"Enthusiastic employees excel in their work because they maintain the balance between the energy they give and the energy they receive."
Arnold B. Bakker
Welcome to the website and blog of organizational psychologist Arnold Bakker, Ph.D., one of the driving forces behind Job Demands–Resources theory and author of several classic books and articles in organizational psychology and management. Dr. Bakker is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and students.
He is professor of Work and Organizational Psychology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, and (distinguished) visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg and North-West University in South Africa, the University of Bergen in Norway, and the University of Zagreb in Croatia.
Together with his colleagues, he has developed questionnaires for the assessment of various important well-being indicators and employee behaviors, such as work engagement, burnout, flow, job crafting and playful work design.
Arnold B. Bakker
Arnold Bakker is an internationally known organizational psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and students. Together with Evangelia Demerouti, he has developed Job Demands–Resources (JD-R) theory – one of the most-cited theories in psychology and management literature.
Bakker has been on Thomson Reuters’ list of “Most influential scientific minds” since 2013, and is the most-cited psychologist in The Netherlands (#17 worldwide). With his colleagues, he has developed questionnaires for the assessment of work engagement, burnout, flow, job crafting, intrapreneurship, playful work design, job demands-resources, meaning-making, leisure crafting, strengths use, stop and start control, emotional intelligence, and more. Many of these instruments are available in several languages, including English, Spanish, and Chinese.
As a scientist-practitioner, Bakker has developed several training interventions – including JD-R, job crafting, playful work design, and self-nudging interventions. He is founder of the Center of Excellence for Positive Organizational Psychology, which mission centers on bringing evidence-based positive psychology interventions to organizations worldwide
Bakker is past president of the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (www.eawop.org). His work has been recognized with many best paper awards, and he was made a Fellow of the American Psychological Society, the International Association of Applied Psychology, and the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology in recognition of his work.
In his own words
I was born in a small town called Genemuiden (The Netherlands) on July 19, 1964. We have a large family – I am number 7 of 8 children. My brothers and sisters and I enjoyed the many dinners, socializing, and playing board games. When I was young, I started reading several books per week and developed a sense of the bigger world around me.
As a teenager, I really enjoyed playing volleyball – I mean, I played six days per week at the club and at school. After finishing high school, I studied Econometrics for a while at the University of Groningen. When my father passed away, I worked as a salesman for a wholesaler of electrical tools. Here I could further develop my feel for numbers and social skills, but books by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung pulled me back to the university.
I started studying psychology at the University of Groningen in 1986, and specialized in organizational, social, and personality psychology. The psychology bachelors and master in Groningen has always had a strong statistics department, and I really enjoyed the method courses where we learned to design our own research. At the time, Evert van der Vliert was a professor of organizational psychology who specialized in conflicts. He supervised my first study – observational research on conflict management styles among police officers. I was introduced into personality psychology by Wim Hofstee, one of the architects of the Big Five model. During my psychology undergraduate studies, I worked as teaching assistant for practical courses on interviewing techniques, diagnostics, and personnel selection.
After completing my masters, I worked with Bram Buunk and did my PhD at the University of Groningen on the social psychology of health behaviors and persuasion (finished in 1995). As a postdoc, I did advertising research for a while, for example on the transfer of irritation in advertising (see this). In September 1996, I got a postdoc position at the University of Utrecht and worked with Wilmar Schaufeli.
I was back in the field of organizational psychology, and started studying burnout – the syndrome of chronic exhaustion and a cynical attitude towards work. I travelled several times to Hawaii to learn the basics of emotional contagion from Elaine Hatfield, and published my first studies on burnout contagion (see for example, this article and this one). I met Evangelia Demerouti at a burnout conference in Utrecht in 1997, and this is where our long-term research on Job Demands–Resources theory started.
This was the time of the internet bubble, and I set up a company that specialized in assessing job demands and resources, as well as possible consequences (e.g., burnout, absence, job performance). The JDR-monitor results in personalized and immediate online feedback on individuals’ job demands and resources in the form of histograms and qualitative information. The approach is still used by various consultancy firms.
In 1998, I realized that many people suffer from burnout, and that it would make sense to follow a positive psychology approach by focusing on its opposite – work engagement. Wilmar Schaufeli and I defined work engagement as a positive and fulfilling state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption. We developed the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, and started our research on the predictors and outcomes of engagement.
Over the past decades, I found out that organizations can facilitate work engagement by optimizing employees’ job design, and by facilitating employee proactive work behaviors, including job crafting, strengths use, proactive vitality management, and playful work design (see for example this article, and this one). Our latest research focuses on positive psychology interventions in a work context, such as self-nudging interventions to help employees nudge themselves to be more physically active, and job crafting interventions to increase the person-job fit and the meaning of work (see, for example, this and this article).