Social Exchange at Work and Emotional Exhaustion: The Role of Personality


  • The authors express their deepest gratitude to the 322 respondents who took part in the study and to the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Paraskevas Petrou, Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS, Utrecht, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Unbalanced social-exchange processes at work have been linked to emotional exhaustion. In addition to organizational factors, individual differences are important determinants of reciprocity perceptions. This study explored whether broad and narrow personality traits were associated with perceived lack of reciprocity (organizational and interpersonal levels), and whether personality moderated the relationship between reciprocity and emotional exhaustion, in a sample of 322 civil servants. Extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, internal locus of control, and Type A behavior predicted reciprocity. The relationship between perceived lack of reciprocity with the organization and emotional exhaustion was stronger for individuals reporting lower negative affect or higher extraversion. These findings highlight the importance of personality for understanding perceived reciprocity at work and its impact on emotional exhaustion.