Empowering Leadership, Professional Isolation, and Emotional Exhaustion: A Daily Diary Investigation

Wilfred van den Brand*, Irina Nikolova, M.C.J. Caniels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Abstract/Poster in proceedingAcademicpeer-review

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Due to the numerous challenges employees are facing during the Covid-19 outbreak, emotional exhaustion is considered to be a serious threat. Therefore, it is vital to gain more insights into how organizations can counteract emotional exhaustion in pandemic settings. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we propose a model in which daily empowering leadership reduces daily emotional exhaustion through daily professional isolation. To test our hypothesis, we used a daily diary methodology. Data were collected during the pandemic, between October and December 2020. The sample consists of 39 (n = 39) employees from a variety of companies in the Netherlands. Participants were asked to provide daily scores on the study variables for a period of ten consecutive working days, leading to 231 (n = 231) daily observations. In order to analyse the data, we performed multilevel path analysis in Mplus. Daily empowering leadership was negatively related to daily professional isolation, and subsequently daily professional isolation was positively related to daily emotional exhaustion. Results showed that daily empowering leadership indirectly contributes to the reduction of emotional exhaustion through professional isolation. The findings contribute to the body of knowledge on leadership behaviours, professional isolation and emotional exhaustion. In the context of a pandemic, when working remotely is the only option, leaders are advised to engage in empowering behaviours to reduce employees’ exhaustion (indirectly) and to help them deal with professional isolation experiences. This can be done, for instance, by affording employee autonomy, allowing them to participate in making decisions, and asking them for input. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the impact of empowering leadership on emotional exhaustion on a daily basis. In addition, we examine the potential of empowering leadership to help employees cope with professional isolation, a relationship that has not been scrutinized thus far. Another valuable contribution of this study is that it focuses on the leadership-employee isolation-emotional exhaustion relationship in the setting of a pandemic. Thereby, we add to the literature on coping with challenging working conditions during a crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBOOK OF PROCEEDINGS 15 th Conference of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology
Subtitle of host publication‘Supporting Knowledge Comparison to Promote Good Practice in Occupational Health Psychology’
EditorsKevin Teoh , Fiona Frost , Jasmeet Singh , Maria Charalampous, Miguel Muñoz
PublisherEuropean Academy of Occupational Health Psychology
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9928786-6-5
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2022
Event15th European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology Conference: Supporting knowledge comparison to promote good practice in occupational health psychology - University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
Duration: 6 Jul 20228 Jul 2022
Conference number: 15


Conference15th European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology Conference
Internet address


  • empowering leadership
  • professional isolation
  • emotiona exhaustion


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