Research Spotlight: James M. Diefendorff, Ph. D., Associate Professor of Psychology, conducts research on emotions in organizations and work motivation.

James M. Diefendorff, Ph. D., Associate Professor of Psychology, conducts research on emotions in organizations and work motivation.  His research on workplace emotions has focused primarily on emotional labor, or the management of emotions as part of the work role.  The basic idea behind emotional labor is that many jobs have emotional display rules that dictate which emotions should be expressed (or not expressed) as part of the work role.  At times, employees may be able to meet these emotional display rule requirements by simply expressing their felt emotions, but at other times they may need to actively manage their feelings and emotional expressions to show the emotions that are required for the job.  Examples of high emotional labor occupations include retail salespeople, health care professionals, and police interrogators.  Dr. Diefendorff’s work has focused on understanding (a) the content of emotional display rule perceptions, as well as the antecedents and consequences of these perceptions, (b) the emotion regulation strategies that employees use to manage their emotions on the job, and (c) the impact of emotional labor on employee well-being and performance.  He is currently working on a National Science Foundation funded project focused on understanding the effects of emotional labor on nurse well-being and patient outcomes, and is co-editing a book on emotional labor that is scheduled to be published in 2012. 

Dr. Diefendorff’s research on work motivation has focused on both dispositional determinants of motivated behavior as well as the self-regulatory processes involved in goal attainment.  Motivation can be defined as the unobservable force that directs, energizes, and sustains behavior over time and across circumstances.  Dr. Diefendorff has examined the influence of various motivational traits on motivated behaviors such as personal initiative at work, test performance, job performance, citizenship behaviors, and counterproductive behaviors.  His work has also considered how motivation fluctuates over time and the situational and dispositional factors related to whether motivation is maintained at a high level.  Recently, Dr. Diefendorff has become interested in the importance of intrinsic motivation for reaching optimal performance and personal well-being.  Dr. Diefendorff is involved in a variety of on-going projects in this area of research.