Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Turning Interruptions Into Engagement? A Daily Approach to the Study of Interruptions on the Employee Engagement of Knowledge Workers

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Margaret Brooks (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Dena Eber (Other)

Third Advisor

Clare Barrett (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Eric Dubow (Committee Member)


Workplace interruptions are a job demand that are becoming a reality of work, primarily because of advances in technology and increased connectivity. This is particularly true for knowledge workers who are constantly connected, largely autonomous, and often flexible to work anywhere, anytime. This is concerning as research shows that interruptions negatively influence employee’s satisfaction, performance, and well-being (e.g. Bailey & Konstan, 2006; Eyrolle & Cellier, 2000; Trafton, Altmann, Brock, & Mintz, 2003). However, through the evolution of the Job-Demands Resource Model, it was found that job demands may not be all bad. Demands that are perceived as challenging rather than hindering, motivate employees thus influencing performance and well-being outcomes like employee engagement. The present study examined whether task-based interruptions that have inherently motivating qualities positively affect employee engagement. Additionally, I assessed whether the context (frequency, length, and unexpectedness) of task-based interruptions negatively influence engagement. Results of this study suggested that neither the frequency with which one is interrupted nor the length of time it takes to resolve a task-based interruption influenced engagement. However, the extent to which a task-based interruption was unexpected did negatively relate to engagement in that those that were more unexpected were more detrimental to this construct. All of the job characteristics tested, positively and significantly related to engagement suggesting that the extent to which interruptions provide opportunities for challenging and interesting work may increase employee investment and motivation. Overall, this study suggests that all interruptions are not inherently negative or harmful to employees. Rather, there are conditions under which knowledge workers may benefit from the participation in task-based interruptions. Future research is needed to better understand the boundary conditions under which interruptions may influence other well-being and organizational outcomes.