisfaction (Winslow et al., 2017), and innovation
(Chen et al., 2020;Zhong et al., 2022).
Moreover, although some researchers have reported evidence of direct links between dis-
positional gratitude and desirable work outcomes (e.g., Emmons, 2003;Ford et al., 2018;Spence
et al., 2014), relatively little is known about the underlying mechanisms or processes. A fuller
understanding of these mechanisms would help researchers and HR practitioners to identify the
psychological factors that underpin the benets of dispositional gratitude, so furthering the in-
vestigation of dispositional gratitude in organizational contexts.
The aims of the present study were (1) to investigate dispositional gratitude as a predictor of
employee well-being and organizational commitment and (2) to identify the mechanisms un-
derlying the relationships between these variables. According to the broaden-and-build theory of
positive affect (Fredrickson, 2001), gratitude helps people build social resources that include
displaying care, loyalty, and social bonding (Fredrickson, 2013). Assuming that dispositional
gratitude in organizational settings is likely to facilitate relationship building with supervisors and
coworkers, we investigated whether leader-member exchange (LMX) and coworker exchange
(CWX) mediate the benecial inuence of dispositional gratitude on employee well-being and
organizational commitment.
The present study makes two contributions to the literature on gratitude and employee
well-being. First, we extend the gratitude literature by highlighting dispositional gratitude as
an important antecedent of social resource accumulation and affective attitude in organi-
zational settings (i.e., employee well-being and organizational commitment). By linking
dispositional gratitude to employee well-being and organizational commitment, the present
study provides empirical support for the theoretical proposition that gratitude plays a critical
role in employee and organizational success (e.g., Di Fabio et al., 2017;Fehr et al., 2017).
Second, this study strengthens the theoretical account of dispositional gratitude as a predictor
of favorable work outcomes by revealing the underlying mechanisms. Specically, building
on broaden-and-build theory of positive affect (Fredrickson, 2013), our ndings conrm that
dispositional gratitude increases positivity in interpersonal interactions with organizational
insiders (i.e., supervisors and coworkers) and helps to build high-quality working rela-
tionships (i.e., LMX and CWX), leading in turn to enhanced employee well-being and
organizational commitment.
Theoretical Background and Hypothesis Development
Dispositional Gratitude, Employee Well-being, and Organizational Commitment
Research on employee well-being evolved from the exploration of general well-being, in-
cluding subjective and psychological well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2001;Ryff & Keyes, 1995).
Subjective well-being relates to the individuals hedonic experience (Ryan & Deci, 2001;
Waterman, 1993) and has consistently been described as having three core components: high
levels of life satisfaction and positive affect and low levels of negative affect (Busseri et al.,
2007;Diener et al., 1999). Psychological well-being focuses on the individualseudaimonic
state, including psychological functioning and fulllment of personal potential (e.g., Ryff &
Keyes, 1995). The six core dimensions of psychological well-being are self-acceptance,
purpose in life, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, autonomy, and per-
sonal growth (Ryff, 1989a,1989b;Ryff & Keyes, 1995).
The related concept of employee well-being is more domain-specic than general individual
well-being in that it applies only to work-related settings (e.g., Page & Vella-Brodrick, 2009). As a
critical factor in organizational development and survival, employee well-being has attracted
Zhao et al. 3
increasing research attention (Van De Voorde et al., 2012;Wright & Bonett, 2007;Wright et al.,
2009), and researchers have suggested that HRM practices should seek to improve job perfor-
mance by addressing workershappiness (i.e., employee well-being) rather than focusing solely
on organizational productivity (Guest, 2017).
To date, however, there is no universally accepted denition or measure of employee well-
being. Some early studies utilized context-specic measures of well-being to capture employees
cognitive and affective experiences at work (e.g., Daniels, 2000;Warr, 1990). Page and Vella-
Brodrick (2009) suggested a combined measure of work-related and general well-being. To that
end, they also assessed work-related affect and job satisfaction, but empirical validation of the
method remained limited. Building on the work of Page and Vella-Brodrick (2009),Zheng et al.
(2015) sought to strengthen the concept of employee well-being. Combining qualitative and
quantitative methods, they developed an 18-item scale measuring three constructs: life well-being
(LWB), workplace well-being (WWB), and psychological well-being (PWB). As well as es-
tablishing the reliability and validity of this new scale, they also conrmed its congural in-
variance across Chinese and American samples (Zheng et al., 2015). The present study utilizes
Zheng et al.s (2015) approach to explore not only employeesperceptions and feelings about
their work and life satisfaction but also their psychological experience and the level of satisfaction
exhibited in both their work and personal lives(p. 628). By doing so, we comprehensively
incorporated the posited components of employee well-being: hedonic (LWB), eudaimonic
(PWB), and context-specic well-being (WWB).
As a positively valenced emotion or affect that intensies the enjoyment of a benet received
from others (Watkins, 2013), gratitude helps to prevent toxic emotions (e.g., envy, resentment) and
cultivates positive affect (Emmons & Mishra, 2011) by striking a balance between positive and
negative experiences. It follows those frequent experiences of gratitude in the workplace are likely
to enhance the individuals hedonic state, so improving satisfaction with life (i.e., LWB) and
positive job attitude (i.e., WWB) and prompting stronger identication with the organization (i.e.,
organizational commitment). Individuals who exhibit higher dispositional gratitude are likely to
have more frequent and intense experiences of thankfulness or appreciation (McCullough et al.,
2002;Wood et al., 2010). Accordingly, they focus more on the positive contributions of others and
are more likely to feel happy about the good fortune of others (Emmons & Mishra, 2011;Smith
et al., 1996). To that extent, gratitude contributes to PWB, including positive interpersonal re-
lationships (e.g., Algoe et al., 2008), personal growth (e.g., Wood et al., 2009), and positive
relations with others (e.g., Williams & Bartlett, 2015). According to Wood et al. (2009), dis-
positional gratitude is positively associated with four dimensions of PWB (i.e., self-acceptance,
personal growth, positive relations with others, and purpose in life) even after controlling for the
Big Five personality traits.
In organizational contexts, dispositional gratitude also helps employees to cope with workplace
stressors (Fredrickson, 2004)for instance, by seeking instrumental and emotional social support,
interpreting situations positively, and resisting behavioral disengagement. These coping strategies
increase employee happiness, job satisfaction, and affective commitment (Emmons & Mishra,
2011;Wood et al., 2010). This view is supported by empirical evidence in work settings, such that
gratitude is positively related to job satisfaction (Kim et al., 2019;Lanham et al., 2012)a sub-
dimension of employee WWB (Page & Vella-Brodrick, 2009;Zheng et al., 2015). Additionally, in
their study of elementary school teachers in Taiwan, Ting and Yeh (2014) reported a positive
relationship between teachersgratitude and their commitment to the school. As dispositional
gratitude can therefore be expected to relate positively to employee well-being (i.e., LWB, WWB,
and PWB) and organizational commitment, we formulated the following hypothesis.
4Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
Hypothesis 1: Employee dispositional gratitude is positively related to (a) LWB, (b) WWB, (c)
PWB, and (d) organizational commitment.
The Relationship Between Dispositional Gratitude, LMX, and CWX
Broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 1998,2001,2004) proposes that positive affect can
broaden the individuals momentary thought-action repertoire and build personal resources.
Specically, the broadened mindset engendered by positive affect can help to build personal
resources, including physical, intellectual, social, and psychological resources. Accrued re-
sources that endure (e.g., social bonds and attachments) (Aron et al., 2000) can later be deployed
to counter threats (see for example Fredrickson, 2001). Drawing on broaden-and-build theory,
we contend that dispositional gratitude, as a specic form of positive affect, can broaden
employeespositive feelings of gratefulness, thankfulness, and appreciation and can help to
build enduring social bonding resources (Fredrickson, 2001,2013). As workers in organiza-
tional settings most frequently interact with their direct supervisors and coworkers, we propose
that dispositional gratitude facilitates the development of two distinct social bonds: LMX and
CWX. These would then become the locus of social support for employee well-being and other
favorable work outcomes.
Leader-member exchange represents the reciprocal relationship between employee and su-
pervisor and provide insights into the quality of the dyadic relationship between leader and
subordinate (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). Leader-member exchange theory proposes that leaders
develop unique relationships with individual subordinates through the process of social exchange
(Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). A high-quality leader-subordinate relationship can be established
when the mutual social exchange extends beyond the employment contract in terms of mutual
trust, loyalty, and commitment (Blau, 1964;Schriesheim et al., 1999). Building on LMX theory,
CWX describes the social exchanges among coworkers who report to the same supervisor,
providing insight into the quality of relations between a focal team member and coworkers
(Sherony & Green, 2002). A high-quality CWX relationship is characterized by high levels of
mutual trust, respect, and obligation.
Individuals who exhibit high dispositional gratitude are more likely to recognize and ap-
preciate favorable treatment from others (e.g., supervisor, coworker). According to broaden-
and-build theory, a grateful individuals mode of thinking may broaden, prompting consid-
eration of a wide array of possible reciprocal actions (Fredrickson, 1998,2001,2004), such as
expressing appreciation and thankfulness or helping their benefactor in return (McCullough &
Tsang, 2004). These broadened thoughts and behaviors signal recognition and appreciation of
the kindness received and facilitate high-quality interpersonal relationships. For example,
researchers found that expressions of gratitude to partners, friends, or subordinates boost
partnership, friendship, and trust in supervisors (Lambert et al., 2010;Leong et al., 2020;
Ritzenh¨
ofer et al., 2017).
The broadening of thought and action is not conned to reciprocity or repayment but also
extends to more creative actions that contribute to high-quality relationship building (Algoe, 2012;
Fehr et al., 2017). Specically, feelings of gratitude boost positive attitudes and increase trust,
loyalty, and prosocial behaviors (e.g., Fredrickson, 2004;Gino & Schweitzer, 2008), leading
benefactors and beneciaries alike to maintain long-term relationships through reciprocal al-
truism. There is empirical evidence that gratitude contributes to high-quality relationship
maintenance by extending beyond mere repayment (e.g., Algoe et al., 2008;Chhajer & Dutta,
2021;Lambert et al., 2010). On that basis, we would expect employee dispositional gratitude to be
positively related to LMX and CWX.
Zhao et al. 5
Hypothesis 2: Employee dispositional gratitude is positively related to (a) LMX and (b) CWX.
Leader-member exchange and CWX as Mediators Between Dispositional Gratitude
and Focal Outcomes
According to LMX and CWX theory (e.g., Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995), LMX and CWX are
resources for social support. Employees with high-quality LMX and CWX are more favorably
treated by supervisors and coworkers in terms of affective support (e.g., trust, empathy), useful
information, and task-directed helping (Ensher et al., 2001;Liden et al., 1997). For example, high-
quality LMX relationships may increase employee involvement in supervisorsdecision-making
about task assignment. Employees in high-quality CWX relationships are likely to receive timelier
and more referent information from their coworkers that enables them to cope more effectively
with work demands and strains (Thoits, 2011).
We anticipate that the effect of this social support on employee job perception is to increase
workplace and life satisfaction (WWB and LWB) (Pollock et al., 2016) and to promote a more
positive attitude toward self-development (PWB) (e.g., Dose et al., 2019;Liao et al., 2017;Volmer
et al., 2011). Enhanced LMX and CWX are also likely to make employees feel valued and cared
for by their leaders and coworkers and in turn lead employees to be more committed to the
organization (Chiaburu & Harrison, 2008;Martin et al., 2016). Previous meta-analyses have also
identied positive associations between LMX and job satisfaction and organizational commitment
(Gerstner & Day, 1997;Martin et al., 2016). Given that dispositional gratitude is likely to increase
LMX and CWX, we formulated the following hypotheses.
Hypothesis 3: LMX mediates the relationship between employee dispositional gratitude and
(a) LWB, (b) WWB, (c) PWB, and (d) organizational commitment.
Hypothesis 4: CWX mediates the relationship between employee dispositional gratitude and
(a) LWB, (b) WWB, (c) PWB, and (d) organizational commitment.
Method
The participants were recruited from a large biomedical company in northeast China. Survey data
were collected at three time points at one-week intervals. Distribution of the online survey was
coordinated by the companys director of human resources (HR). Employees who were interested
in participating received an access link and were instructed to complete the surveys over the
following three weeks. At each time point, the research team explained the surveys purpose and
assured participants that they would remain anonymous, and that the information provided would
remain condential. Participants were offered incentives (5 RMB, about 0.8 USD) through the
online data collection platform (Tencent Wenjuan; Tencent Inc., CN, https://wj.qq.com). We
received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval prior to initiating this study.
At time 1 (T1), the survey included measures of dispositional gratitude and demographic
variables. At Time 2 (T2), we measured participantsLMX and CWX. At Time 3 (T3), par-
ticipants reported work outcomes, including well-being (LWB, WWB, PWB), and organizational
commitment. The initial sample (T1) comprised 516 employees; the two follow-up surveys (T2
and T3) attracted 414 and 401 responses, respectively. To guard against systematic sampling bias,
we compared the characteristics of participants at T2 (N= 414) with those who dropped out at that
point (N= 102); similarly, we compared participants at T3 (N= 401) with those who dropped out
at that point (N= 13). Chi-square and t-testing showed no statistically signicant differences on
demographic variables of age, gender, tenure, education, and job position. Participants were asked
6Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
to report the last four digits of their phone number, which were used for matching purposes across
the three surveys.
The nal analysis included those employees who completed all three surveys and were
successfully matched (N=300;meanage33.1years,rangingfrom21to55years;51.7%
male, 48.3% female). Of these, 16.0% had work experience of 3 years or less; 24.0% had 310
years of work experience, and more than half (60.0%) had more than 10 years of work
experience. In terms of education, 43.3% had an associate degree; 39.7% had a bachelors
degree, and 17.0% had a masters or doctoral degree. As for company position, 67.3% were
ordinary employees; 22.7% held primary managerial positions, and the remaining 10%
occupied middle or senior management positions. Chi-square and t-testing showed no sta-
tistically signicant differences between the nal sample (N= 300) and those who were not
included (N= 216) in terms of these demographic variables (age, gender, tenure, education,
and job position).
Measures
With the exception of employee well-being, the instruments used in this study were originally in
English; the Chinese version was developed using back-translation technique (cf. Brislin, 1993).
To begin, the rst author translated the original English items into Chinese. All of the other authors
then evaluated this version and arrived at consensus on the wording. We then invited a bilingual
native English speaker (a doctoral student in psychology) with advanced Chinese to back translate
that version into English. Finally, we compared the back-translated version to the original English
language version and conrmed that there were no differences in meaning. To measure employee
well-being, we employed the Chinese version of Zheng et al.s (2015) scale. All measures were
rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale (from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree).
Dispositional gratitude. Dispositional gratitude was measured using McCullough et al.s (2001)
6-item Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ-6); A sample item was Ihavesomuchinlifetobe
thankful for.Higher scores indicate greater dispositional gratitude. As one of the most widely
utilized instruments for assessing dispositional gratitude, GQ-6 has been validated for Chinese
samples (e.g., college students, adults) (Chen et al., 2009;Kong et al., 2017). Across diverse
samples, alpha reliability of GQ-6 ranges from .67 to .94 (Emmons et al., 2019), and the Chinese
version scale has also been shown to have good internal consistency (e.g., Cronbachsα=0.71
in Chen et al., 2021; Cronbachsα=0.75inLi et al., 2021). In the present case, Cronbachsα
was measured as .93, indicating good internal consistency.
Leader-member exchange. Leader-member exchange was measured using the LMX-7 scale devel-
oped by Graen and Uhl-Bien (1995). A sample item was My supervisor understands my work-related
problems and needs.Participants were instructed to rate items on the basis of their relationship with
their supervisor over the past week. Higher scores indicate higher levels of LMX. Leader-member
exchange-7 has been validated for Chinese samples (e.g., Hui & Graen, 1997;Wang et al., 2005)and
exhibits acceptable internal consistency (e.g., Cronbachsα=.82inAryee & Chen, 2006; Cronbachs
α=.87inGu et al., 2015). The Cronbachsαin the current sample was .89.
Coworker exchange. Coworker exchange was measured using Sherony and Greens (2002) 6-
item scale, which is a slightly modied version of LMX-7 (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). A sample
item was My coworkers understand my work-related problems and needs.Participants were
instructed to rate the items on the basis of their relationship with coworkers over the past week.
Zhao et al. 7
Higher scores indicate higher levels of CWX relationships. Previous studies have reported that
the Chinese version CWX scale exhibits good validity and reliability (e.g., Cronbachsα=.89 in
Liu et al., 2021; Cronbachsα=.86inTang et al., 2021; Cronbachsα=.82inZhang et al.,
2021). In the current sample, Cronbachsαwas measured as .90).
Employee well-being. Employee well-being was assessed using Zheng et al.s (2015) 18-item scale
comprising three dimensions (LWB, WWB, and PWB). An example item for each of these
dimensions are: I feel satised with my life(LWB); In general, I feel fairly satised with my
present job(WWB); and I generally feel good about myself, and Im condent(PWB). Higher
scores indicate greater employee well-being. The scale was originally developed in Chinese and
exhibits acceptable reliability and validity, with alpha reliabilities of .82, .87, and .82 for LWB,
WWB, and PWB, respectively (Zheng et al., 2015). In the current sample, the scale again ex-
hibited acceptable reliability, with alpha coefcients of .89, .91, and .93 for LWB, WWB, and
PWB, respectively.
Organizational commitment. Organizational commitment was measured using the 6-item affective
commitment scale developed by Meyer and Allen (1991). A sample item was I really feel as if
this organizations problems are my own.Higher scores indicate greater organizational com-
mitment. The concept of organizational commitment has been consistently tested and validated for
Chinese samples and shows acceptable reliability (e.g., Cronbachsα= 0.78 in Cheng &
Stockdale, 2003; Cronbachsα= 0.80 in Froese & Xiao, 2012; Cronbachsα= 0.88 in Lee
& Wei, 2017). In the present case, the alpha coefcient was .91.
Control variables. Several demographic variables (including age, gender, tenure, education,
and job position) were included as control variables because they are known to correlate with
employee well-being and job attitude (e.g., Brush et al., 1987;Chen & Francesco, 2000;
Guti´
errez et al., 2005;Zheng et al., 2015). Gender was dummy coded (0for men and 1for
women). The categorical variable tenure (referring to the number of years working in the
same team at the same company) was coded 1to 5(upto1year,13years,35years,5
10 years, and more than 10 years, respectively). Education was coded 1to 4(associate
degree or lower, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree, respectively). Job position was
coded 1to 4(ordinary employee, primary, middle, and senior management,
respectively).
Analytic Strategy
All analyses were performed using Mplus 8.0 (Muth´
en & Muth´
en, 19982017). First, conr-
matory factor analyses (CFAs) were performed to conrm the study constructsdiscriminant
validities and to check goodness of t between the measurement model and the data. Specically,
we compared three alternative models to the benchmark model (the proposed seven-factor model)
to conrm the factor structure of the study variables. To evaluate overall model t, we used the
Comparative Fit Index (CFI), the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI), Root Mean Square Error of Ap-
proximation (RMSEA), and Standardized Root Mean Squared Residual (SRMR). Based on
previous best practice, a cutoff value close to .95 is desirable for CFI and TLI, and cutoff values
close to 0.06 and 0.08 are considered desirable for RMSEA and SRMR, respectively (Hu &
Bentler, 1999). We utilized chi-square (χ2) to compared competing models but not to determine
model t (because it is impacted by sample size) (Cheung & Rensvold, 2002). To test our
hypotheses, we used structural equation modeling (SEM). In the structural model, mediators and
8Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
outcomes were regressed on the control variables. We used bootstrapping to test for mediating
effects, with 10,000 resamples to obtain condence interval estimates (Preacher & Hayes, 2008).
Results
Preliminary Analyses
For data cleaning and screening prior to hypothesis testing, we used IBM SPSS 26 to check for
missing data, univariate and multivariate outliners, and normality. There were no missing data
because the electronic questionnaire could not be submitted if any items were left blank. To check
for univariate and multivariate outliers, respectively, we used interquartile ranges (box plots) and
Mahalanobis distance statistics at p< .001 (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2007); no outliers were
identied. Finally, we measured skewness and kurtosis to assess the variablesnormality. As
absolute skewness and kurtosis values were less than 1, all constructs were deemed to be normally
distributed (Weston & Gore, 2006).
Table 1 shows descriptive statistics and correlations for all study variables, all of which
correlated in the expected directions. Age, tenure, and job position were signicantly related to
some focal variables, indicating the need to control these variables in subsequent hypothesis
testing. As gender and education were not signicantly correlated with the focal variables, we did
not include them as control variables in the structural model in the interests of parsimony.
Measurement Model
Based on the CFAs, the seven-factor model (dispositional gratitude, LMX, CWX, LWB, WWB,
PWB, and organizational commitment) showed better model t(χ2 (df = 839) = 1441.668, p<.01,
CFI = .936, TLI = .931, RMSEA = .049, SRMR = .044) than the three alternative models; these
were (1) a six-factor model, where LMX and CWX were loaded onto a single factor; (2) a ve-
factor model, where LWB, WWB, and PWB were loaded onto a single factor; (3) a four-factor
model, where LWB, WWB, PWB, and organizational commitment were loaded onto a single
factor. The results conrm that the variables are distinct constructs, and that the measurement
model exhibits adequate t to the data. Model t indexes are shown in Table 2.
Hypothesis Testing
Hypothesis 1 posited a direct relationship between dispositional gratitude and the focal outcomes.
The SEM model regressed all focal outcome variables on dispositional gratitude and all control
variables (i.e., age, tenure, and position). The model exhibited adequate t(χ
2
(df = 473) = 793.406, p
< .01, CFI = .953, TLI = .948, RMSEA = .048, SRMR = .049). The results indicate that dispositional
gratitude is positively linked to LWB (β= .50, SE = .05, p<.01),WWB(β= .42, SE = .05, p<.01),
PWB (β= .53, SE = .05, p< .01), and organizational commitment (β=.40,SE=.05,p<.01).
Accordingly, Hypotheses 1a1d were supported.
Hypothesis 2 posited a direct relationship between dispositional gratitude and LMX and CWX.
The SEM model regressed LMX and CWX on dispositional gratitude and all control variables.
The model exhibited adequate t(χ
2
(df = 200) = 417.677, p< .01, CFI = .942, TLI = .934,
RMSEA = .060, SRMR = .059). The results indicate that dispositional gratitude is positively
linked to LMX (β= .50, SE = .05, p< .01) and CWX (β= .47, SE = .05, p< .01). Accordingly,
Hypotheses 2a and 2b were supported.
Finally, Hypotheses 3 and 4 tested the mediation model, specifying direct paths from control
variables and dispositional gratitude to all focal outcomes and paths from LMX and CWX to all
Zhao et al. 9
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, αReliabilities and Correlations.
Variables MSD 123456789101112
1. Age 33.11 8.93 -
2. Gender - - .08 -
3. Tenure - - .62** .11 -
4. Education - - -.31** -.02 -.15** -
5. Job position - - -.04 -.16** .24** .29** -
6. DG 4.08 1.29 .22** -.03 .15* -.10 .05 (.93)
7. LMX 3.73 .81 .18** -.06 .08 -.08 .09 .49** (.89)
8. CWX 3.90 .76 .02 -.06 .00 -.06 .05 .43** .43** (.90)
9. LWB 3.55 .90 .11* -.04 .01 -.05 .11 .47** .50** .43** (.89)
10. WWB 3.74 .92 .13* -.10 .07 -.05 .10 .40** .45** .37** .70** (.91)
11. PWB 3.87 .81 .19* -.06 .06 -.05 .06 .53** .53** .46** .78** .72** (.93)
12. OC 3.93 .93 .23** -.10 .16** -.05 .12* .41** .44** .37** .53** .52** .57** (.91)
Note. N = 300. DG = dispositional gratitude; LMX = leader-member exchange; CWX = coworker exchange; LWB = life well-being; WWB = workplace well-being; PWB = psychological
well-being; OC = organizational commitment. Numbers on the diagonal are coefcient αs for relevant measures.
*p< .05.
**p< .01.
10 Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
Table 2. Tests of Alternative Model Specications.
Model χ
2
dfCFI TLI RMSEA SRMR Δχ
2
Δdf
Seven-factor model 1441.668 839 .936 .931 .049 .044
Six-factor model
a
2098.151 845 .866 .857 .070 .061 656.483** 6
Five-factor model
b
1882.831 850 .890 .883 .064 .051 441.163** 11
Four-factor model
c
2532.858 854 .821 .810 .081 .065 1091.19** 15
Note.
a
LMX and CWX were merged into a single factor;
b
LWB, WWB, and PWB were merged into a single factor;
c
LWB,
WWB, PWB, and organizational commitment were merged into a single factor. All alternative models were compared to
the seven-factor model, which was maintained in this study.
** p< .01.
Figure 1. The SEM Results. Note. LMX = leader-member exchange; CWX = coworker exchange; LWB =
life well-being; WWB = workplace well-being; PWB = psychological well-being; OC = organizational
commitment. * p< .05, ** p< .01.
Table 3. Standardized Indirect Effects and Bootstrapping-based 95% Condence Intervals (CIs).
Model Pathways Point Estimate
95% CI
Lower Upper
Gratitude LMX LWB .16 .09 .27
Gratitude CWX LWB .11 .04 .20
Gratitude LMX WWB .16 .07 .27
Gratitude CWX WWB .10 .03 .20
Gratitude LMX PWB .17 .09 .26
Gratitude CWX PWB .12 .04 .22
Gratitude LMX OC .14 .06 .25
Gratitude CWX OC .10 .03 .19
Note. N = 300. LMX = leader-member exchange; CWX = coworker exchange; LWB = life well-being; WWB = workplace
well-being; PWB = psychological well-being; OC = organizational commitment.
*p< .05.
**p< .01
Zhao et al. 11
distal outcomes. The model exhibited adequate t(χ
2
(df = 951) = 1606.782, p< .01, CFI = .930,
TLI = .924, RMSEA = .048, SRMR = .061). Standardized path coefcients are shown in Figure 1,
and mediation analyses are summarized in Table 3. Specically, dispositional gratitude dem-
onstrated signicant indirect effects on LWB (estimate = .16, 95% CI [.09, .27]), WWB (estimate
= .16, 95% CI [.07, .27]), PWB (estimate = .17, 95% CI [.09, .26]), and organizational com-
mitment (estimate = .14, 95% CI [.06, .25]) via LMX. Thus, Hypotheses 3a 3d were supported.
Dispositional gratitude also had signicant indirect effects on LWB (estimate = .11, 95% CI [.04,
.20]), WWB (estimate = .10, 95% CI [.03, 20]), PWB (estimate = .12, 95% CI [.04, .22]), and
organizational commitment (point estimate = .10, 95% CI [.03, .19]) via CWX, indicating support
for Hypotheses 4a4d.
Discussion
The present study examined the inuence of dispositional gratitude on employee well-being and
organizational commitment. Based on the broaden-and-build theory of positive affect, we also
tested the hypothesis that LMX and CWX play mediating roles in linking dispositional gratitude to
employee well-being and organizational commitment. The study produced two major ndings.
First, the observed positive association between dispositional gratitude and employee well-
being aligns with previous reports of the benecial effects of dispositional gratitude on general
individual well-being (Portocarrero et al., 2020). In general, this nding suggests that dispositional
gratitude plays an important role in shaping employee well-being. Second, we established that
LMX and CWX mediate the relationship between dispositional gratitude and employee well-
being and organizational commitment. Grateful employees are more likely to build high-quality
relationships with supervisors and coworkers, promoting higher levels of well-being and greater
commitment to the organization. This aligns well with the broader gratitude literature suggesting
that gratitude enhances social relationships with others in everyday interactions (Algoe, 2012;
Algoe et al., 2008).
Theoretical Implications
The present study extends the workplace gratitude literature by conrming the benecial effects of
dispositional gratitude on social resource accumulation (i.e., LMX and CWX) and well-being in
organizational settings. The ndings identify dispositional gratitude as an antecedent that
proximally improves LMX and CWX and distally facilitates employee well-being and organi-
zational commitment. While a number of previous studies have reported that gratitude strengthens
high-quality social exchange relationships with friends, customers, and romantic partners (e.g.,
Algoe et al., 2008;Gordon et al., 2012;Palmatier et al., 2009), relatively little attention has been
devoted to social relationships in organizational settings. By incorporating LMX and CWX as
indicators of the quality of interpersonal relationships in the workplace, the present study further
claries the benets of dispositional gratitude. In addition, by demonstrating that positive
emotions like gratitude can help build social resources in the workplace, we also strengthen
empirical support for the broaden-and-build theory of positive affect.
Our ndings also provide empirical support for Fehr et al.s (2017) theoretical proposal that
gratitude contributes to employee well-being. Although gratitude is known to play an important
role in general well-being (Guzzo et al., 2020;Wood et al., 2010), only a handful of studies have
explored the benets of gratitude in terms of employee well-being (e.g., reduced depression,
stress, burnout) (see Feng & Yin, 2021;Lau & Cheng, 2017;Lee et al., 2018;Lies et al., 2014).
The comprehensive list of indicators in the current study addresses hedonic (LWB), eudaimonic
(PWB), and context specic (WWB) aspects of employee well-being. The evidence that all of
12 Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
these are enhanced by higher levels of dispositional gratitude extends existing knowledge of
workplace gratitude. In tandem with the growing research on gratitude in the workplace (e.g., Di
Fabio et al., 2017;Hu & Kaplan, 2015;Komase et al., 2021), our ndings support the view that
dispositional gratitude is an individual difference with potential benets for employees (in terms
of well-being, LMX, and CWX) and organizations (in terms of organizational commitment),
corroborating the crucial role of gratitude in enhancing workplace outcomes (e.g., Di Fabio et al.,
2017;Komase et al., 2021).
Second, we contribute to the growing literature on workplace gratitude by uncovering the
underlying mechanisms linking dispositional gratitude to favorable outcomes. While previous
studies have acknowledged dispositional gratitudes potential in enhancing interpersonal rela-
tionships (Di Fabio & Gori, 2016;Di Fabio et al., 2017), and the associated benets for employees
and organizations, our study provides empirical conrmation of these effects. In particular,
drawing on the broaden-and-build theory of positive affect and the concepts of LMX and CWX,
our ndings show that dispositional gratitude helps to establish better workplace relationships.
Finally, we contribute to the employee well-being literature by identifying dispositional
gratitude as an important antecedent of employee well-being. Previous research has identied
antecedents of well-being in terms of organizational environment (e.g., work variety, opportunities
for skill use; Warr, 1987), job demands-resources balance (e.g., workload, job autonomy) (Bakker
& Demerouti, 2007;Schaufeli et al., 2009), the role of leader/supervisor (e.g., ethical leadership)
(Chughtai et al., 2015), and individual differences (e.g., psychological capital, locus of control)
(Kim et al., 2019;M¨
akikangas et al., 2013). By introducing the construct of gratitude (originated
from positive psychology) as an antecedent of employee well-being, the present study invites
further research on the predictors of employee well-being to be grounded in the broader positive
psychology literature.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
The present study has a number of limitations. First, although we collected the data on antecedent,
mediating, and outcome variables at three time points, we could not establish causal relationships
among the study variables. Future studies might usefully employ a repeated measures design
(addressing all variables at every time point) to rule out any reciprocal relationships between
variables. In addition, experimental designs would help to establish the causal effects of gratitude
on various work outcomes.
A second limitation of the present study is that all the measures are self-reported. Although the
time-lagged design may alleviate concerns about common method variance (Podsakoff et al.,
2012), it would be useful to incorporate other-rated measures. For example, one could develop a
more complete account of dyadic exchange quality by measuring LMX from the leaders per-
spective and CWX from the coworkers perspective (Cogliser et al., 2009;Paglis & Green, 2002).
Future studies should also collect multi-source data to determine whether the present ndings can
be replicated.
Third, in combination with previous evidence of the benets of state gratitude for behavioral
outcomes such as OCBs (Ford et al., 2018;Spence et al., 2014), our ndings regarding the
inuence of dispositional gratitude on favorable workplace attitudes and affects invite future
research on how workplace outcomes are shaped by the interaction between dispositional and state
gratitude. For example, the relationship between state gratitude and OCB may be moderated by
dispositional gratitude because individuals with a high level of the latter are more likely to exhibit
grateful emotions and reciprocal behaviors (McCullough et al., 2002). As well as augmenting the
existing literature on gratitude, investigation of these relationships would also provide practical
guidance for managers when designing interventions for gratitude cultivation.
Zhao et al. 13
Fourth, dispositional gratitude may also enhance employee well-being in ways that were not
explored here. Our results indicate that the direct relationships between dispositional gratitude and
employee well-being remain signicant when LMX and CWX are included as mediators in the
SEM model (see Figure 1). This suggests that LMX and CWX may explain only some of the
effects of gratitude on employee well-being, and other potential mediators should therefore be
explored. For instance, dispositional gratitude may improve employee well-being by reducing
toxic emotions (e.g., envy), cultivating coping behaviors, and enhancing positive emotions
(Emmons & Mishra, 2011). Future empirical research should explore other potential mechanisms
that may reveal the rationale underlying the links between dispositional gratitude and employee
well-being.
Finally, it seems likely that untested boundary conditions such as demographic variables (e.g.,
gender) and culture inuence the effects of dispositional gratitude on work outcomes (Froh et al.,
2009;Hill & Allemand, 2011). For example, there is evidence that women are more likely than
men to experience gratitude and to derive greater psychological benets from such feelings
(Kashdan et al., 2009). In addition, culture may shape how people experience and express
gratitude, as in the observed variations lie in how gratitude is cultivated among young people
across different countries (Tudge et al., 2015). Future research should therefore investigate
whether male and female employees benet equally from gratitude and whether the effects of
dispositional gratitude can be generalized to different cultures. A fuller understanding of these
potential boundary conditions would extend the literature on workplace gratitude and would also
have signicant practical implications for HR management.
Practical Implications
The present ndings also have a number of practical implications. First, while dispositional
gratitude is commonly viewed as a stable individual difference, it can also be improved through
training or other interventions (e.g., Grant & Gino, 2010;Komase et al., 2021;Wood et al., 2010).
Previous studies have shown that such interventions can promote gratitude (e.g., Locklear et al.,
2021), so facilitating valued workplace outcomes such as job satisfaction and organizational
commitment (Mukhtar & Al-Barri, 2018;Stegen & Wankier, 2018). One such program designed
and implemented by Komase et al. (2019) for a group of 145 workers reported signicant post-
intervention improvements in job performance. If gratitude is shown to enhance workplace
relationship quality and work outcomes, HR managers should be encouraged to explore such
interventions and training programs as tools for organizational development.
Gratitude can also be viewed as a temporal state that is inuenced by contextual factors
(Andersson et al., 2007;Wood et al., 2010). For example, in Fehr et al.s (2017) multilevel model
of gratitude at different organizational levels, frequent and intensive experiences of episodic
(state) gratitude triggered by discrete events (e.g., receiving help from ones supervisor) may
transfer into persistent gratitude. On that basis, strategies to stimulate state gratitude through
discrete affective events (Ford et al., 2018;Spence et al., 2014;Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) might
include supervisor care, family support, and skills training. The development of persistent
gratitude in this way may ultimately engender an organizational culture of gratefulness (Fehr et al.,
2017).
Declaration of Conicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.
14 Journal of Career Assessment 0(0)
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following nancial support for the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article: This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and
the grant number are 71901100 and 72101257.
ORCID iDs
Teng Zhao https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5588-8647
Hairong Li https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6423-2930
Lu Zheng https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3340-7558
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Background The pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has burdened an unprecedented psychological stress on the front-line medical staff, who are at high risk of depression. While existing studies and theories suggest that factors such as gratitude, social support, and hope play a role in the risk of depression, few studies have combined these factors to explore the relationship between them. Objective This study examined the mediating roles of social support and hope in the relationship between gratitude and depression among front-line medical staff during the pandemic of COVID-19. Methods This study used the Gratitude Questionnaire, the Perceived Social Support Scale (PSSS), the State Hope Scale (SHS), and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale to examine the gratitude, social support, hope, and depression among 344 front-line medical workers in Wuhan, which was the hardest-hit area of COVID-19 in China. Results The results showed that the prevalence of mild depressive disorder was 40.12% and the prevalence of major depressive disorder was 9.59% among front-line medical staff during the pandemic of COVID-19; gratitude has a direct and negative effect on depression. Gratitude was negative predictors of depression through the mediating variables of social support and hope [β gratitude – social support – depression = −0.096, 95%CI(−0.129 to −0.064); β gratitude – hope – depression = −0.034, 95%CI(−0.055 to −0.013)], as well as via an indirect path from social support to hope [β gratitude – social support – hope – depression = −0.089, 95%CI (−0.108 to −0.070)]. Conclusion The study findings indicate that gratitude as a positive emotion can reduce depression in medical staff by promoting social support and hope, respectively. Gratitude also reduced depression in health care workers through a chain mediating effect of social support and hope. Overall, gratitude can directly foster social support and hope, and protect people from stress and depression, which has implications for clinical interventions among front-line medical staff during the pandemic of COVID-19.
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