The lingering curvilinear effect of workload on employee rumination and negative emotions: A diary study

Shani Pindek, University of Haifa
Zhiqing E. Zhou, Baruch College
Stacey R. Kessler, Kennesaw State University
Alexandra Krajcevska, University of South Florida, Tampa
Paul E. Spector, Muma College of Business


A high workload has long been considered a harmful stressor that adversely affects employees. In the current study, we propose that work underload also has negative implications for employees, and that there is a curvilinear relationship between daily workload and rumination. These negative consequences can carry over to the next day. We collected data from a sample of 137 employees over the course of 9 days to examine how deviations from employees’ average workload impacts their negative rumination at the conclusion of the workday and their negative emotions the following morning. Results of the multilevel analyses indicated that daily workload had a significant curvilinear, J-shaped association with subsequent evening negative rumination that carries over into the following day in the form of higher negative emotions. These effects were stronger for employees with high levels of trait negative affectivity. Our findings suggest that while the effect of upward deviation from the typical workload is worse for employee rumination and subsequent negative emotions than the effect of downward deviation, deviations in either direction have negative effects on employees, especially for individuals with high levels of trait negative affectivity. In conclusion, this study highlights the importance of examining daily fluctuation in workload.