Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Zhiqing Zhou

Committee Members

Erin Eatough

Yochi Cohen-Charash

Wei Wang

Paul Spector

Subject Categories

Industrial and Organizational Psychology


Illegitimate Tasks, Appraisals, Emotional Exhaustion, Organization-Based Self-Esteem, Psychological Empowerment, Regulatory Focus


Traditional research on illegitimate tasks has focused on two dimensions, unreasonable tasks and unnecessary tasks, and has assumed that threat appraisal is the underlying mechanism explaining their effects. This study introduced a revised three-dimensional framework of illegitimate tasks that consists of promoting unreasonable tasks, demoting unreasonable tasks, and unnecessary tasks. Further, it explored the differential relationships of each dimension of illegitimate tasks with three outcomes: emotional exhaustion, organization-based self-esteem (OBSE), and psychological empowerment. Furthermore, it proposed that among the three appraisals, challenge appraisal is the strongest mediator between promoting unreasonable tasks and outcomes, threat appraisal is the strongest mediator between demoting unreasonable tasks and outcomes, and hindrance appraisal is the strongest mediator between unnecessary tasks and outcomes. Last, it examined regulatory focus (i.e., prevention focus and promotion focus) as an individual difference variable that moderates the direct relationship between dimensions of illegitimate tasks and different appraisals. A daily diary methodology was used to collect data from full-time employees recruited from Prolific, and the final sample included 53 participants for promoting unreasonable tasks, 62 participants for demoting unreasonable tasks, and 46 participants for unnecessary tasks, with data collected for at least two workdays per participant. Promoting unreasonable tasks positively related to emotional exhaustion and OBSE and negatively related to psychological empowerment. Demoting unreasonable tasks negatively related to OBSE but did not relate to emotional exhaustion or psychological empowerment. Unnecessary tasks negatively related to OBSE and psychological empowerment but did not relate to emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, threat appraisal mediated the promoting unreasonable tasks-OBSE, promoting unreasonable tasks-psychological empowerment, demoting unreasonable tasks-emotional exhaustion, and unnecessary tasks-emotional exhaustion relationships, challenge appraisal mediated the demoting unreasonable tasks-psychological empowerment and unnecessary tasks-emotional exhaustion relationships, and hindrance appraisal mediated the promoting unreasonable tasks-emotional exhaustion, demoting unreasonable tasks-OBSE, demoting unreasonable tasks-psychological empowerment, unnecessary tasks-emotional exhaustion, unnecessary tasks-OBSE, and unnecessary tasks-psychological empowerment relationships. Last, promotion focus moderated the demoting unreasonable tasks-threat appraisal relationship and prevention focus moderated the promoting unreasonable tasks-challenge appraisal relationship. Taken together, results from this study showed that different types of illegitimate tasks relate to outcomes differently and are appraised different ways, and that personality traits such as regulatory focus can affect illegitimate task appraisals.