Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Committee Director

Konstantin P. Cigularov

Committee Member

Ian M. Katz

Committee Member

Andrew A. Bennett


The global recession stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the public sector of the U.S. economy. Specifically, reduced tax revenues from a dramatic decline in economic activity and increased demand for public services resulted in new and increased job demands for public sector employees (Eggers et al., 2020). However, limited research has examined the effects of COVID-19-related demands on job burnout and work engagement among public sector employees, and the role of personal, social, and organizational resources to protect their well-being (Demerouti & Bakker, 2023). The current study addressed this gap by employing the Job Demands – Resources (JD-R) model as a theoretical framework to better understand how public sector employees are affected by COVID-19 hindrance job demands and the role of public service motivation, servant leadership, and mission valence as resources uniquely suited to them. In line with the JD-R model, it was predicted that COVID-19 hindrance job demands would negatively affect employee well-being while resources would have a positive effect. The moderating role of resources were also examined, and it was predicted that resources would weaken or “buffer” the negative effects of demands and interact to strengthen or “reinforce” the positive effect of other resources. A total of 106 public sector employees responded to two surveys approximately 30-day apart from April to July of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Support for the proposed hypotheses was mixed. COVID-19 hindrance job demands were found to predict job burnout measured 30 days later, whereas the organizational resource mission valence predicted work engagement 30 days later. Job burnout was also significantly related to work engagement, as were COVID-19 hindrance job demands indirectly through their effect on job burnout. Finally, a significant interaction was found between the resources of servant leadership and mission valence when predicting work engagement 30 days later. Results from the current study provide some support for the JD-R model as a theoretical framework to explain employee outcomes in the public sector during a time of crisis. Practical implications for protecting and enhancing the psychological well-being of public sector employees are also provided.


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