Linking Challenge Stress, Negative Affect, and Work Engagement: The Moderating Effect of Self-Compassion

Christophe RUKUNDO, Jean-Noel BEKA BE NGUEMA, Cynthia Atamba, Mohamed Habuba Halima, Akorfa Neku


Dealing with challenging stressors is unquestionably the cornerstone of work life. On the other hand, challenge stress alters employees' work engagement and makes them feel unsure of their ability to develop careers and perform well. In this study, we tested the mediating effects of negative affect on the negative relationship between challenge stress and work engagement. This relationship was moderated directly by self-compassion. Data from 137 employed professionals enrolled in the Executive MBA in one of the largest Chinese universities were used to test these relationships. Data analysis results show that challenge stress has a significant negative effect on work engagement while negative affect mediated this relationship. The relationship between challenge stressors, negative affect, and work engagement was directly and indirectly moderated by self-compassion. We finished by discussing the theoretical and practical implications. 

Full Text:



Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2008). Towards a model of work engagement. Career Development International.

Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2014). Job Demands-Resources Theory. In Wellbeing.

Barker, E. D., Copeland, W., Maughan, B., Jaffee, S. R., & Uher, R. (2012). Relative impact of maternal depression and associated risk factors on offspring psychopathology. British Journal of Psychiatry.

Ben-Zur, H. (2019). Transactional Model of Stress and Coping. In Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences.

Bennett, A. A., Bakker, A. B., & Field, J. G. (2018). Recovery from the work-related effort: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39(3), 262–275.

Burger, R., Posel, D., & von Fintel, M. (2017). The relationship between negative household events and depressive symptoms: Evidence from South African longitudinal data. Journal of Affective Disorders.

Cavanaugh, M. A., Boswell, W. R., Roehling, M. V., & Boudreau, J. W. (2000). An empirical examination of self-reported work stress among U.S. managers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(1), 65–74.

Crawford, E. R., LePine, J. A., & Rich, B. L. (2010). Linking job demands and resources to employee engagement and burnout: A theoretical extension and meta-analytic test. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Davenport, H. T. (2005). Thinking for a living; How to get betterpPerformance and results from knowledge workers. Economist, 378(8461), 9–14.

Demerouti, E., & Bakker, A. B. (2007). The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory: A good alternative to measure burnout and engagement. Handbook of Stress and Burnout in Healthcare.

Deng, X., Ding, X., Cheng, C., & Chou, H. M. (2016). Feeling Happy and Sad at the Same Time? Subcultural Differences in Experiencing Mixed Emotions between Han Chinese and Mongolian Chinese. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.

Extremera, N., & Rey, L. (2016). Ability emotional intelligence and life satisfaction: Positive and negative affect as mediators. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 98–101.

Ferrari, M., Hunt, C., Harrysunker, A., Abbott, M. J., Beath, A. P., & Einstein, D. A. (2019). Self-Compassion Interventions and Psychosocial Outcomes: a Meta-Analysis of RCTs. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1455–1473.

Folkman, S. (1984). Personal control and stress and coping processes: A theoretical analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.

Halbesleben, J. R. B., & Wheeler, A. R. (2008). The relative roles of engagement and embeddedness in predicting job performance and intention to leave. Work and Stress.

Hayes, F. A. (2013). An introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression‐based approach. NY: Guilford Press.

Henshall, L. E., Alexander, T., Molyneux, P., Gardiner, E., & McLellan, A. (2018). The relationship between perceived organisational threat and compassion for others: Implications for the NHS. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 25(2), 231–249.

Hitchcock, C., Ellis, A. A., Williamson, P., & Nixon, R. D. V. (2015). The Prospective Role of Cognitive Appraisals and Social Support in Predicting Children’s Posttraumatic Stress. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Keeping, L. M., & Levy, P. E. (2000). Performance appraisal reactions: Measurement, modeling, and method bias. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Kotera, Y., Van Laethem, M., & Ohshima, R. (2020). Cross-cultural comparison of mental health between Japanese and Dutch workers: relationships with mental health shame, self-compassion, work engagement and motivation. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 27(3), 511–530.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1987). Transactional theory and research on emotions and coping. European Journal of Personality, 1(3), 141–169.

Lepine, J. A., Lepine, M. A., & Jackson, C. L. (2004). Challenge and hindrance stress: Relationships with exhaustion, motivation to learn, and learning performance. In Journal of Applied Psychology.

McGrath, J. E., & Beehr, T. A. (1990). Time and the stress process: Some temporal issues in the conceptualization and measurement of stress. Stress Medicine, 6(2), 93–104.

Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.

NEFF, K. D. (2003). The Development and Validation of a Scale to Measure Self-Compassion. Self and Identity.

O’Brien, K. E., & Beehr, T. A. (2019). So far, so good: Up to now, the challenge–hindrance framework describes a practical and accurate distinction. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(8), 962–972.

Parker, S. K., Morgeson, F. P., & Johns, G. (2017). One hundred years of work design research: Looking back and looking forward. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 403–420.

Pérula-de Torres, L.-A., Atalaya, J. C. V.-M., García-Campayo, J., Roldán-Villalobos, A., Magallón-Botaya, R., Bartolomé-Moreno, C., Moreno-Martos, H., Melús-Palazón, E., Liétor-Villajos, N., Valverde-Bolívar, F. J., Hachem-Salas, N., Rodríguez, L.-A., Navarro-Gil, M., Epstein, R., Cabezón-Crespo, A., & Moreno, C. M.-V. (2019). Controlled clinical trial comparing the effectiveness of a mindfulness and self-compassion 4-session programme versus an 8-session programme to reduce work stress and burnout in family and community medicine physicians and nurses: MINDUUDD study protocol. BMC Family Practice, 20(1), 24.

Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.

Prem, R., Kubicek, B., Diestel, S., & Korunka, C. (2016). Regulatory job stressors and their within-person relationships with ego depletion: The roles of state anxiety, self-control effort, and job autonomy. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

Prem, R., Ohly, S., Kubicek, B., & Korunka, C. (2017). Thriving on challenge stressors? Exploring time pressure and learning demands as antecedents of thriving at work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(1), 108–123.

Rivkin, W., Diestel, S., & Schmidt, K. H. (2015). Affective commitment as a moderator of the adverse relationships between day-specific self-control demands and psychological well-being. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

Roseman, I. J., Wiest, C., & Swartz, T. S. (1994). Phenomenology, Behaviors, and Goals Differentiate Discrete Emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Schaufeli, W. B., & Bakker, A. B. (2010). Defining and measuring work engagement: Bringing clarity to the concept. In Work Engagement: A Handbook of Essential Theory and Research.

Schaufeli, W., Salanova, M., González-romá, V., & Bakker, A. (2002). The Measurement of Engagement and Burnout: A Two Sample Confirmatory Factor Analytic Approach. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Schmitt, A., Ohly, S., & Kleespies, N. (2015). Time pressure promotes work engagement. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 14(1), 28–36.

Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (2006). Feelings and Phenomenal Experiences. In Social Psychology. Handbook of basic principles.

Tadić, M., Bakker, A. B., & Oerlemans, W. G. M. (2015). Challenge versus hindrance job demands and well-being: A diary study on the moderating role of job resources. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88(4), 702–725.

Ten Brummelhuis, L. L., & Bakker, A. B. (2012). Staying engaged during the week: The effect of off-job activities on next day work engagement. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17(4), 445–455.

Vötter, B., & Schnell, T. (2019). Cross-Lagged Analyses Between Life Meaning, Self-Compassion, and Subjective Well-being Among Gifted Adults. Mindfulness, 10(7), 1294–1303.

Webster, J. R., Beehr, T. A., & Love, K. (2011). Extending the challenge-hindrance model of occupational stress: The role of appraisal. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(2), 505–516.


Copyright (c) 2020 Christophe RUKUNDO, Jean-Noel BEKA BE NGUEMA, Cynthia Atamba, Mohamed Habuba Halima, Akorfa Neku

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

International Journal of Human Resource Studies  ISSN 2162-3058


Copyright © Macrothink Institute  

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.