Original Research

Work pressure, emotional demands and work performance among information technology professionals in South Africa: The role of exhaustion and depersonalisation

Jessica Dos Santos Tome, Leoni van der Vaart
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 18 | a1362 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v18i0.1362 | © 2020 Jessica Dos Santos Tome, Leoni van der Vaart | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 March 2020 | Published: 08 October 2020

About the author(s)

Jessica Dos Santos Tome, School of Industrial Psychology and Human Resource Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Leoni van der Vaart, School of Industrial Psychology and Human Resource Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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Orientation: Technological advancements are occurring at a rapid rate, and individuals working in information technology (IT) often work under challenging and emotionally demanding circumstances. Also, there is a shortage of IT professionals, and organisations have difficulty retaining them. These circumstances may result in exhaustion and depersonalisation that have negative consequences for the work performance of the remaining IT professionals.

Research purpose: This research aimed to investigate the relationships between work pressure, emotional demands, exhaustion, depersonalisation, task performance and counterproductive work behaviour among IT professionals within South Africa.

Motivation for the study: Research on the individual work performance of IT professionals, specifically in South Africa, is limited in number and scope.

Research approach/design and method: In this study, a quantitative approach was used to collect cross-sectional data from a convenience sample of 296 IT professionals in South Africa.

Main findings: Results from structural equation modelling (SEM) indicated that emotional demands and depersonalisation impacted task performance positively and negatively, respectively. Depersonalisation positively impacted counterproductive work behaviour, and work pressure positively impacted exhaustion.

Practical/managerial implications: Organisations should aim to create awareness of IT professionals experiencing emotional demands, work pressure and depersonalisation as there are consequences for these behaviours. Beyond awareness creation, management should design and implement interventions to optimise emotional demands and to minimise work pressure and depersonalisation.

Contribution/value-add: The study contributes to the limited literature on IT professionals’ work performance within a South African context by providing insights on the role exhaustion and depersonalisation play (or the lack thereof) in explaining the effect of work demands on individual work performance.


job demands; task performance; counterproductive work behaviour; indirect effects; IT professionals; South Africa


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