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Keywords:

  • emotional exhaustion;
  • cognitive performance;
  • cognitive impairment;
  • job performance;
  • executive control

Abstract

We investigate how emotional exhaustion (EE), the core component of burnout, relates to cognitive performance, job performance and health. Cognitive performance was assessed by self-rated cognitive stress symptoms, self-rated and peer-rated cognitive impairments in everyday tasks and a neuropsychological test of learning and memory (LGT-3); job performance and physical health were gauged by self-reports. Cross-sectional linear regression analyses in a sample of 100 teachers confirm that EE is negatively related to cognitive performance as assessed by self-rating and peer-rating as well as neuropsychological testing (all p < .05). Longitudinal linear regression analyses confirm similar trends (p < .10) for self-rated and peer-rated cognitive performance. Executive control deficits might explain impaired cognitive performance in EE. In longitudinal analyses, EE also significantly predicts physical health. Contrary to our expectations, EE does not affect job performance. When reversed causation is tested, none of the outcome variables at Time 1 predict EE at Time 2. This speaks against cognitive dysfunctioning serving as a vulnerability factor for exhaustion. In sum, results underpin the negative consequences of EE for cognitive performance and health, which are relevant for individuals and organizations alike. In this way, findings might contribute to the understanding of the burnout syndrome. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.