Affective Events Theory and Application

Rachel Jankielewicz, Jennifer Lombardo
  • Author
    Rachel Jankielewicz

    Rachel Jankielewicz holds a Master's degree in Psychology. Currently she teaches adult learners age ranges 18-65 for about 3 years. The courses range from Intro to Psychology to Child Psychology to Cognitive Psychology and everywhere in between.

  • Instructor
    Jennifer Lombardo

    Jennifer Lombardo received both her undergraduate degree and MBA in marketing from Rowan University. She spent ten years in consumer marketing for companies such as Nielsen Marketing Research, The Dial Corporation and Mattel Toys. She is currently an adjunct professor of marketing at Rowan University and a social media marketing consultant.

Explore the affective events theory. Learn the meaning of AET and understand its different applications. Discover examples of the affective events theory. Updated: 05/05/2022

Table of Contents


What is AET?

Affective events theory (AET) is a psychological model created to explain the connections between emotions and feelings in the workplace. This model explains connections between job performance, behavior, and job satisfaction. AET underlays the fact that humans are emotional creatures, and thus behaviors can be connected to those emotions. Howard Weiss and Russell Cropanzano developed this model in 1996. This theoretical orientation is often used in industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology.

Affective Events Theory Assumptions

An affective state can be defined as the experience of feeling the underlying emotional state. In simpler terms, a person who is controlled by a specific feeling. For example, a person who makes a mistake on a test and then realizes it afterward might be rendered into an affective state where they cannot focus on anything else besides being upset about that mistake on the test. AET centralizes around workers being impacted emotionally by events that occur on the job; therefore, emotions affect overall satisfaction and performance.

There are many parts of the job that might affect emotions such as job pressures, tasks, management styles, and/or coworkers' actions. In AET, emotions are critically important to how employees handle workplace situations. For example, if one has a manager who is always yelling, that employee is likely to be always on edge and have an emotional response to that yelling. This would in turn make it difficult for that employee to effectively do their job, thus resulting in poor job performance. Managers or supervisors will need to be able to address major and minor issues at the time, so employees' emotions do not get affected to the point where it becomes difficult for them to do their jobs.

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Affective Events Theory Structure

Weiss and Cropanzano explained that the AET focuses on structure, cause, and consequences of experiences in the workplace. AET points to features of the environment and events of that environment as causes toward affective reactions. Simply put, a person's environment and events in that environment can cause emotional reactions. The central point of this theory is that connections made between emotions and behaviors can inherently affect job satisfaction and performance.

Affective Events Theory Applications

According to AET, there are two types of work events that can happen: positive or negative events. These two events are equally as important for managers, owners, and supervisors to understand as to equate it with satisfaction and performance.

Negative AET Applications

If there happens to be a negative affective event in the workplace, it will then turn into negative behavior, thoughts, or performance. A job where the tasks are routine, boring, or even overwhelming can be associated with a negative affective state. This in turn leads to lower job performance and satisfaction.

For example, Jessica's supervisor is always hassling her about her work. Her boss makes comments about her doing better and yelling at her about submitting work. These events are considered negative applications. Jessica, in turn, does not want to do better because she is experiencing negative emotions toward not only her boss but the job in general.

Positive AET Applications

Positive applications of AET, such as uplifting emotions, can positively affect employees. For example, a boss who is always uplifting and rewarding to all employees is likely to have employees who want to do better and be better at the job. Those employees are likely to have high job performance and job satisfaction. Managers or bosses who provide opportunities for enrichment and the development of new skills related to that job are often likely to induce positive affective states. That increase can help satisfaction and performance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is affective events theory and what are its applications?

Affective events theory (AET) is a model developed to explain the connections between emotions and job performance, behavior, and satisfaction. Two applications to this are negative and positive. Negative application means that there are negative feelings, satisfaction, or performance, while positive application is just the opposite.

Who proposed the affective events theory?

Affective events theory (AET) was proposed in 1996 by Howard Weiss and Russell Cropanzano. This theory is often used in I/O psychology (industrial and organizational).

What is the central point of affective events theory?

The central point in affective events theory (AET) is that workers are impacted emotionally by events or occurrences that happen on the job. This would mean those events have an effect on overall job performance and satisfaction.

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