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In awareness of the increasing relevance of self-control for goal achievement and its adverse effects on psychological strain in different occupational contexts, we tested lagged mediational effects of self-control demands (SCDs) on emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, anxiety, and sum of days absent. The present analyses draw on two German longitudinal samples (NTOTAL = 399) and a measure of absenteeism. We used structural equation modelling and cross-lagged panel analyses to test our hypotheses. In line with theoretical arguments of action regulation theory, SCDs were found to mediate the longitudinal relationship between workload and exhaustion, anxiety, and sum of days absent at a later point in time, after controlling for other relevant job characteristics (workload, emotional dissonance, and job resources, such as job control and social support). Implications of the present results are discussed against the background of potential protective resources.

Practitioner Points

  • The present results indicate that job characteristics, which cause employees to engage in self-control, exert adverse effects on psychological well-being and absenteeism in the long run.
  • HR managers as well as HR consultants should consider the double-sided nature of competency models and job specifications that include requirements on volitional self-regulation of thoughts, emotions, and behaviour (examples for commonly used behavioural anchors are given in the text).
  • Our findings call for HR systems that provide assistance (such as self-management or self-control training programmes, emotional and social support) in facing self-control demands and exerting goal-directed regulation of behaviour.
  • The effects on absenteeism shed light on long-term organizational costs that are associated with high demands on self-control and high workload.