Defense Date

Summer 5-22-2019

Degree Type





Business Administration

Chair or Co-Chair

Dr. Susan Young

Committee Member or Co-Chair

Dr. Joseph Coombs

Committee Member

Dr. Torsten Pieper


Dr. Joseph Astrachan


Entrepreneurial burnout is a worrying problem because it is related to reduced performance and venture failures. Existing models do not adequately explain the causes of burnout among entrepreneurs. Exploring the antecedents and mechanisms leading to this significant issue can thus enhance our understanding and facilitate the design of interventions.

This study proposes an entrepreneur-venture fit model to explain burnout among entrepreneurs. Regulatory focus orientations of promotion and prevention are proposed as defining the characteristics of entrepreneurs and their ventures that determine fit, and passion is proposed to moderate fit effects.

The model was tested using a survey-based field study to collect data from a broad range of entrepreneurs across the United States (n=308). Hierarchical linear regression testing found that most of the proposed model is unsupported. The findings support promotion-based fit effects on cynicism, but none on the exhaustion and professional efficacy dimensions of burnout. The promotion focus of both the entrepreneur and venture is found to directly reduce burnout. Prevention focus does not affect burnout, which may be explained by a higher stressor tolerance or stronger coping resources among entrepreneurs. Moderation by passion is not supported, but harmonious passion directly affects burnout less than expected, and obsessive passion has no direct effect. Unexpected passion effects are explained by established stressor factors from outside the venture (i.e., work-family and family-work conflict).

The study results contribute to the extant literature and practice in several ways. First, entrepreneurial burnout literature is expanded by this addition. Entrepreneurship research on regulatory focus benefits from these findings regarding promotion and prevention effects. Passion research in entrepreneurship is extended to highlight the importance of controlling established relationships. Entrepreneurs also gain insight into several fronts from this study. Maximizing promotion focus aspects in job design is useful, and conflict from outside the firm, specifically from the family, is important to address. Entrepreneurs may be more tolerant of stressors from within the firm, so less attention may be warranted to mitigate those sources. Lastly, autonomy may be a critical resource in defining entrepreneurs and stressor tolerance, and thus it may be important to protect the control aspects of entrepreneurship.