Is stress always bad? the role of job stress in producing innovative ideas

Jie Li, Yijing Liao, Wangshuai Wang, Xue Han, Zhiming Cheng, Gong Sun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing from activation theory and conservation of resources (COR) theory, we propose that there is a curvilinear (inverted U-shaped) relationship between job stress and creativity, and that this curvilinear effect will be moderated by thriving, which is a key to acquiring work or non-work knowledge to mitigate pressure. We conducted two studies: a lab experiment with 90 students from a university in eastern China and a questionnaire survey of 218 supervisor–subordinate dyads from a large state-owned enterprise in northern China. The results show that participants achieve higher performance on creative tasks when they have a moderate rather than low or high level of job stress. In addition, when thriving is high, employees can maintain a high level of creativity through knowledge acquisition and learning, regardless of how stressed they feel at work. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalKnowledge Management Research and Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • creativity
  • curvilinear
  • job stress
  • knowledge management
  • thriving


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