Building on theoretical frameworks like the Job Demands Control model and Action Theory we tested whether the relationship between workload and employees’ experiences of opportunities for workplace learning is of an inverted u-shaped nature and whether autonomy moderates this relationship. We predicted that – at moderate levels of autonomy - workload was positively associated with learning opportunities at low levels of workload, but negatively at high levels of workload. Also, we predicted that low autonomy prevents positive effects of moderate workload from materializing whereas high autonomy makes high workload less destructive to the learning process. Furthermore, we examined whether learning opportunities increase particularly as a function of higher matched levels of workload and autonomy and whether mismatch between workload and autonomy is particularly detrimental to the learning process. We found support for these ideas in two large and heterogeneous samples of working adults using moderated and polynomial regression analysis and subsequent response surface methodology. These results integrate conflicting prior findings and extend Karasek's (1979) active learning hypothesis. They also have clear implications for job redesign practices aiming to promote workplace learning opportunities. For this study, the researchers made use of SERV-data from the Flemish Workability Monitor. Only the authors are responsible for the content of this article.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Vocational Behavior
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Ruysseveldt, J., & van Dijke, M. (2011). When are workload and workplace learning opportunities related in a curvilinear manner? The moderating role of autonomy. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(2), 470–483. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2011.03.003