Transformational Leadership and Burnout: The Role of Thriving and Followers’ Openness to Experience

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Abstract

Grounding our research in conservation of resources theory, we set out to shed light on the relationship between transformational leadership (TFL) and employee burnout. Specifically, we considered both thriving at work, a personal resource, and employees’ openness to experience (OTE), a key resource, to uncover whether all employees benefit equally from TFL (a contextual resource). In detail, we argued that the negative effect of TFL on employee burnout is mediated by employee thriving at work, and that employees’ OTE constitutes a boundary condition of this process. Our moderated mediation model was tested with 2 waves of data from 148 employees from a midsized German manufacturing company. The results supported our hypotheses and revealed that employees’ thriving at work mediated the link between TFL and reduced burnout. As predicted, these relationships were moderated by employees’ personality in such a way that TFL affected thriving and hence burnout of employees high on OTE, but not of employees low on OTE. Taken together, our findings suggest that TFL serves as a resource that protects employees from burning out, but also highlights the need to consider employees’ personality in perceptions of and reactions to leadership.

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