The Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model has been widely used to explain the relationships between work environment characteristics and employees’ performance and well-being [1
]. According to the JD-R model, job characteristics can be divided into two categories: job demands and job resources. These two types of job characteristics are related to employees’ stress and motivation, respectively, and to some organizational outcomes such as performance, turnover intention, and health problems [3
]. Most studies using the JD-R model have been conducted in fields other than education, but recently a few studies have tested the applicability of the JD-R model in school settings (e.g., [6
Teacher emotion in school settings has increasingly attracted the attention of researcher in recent years [9
]. The relevance of emotion to teaching and teachers in both schools [12
] and universities [16
] has been widely recognized. Teachers are generally expected to up-regulate pleasant emotions while down-regulate negative or anti-social emotions [9
]. However, although emotion is well known to closely relate to one’s well-being [20
], no attempt has been made to explore the links among teachers’ emotion regulation, work environment, and their well-being.
Teachers’ emotion regulation is an underexplored issue in the field of educational research, although it has been suggested that teachers’ ability to regulate their emotions is important for their well-being and the effectiveness of classroom management [23
]. Until very recently, few empirical studies explored the role of emotion regulation in teachers’ work. For example, Sutton’s qualitative study demonstrated that teachers believed that regulating their emotions helped them achieve their teaching goals, and that teachers who were successful at regulating their emotions may be less susceptible to burnout [25
]. Sutton and Harper argued that the effectiveness and consequences of emotion regulation are related to the strategies that teachers adopted [26
]. In another qualitative study, Yin classified the strategies adopted by teachers to regulate their emotions in the classroom, and suggested that emotion regulation strategies help teachers fulfill their professional goals and may therefore influence their well-being [27
]. Brackett, Palomera, Mojsa-Kaja, Reyes, and Salovey’s quantitative study found that teachers’ ability to regulate their emotions is positively associated with their positive affect, job satisfaction, and personal accomplishment, which is one component of burnout [28
]. However, little work has been done to systematically examine the relationships between teachers’ emotion regulation and its antecedents and their effects on teaching effectiveness and teacher well-being.
Therefore, the present study examined the relationships between two specific work environment characteristics (i.e., emotional job demands and trust in colleagues), teachers’ emotion regulation strategies (i.e., reappraisal and suppression), and two indicators of teacher well-being (i.e., teaching satisfaction and emotional exhaustion), with a particular focus on the mediating role of emotion regulation. In the following section, the JD-R model and relevant studies are reviewed to establish the hypotheses.
1.1. JD-R Model and Teacher Well-Being
In the JD-R model, the two core concepts, job demands and job resources, are broadly defined to include physical, cognitive, and emotional demands and numerous resources located at organizational, interpersonal, work, and task levels. Bakker and Demerouti defined job demands as job characteristics that “require sustained physical and/or psychological (cognitive or emotional) effort or skills and are therefore associated with certain physiological and/or psychological costs,” and job resources as job characteristics that are either “functional in achieving work goals,” or can “reduce job demands and the associated physiological and psychological costs” ([1
], p. 312). Therefore, the JD-R model is conceptualized as a dual process model that includes two parallel processes: the health impairment process and the motivational process. In the health impairment process, job demands lead to individual efforts to maintain performance and fatigue after-effects; in the health improvement process, the intrinsic and extrinsic motivational potentials of job resources lead to high work engagement. Job demands and resources may also interact with each other during the two development processes of job stress and job motivation [2
The JD-R model provides a powerful framework for exploring the relationships between the characteristics of the work environment and employees’ well-being and performance. As stated above, the validity of the JD-R model in different work contexts has been well documented [3
]. In the field of educational or school psychology, a few studies have applied the JD-R model to the exploration of teachers’ well-being or performance. For instance, Simbula found that teachers’ work engagement mediated the effect of co-workers’ support on job satisfaction and mental health, whereas their exhaustion mediated the relationship between work/family conflict and job satisfaction and mental health [6
]. Hakanen, Bakker, and Schaufeli found that job demands and job resources related to teachers’ burnout and engagement in the expected ways, which further influenced their health and organizational commitment [7
]. Bakker and Bal also found that teachers’ week-levels of autonomy, exchange with their supervisor, and opportunities for development were positively related to weekly engagement, which, in turn, was positively related to weekly performance [8
In this study, particular attention was paid to the emotional side of teaching and the role of emotional regulation, thus, the emotional job demands of teaching, rather than its physical or cognitive demands, was chosen as the job demand under the JD-R framework. The emotional job demands of teaching emerge from teachers’ interactions with students, parents, and colleagues. These emotional job demands denote the specific requirements of the teaching profession on teachers’ emotional expressions, such as showing positive emotions while suppressing negative ones [30
]. Meanwhile, teachers’ perception of trust in colleagues was chosen correspondingly as a work environment resource rather than other job resources such as teacher autonomy or social support, because trust plays a more fundamental role in social interactions. Level of trust in colleagues indicates teachers’ willingness to be vulnerable to their colleagues, based on their belief that colleagues are benevolent, reliable, competent, honest, and open [31
]. Among other resources possessed by teachers, trust is the “foundation of school effectiveness”, without which real supportive environment cannot be created and real job autonomy cannot be delivered [32
]. However, trust in colleagues is often thought to be the basis of “taken-for-granted” aspects of social interaction and deserves more attention.
Emotional exhaustion and teaching satisfaction were used as indicators of teacher well-being in this study. Emotional exhaustion is a state of fatigue that emerges when one’s emotional resources are used up [33
]. It is a proximal variable of burnout, which is a long-term result of some interpersonal interactions. Teaching satisfaction represents the job satisfaction of teachers, which is an important aspect of their life satisfaction [34
]. Job satisfaction has been demonstrated to be closely related to individuals’ psychological well-being and represents a desirable part-whole relationship [35
]. Emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction have been used in many previous studies as indicators of subjective well-being [35
Although there is still a scarcity of research, some studies have provided preliminary results about the effects of emotional job demands and trust in colleagues on teachers’ well-being. For example, Näring et al. found that the emotional job demands of teaching positively predict teachers’ sense of emotional exhaustion 39 [28
], a finding that is consistent with those in health care research (e.g., [41
]). In addition, Wang, Yin, and Huang’s study of service workers found that emotional job demands significantly increased employees’ emotional exhaustion and reduced their job satisfaction [43
]. In contrast, trust in colleagues has often been found to be associated with teachers’ positive well-being indicators or other motivational attributes, such as job satisfaction [44
], personal efficacy [45
], and commitment to students [46
]. Moreover, Van Maele and Van Houtte recently found that trust in schools can act as a buffer against teacher burnout [47
Thus, we hypothesize the following:
The emotional job demands of teaching are positively related to teachers’ emotional exhaustion (H1a), but negatively related to their teaching satisfaction (H1b).
Trust in colleagues is negatively related to teachers’ emotional exhaustion (H2a), but positively related to their teaching satisfaction (H2b).
1.2. Teachers’ Emotional Regulation as a Mediating Process
Although the JD-R model is helpful in explaining the relationships between characteristics of the work environment and employees’ well-being and performance, it has recently been criticized for overlooking “personal resources”, because most psychological approaches assume that human behavior results from the interaction between environmental and personal factors [48
]. These personal resources denote the psychological characteristics that are related to individuals’ ability to successfully control and affect their environment. These personal resources mediate the relationships between job characteristics and well-being [2
]. For instance, researchers have found that individuals’ satisfaction of basic psychological needs (i.e., competence, autonomy, and belongingness) mediated the relationships between job demands and exhaustion, between job resources and vigor, and between job resources and exhaustion [49
The stress and coping theory developed by Lazarus and his colleagues [50
] also lends support to the importance of personal coping strategies as mediators. Lazarus and Folkman suggested that the stress management process has three stages: the cognitive (stress) appraisal, the coping process, and the adaptational outcomes, in which the coping strategies adopted by individuals mediate the relationships between the stressful conditions and individuals’ adaptation [51
]. Therefore, the JD-R model should be expanded to include emotion regulation as part of the mediating process.
Gross suggested that emotions arise automatically or with conscious awareness when external stimuli cause important things to be at stake; the process of influencing one’s own emotions is called emotion regulation [52
]. Teachers’ emotion regulation reflects their ability to successfully interact with their work environment and influence their emotions in workplace. As a function of the interaction between environmental and personal factors, emotion regulation strategies adopted by teachers may further influence their well-being. Gross identified two broad types of emotion regulation strategies: cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression [20
]. Reappraisal is an antecedent-focused emotion regulation that involves “construing a potentially emotional-eliciting situation in nonemotional terms,” whereas suppression is a response-focused emotion regulation that involves “inhibiting ongoing emotional expressive behavior” ([20
], p. 283).
1.2.1. Emotional Job Demands, Trust in Colleagues, and Teachers’ Emotional Regulation
Schools and classrooms are complex emotional arenas, and teachers are constantly exposed to the emotional demands placed on them. According to the stress and coping theory, the emotional job demands of teaching, which are rooted in the social expectations and professional norms of teaching [30
], may serve as external stimuli that triggers teachers’ appraising situation as stressful and adopting subsequent coping strategies. However, other environmental and personal factors may influence teachers’ adoption of certain type of emotional regulation strategies (i.e., coping strategies) [52
]. Some tend to reappraise the situation while others tend to suppress their emotional expression. It is also possible that teachers may suppress their emotional expressions and try to reappraise the situation simultaneously during class. Empirically, Lo’s study of nursing students empirically demonstrated that the stress resulting from the emotional job demands of nursing correlated with the nurses’ avoidance coping and negative self-esteem [53
]. Peng, Wong, and Che found that the emotional demands of a job increased employees’ use of coping strategies [54
]. Given the characteristics of teachers’ work environment, it is credible to suppose that the emotional job demands of teaching could impel teachers to use either reappraisal or suppression strategies.
Thus, we hypothesize the following:
The emotional job demands of teaching are positively related to reappraisal (H3a) and suppression (H3b).
As an element of a constructive school environment, trust in colleagues also plays important roles in teachers’ emotion regulation processes. People may feel more comfortable being themselves when safety has been ensured [55
]. Therefore, teachers in a trustful environment may evaluate their work as less stressful and more relaxed, thus, needing no coping strategy. In addition, teachers who trust their colleagues tend to be more authentic, and thus reduce the use of reappraisal or suppression strategies. Therefore, it is credible to assume that trust in colleagues may decrease teachers’ use of both reappraisal and suppression strategies, even though relevant empirical results are rare.
Thus, we hypothesize the following:
Trust in colleagues is negatively related to reappraisal (H4a) and suppression (H4b).
1.2.2. Emotion Regulation and Teacher Well-Being
Gross classified the consequences of emotion regulation into three types: affective, cognitive, and social consequences [20
]. Lazarus particularly suggested that coping is capable of mediating the emotional outcomes from the beginning to the end of an encounter [50
]. The relationship between emotion regulation and teacher well-being still needs to be elaborated.
King and Emmons proposed that a lack of emotional expression combined with a desire to express it may be detrimental to an individual’s health [56
]. Response-focused regulation (i.e., suppression) may be harmful because individuals cannot express emotions that have already formed. In contrast, antecedent-focused regulation (i.e., reappraisal) may be helpful because it allows individuals to use some cognitive techniques to form the required emotions. Therefore, some researchers have argued that reappraisal may be more effective than suppression for teachers trying to manage their emotions in classroom settings [23
Recently, empirical studies have also explored the consequences of emotion regulation in different contexts, including its effects on individuals’ well-being. Brotheridge and Lee found that suppression appears to be associated with prolonged effort, which is in turn linked to adverse health and well-being [57
]. Gross and John found that using reappraisal is associated with better interpersonal functioning and positively related to well-being, whereas using suppression is associated with worse interpersonal functioning and negatively related to well-being [21
]. Researchers also found that for school teachers, suppression is negatively related to job satisfaction but positively related to emotional exhaustion, whereas reappraisal is positively related to job satisfaction but negatively related to negative affect [58
In the field of education research, Chang suggested that teachers’ burnout may come from individual factors, organizational factors, and their interactions (transactional factors) and that the habitual pattern in teachers’ judgments (appraise) about student behavior is an important transactional factor that contribute to teachers’ unpleasant emotion and burnout [59
]. A integrative model has been described in her recently work which proposed that teachers’ appraisals of disruptive behavior may lead to episodic unpleasant emotions, which could further be handled by using different coping strategies including cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression [60
]. Results indicated that the reappraisal strategies were negative while the suppression strategies were positive related to burnout [60
Therefore, it is credible to assume that teachers who habitually use more reappraise strategies may be more satisfied with their work and less likely to be emotionally exhausted, whereas teachers who habitually suppress emotions may be at higher risk of experiencing emotional exhaustion and feel less satisfied with their work.
Thus, we hypothesize the following:
Reappraisal is negatively related to emotional exhaustion (H5a) and positively related to teaching satisfaction (H5b).
Suppression is positively related to emotional exhaustion (H6a) and negatively related to teaching satisfaction (H6b).
In short, this study integrated emotion regulation strategies into the JD-R model as mediating processes. Specifically, using a sample of Hong Kong primary school teachers, we examined (a) the relationships between two characteristics of teachers’ work environment, i.e., emotional job demands of teaching and trust in colleagues, and two well-being indicators, i.e., emotional exhaustion and teaching satisfaction; and (b) the mediating role of two emotion regulation strategies (i.e., reappraisal and suppression) in the relationships between job characteristics and teacher well-being. The hypothesized model tested in this study is shown in Figure 1