Taking engagement to task: The nature and functioning of task engagement across transitions. Academic Article uri icon


  • Engagement is widely viewed as a motivational state that captures the degree to which individuals apply their physical, cognitive, and emotional energies to their jobs, and ultimately improves job performance. However, this job-level view overlooks the possibility that engagement may vary across the different tasks within a job and that engagement in one task may influence engagement and performance in a subsequent task. In this article, we develop and test hypotheses based on a task-level view of engagement and the general notion that there is "residual engagement" from a task that carries forward to a subsequent task. We propose that although task engagement (engagement in a specific task that comprises a broader role) positively spills over to influence task engagement and performance in a subsequent task, in part because of the transmission of positive affect, task engagement simultaneously engenders attention residue, which in turn impedes subsequent task engagement and performance. These predictions were supported in a study of 477 task transitions made by 20 crew members aboard The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Human Exploration Research Analog (Study 1) and in a laboratory study of 346 participants who transitioned between a firefighting task and an assembly task (Study 2). Our investigation explains how engagement flows across tasks, illuminates a negative implication of engagement that has been masked by the predominant job-level perspective, and identifies completeness as a task attribute that reduces this negative consequence of engagement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • J Appl Psychol

altmetric score

  • 2.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Newton, D. W., LePine, J. A., Kim, J. K., Wellman, N., & Bush, J. T.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Newton, Daniel W||LePine, Jeffery A||Kim, Ji Koung||Wellman, Ned||Bush, John T

publication date

  • January 2020