A conservation of resources perspective on public sector employee work engagement

Aisling Brennan, Thomas Garavan, Tom Egan, Fergal O'Brien, Irfan Ullah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Research on how and when leader–member exchange (LMX) impacts work engagement in different public sector contexts and categories of employees is scarce. Utilising conservation of resources theory, we advance research on LMX and work engagement in two studies. Study 1 investigates the mediating role of a contextual resource (psychological safety) and an energy resource (job crafting) in a resource-rich context, and Study 2 investigates the moderating role of a personal resource (optimism) in a resource-poor context. Study 1 uses a three-wave research design with employees from the engineering and technical divisions of an Irish public utility operating in the energy market and found that both psychological safety and job crafting functioned as partial mediators. Study 2 uses a sample of teachers and tutors from three Irish local authority education and training organisations and found that subordinate optimism moderated the LMX work engagement relationship. Our study findings highlight that both psychological safety and job crafting operated as important linking mechanisms and shed light on how LMX is linked to work engagement in the case of public utility employees. We also found that employee optimism provided an explanation of when it will impact work engagement with employees working in an education context. We highlight theory and practice implications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Management Review
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2023


  • job crafting
  • leader–member exchange
  • psychological safety
  • public sector organisations
  • subordinate optimism
  • work engagement


Dive into the research topics of 'A conservation of resources perspective on public sector employee work engagement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this