Age and context effects in daily emotion regulation and well-being at work

Susanne Scheibe, Darya Moghimi

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Abstract

With aging, emotion regulation competence is thought to improve, which benefits occupational well-being. Past research on aging and emotion regulation at work has mainly focused on one-time measurements of habitual strategy use. Yet, emotion regulation is a response to changing situational requirements. Using an event-based daily diary approach, we examined whether age moderates the extent to which three characteristics of negative work events (intensity, controllability, and interpersonal nature) predict the adoption of four emotion-regulation strategies (positive reappraisal, distraction, emotion acceptance, and expressive suppression) and subsequent well-being outcomes (job satisfaction and fatigue). Employees (N = 199) aged between 18 and 62 years and of diverse occupational backgrounds reported 1,321 daily negative work events and their emotion-regulatory responses. Results suggest that the emotion-regulation strategies that employees spontaneously use are a function of the intensity and interpersonal nature of events (less so of controllability) and that event characteristics have indirect effects on daily well-being through acceptance and suppression. Younger and older workers responded overall similarly to variations in event characteristics. However, we found age differences in the relationship between event intensity and strategy use. Contrary to predictions of stronger tailoring of strategies to context with age, older workers were more stable in strategy use at higher levels of event intensity, increasing less in suppression and decreasing less in acceptance. Indirect effects of event intensity on well-being point at the adaptive nature of these age-related shifts in strategy use. Findings shed light on adaptive emotion-regulation in daily work life and the role of employee age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalWork, Aging and Retirement
VolumeAdvanced online
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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