Introduction

Burnout and work engagement are two distinct indicators of employees’ well-being in the workplace (Maricuțoiu et al., 2017). Burnout was defined as physical, cognitive, and affective exhaustion experienced by employees dealing with a lot of job demands for extended periods of time, as well as a detached attitude (or disengagement) in relation to work (Demerouti et al., 2003). Work engagement, on the other hand, characterizes employees who demonstrate vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli, 2013). These employees work hard and are persistent when confronted with adversity, find purpose in their work, and are fully concentrated on their tasks.

Teachers’ burnout and work engagement are linked to a variety of important outcomes. Specifically, meta-analytic evidence indicates that teachers’ burnout has a negative influence on students’ academic achievement and motivation (Madigan & Kim, 2021a). Burnout is a predictor of teachers’ depressive symptoms and anxiety (e.g., Burić et al., 2019; Méndez et al., 2020; Shin et al., 2013), self-reported physical symptoms (e.g., Baka, 2015; Vargas Rubilar & Oros, 2021), intention to quit (Madigan & Kim, 2021b), as well as sickness absence from work (e.g., Salvagioni et al., 2022), just to name a few. These negative effects are all the more concerning, seeing the high prevalence rates of burnout in this professional category (García-Carmona et al., 2019). In contrast, teachers’ work engagement is associated with positive outcomes, such as reduced withdrawal intentions (e.g., Mérida-López et al., 2020) an increased sense of teaching efficacy (e.g., Minghui et al., 2018), in addition to higher levels of self-reported job performance and job satisfaction (Høigaard et al., 2012; Li et al., 2017; Song et al., 2018). Therefore, seeking to cultivate teachers’ work engagement and to decrease their burnout symptoms is essential. Being able to achieve this goal requires a comprehensive investigation of the individual and contextual factors that might predict these two outcomes.

According to the job demands-resources (JD-R) theory, employees’ personal resources are important predictors of work engagement and burnout (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017). In this study we examined whether trait gratitude, conceptualized as a personal resource, can protect teachers from depersonalization and emotional exhaustion, as well as promote their work engagement. Research on this topic is still limited, especially in Eastern European countries, such as Romania. Moreover, the underlying mechanisms of these relations were not previously investigated. To advance the literature, the present study explored how trait gratitude is related to burnout and work engagement in a sample of Romanian teachers and whether job characteristics might play a mediating role in these relations.

The relation of trait gratitude with burnout and work engagement

Personal resources refer to “aspects of the self that are generally linked to resiliency” (Hobfoll et al., 2003, p. 632) and have a prominent place in the JD-R theory. These personal traits (e.g., self-efficacy, self-esteem) are positively linked to work engagement and negatively to burnout (e.g., Ott et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2016). Trait gratitude, defined as people’s inclination to observe and value the positive aspects around them (Wood et al., 2010), could also be a valuable personal resource for employees, as it seems to improve their ability to successfully adapt to and impact their work environment. Recently, scholars began exploring the benefits of thankfulness in the workplace and the results showed that trait gratitude was associated with positive outcomes, such as increased job performance and job satisfaction or improved well-being (e.g., Cho, 2019; Cortini et al., 2019; Garg et al., 2022). Further, trait gratitude was shown to be negatively related to burnout in various samples, including teachers (Guan & Jepsen, 2020; Lanham et al., 2012; Lee et al., 2018). Specifically, these studies showed that grateful employees are less likely to experience emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, while also feeling competent and accomplished at work. Of note, in Lee et al.’s study (2018), trait gratitude was a significant predictor of firefighters’ burnout, even after controlling for Big Five personality traits, depression, and anxiety. Moreover, there is some empirical evidence indicating that work-specific gratitude is related to work engagement (e.g., Cain et al., 2019). Thus, employees who experience gratitude more frequently at their jobs also report increased levels of vigor, dedication, and absorption (i.e., work engagement). Nonetheless, no previous studies investigated trait gratitude in relation with work engagement. To advance the literature, we explored how trait gratitude is related to burnout and work engagement in a sample of Romanian teachers. Relying on previous studies, we hypothesized that trait gratitude would be negatively related to employees’ burnout and positively to work engagement.

Job characteristics as antecedents of burnout and work engagement

The JD-R theory (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017; Demerouti et al., 2001) argues that job characteristics (i.e., job demands and job resources) are important determinants of employees’ work-related outcomes. Job demands refer to various aspects of the work environment that put a strain on the employees, whereas job resources are characteristics of the job that help employees reach their work-related targets, by facilitating their own betterment and reducing the adverse impact of high job demands (Demerouti et al., 2001). According to the JD-R model, dealing with job demands (e.g., workload, emotional strain) depletes employees’ energy resources, thus leading to burnout and health issues. In contrast, job resources (e.g., autonomy, feedback, social support) promote employees’ work engagement. When employees view their work environment as resourceful, they are more motivated to repay their organizations by investing additional energy and dedication into their tasks (Schaufeli, 2013). However, when job resources are insufficient, employees cannot fulfill their innate psychological needs, a situation which causes burnout (Van den Broeck et al., 2008; Fernet et al., 2013). Previous studies conducted on various samples provide support for these relations (see Lesener et al., 2019; Mazzetti et al., 2021, for meta-analyses).

Research conducted specifically on teachers showed that social job resources protect teachers from burnout and promote their work engagement (Han et al., 2020; Minghui et al., 2018; Van Droogenbroeck et al., 2014). Opportunities for learning and development, receiving feedback or coaching were also found to be predictive of teachers’ work engagement (Bakker & Bal, 2010; Guglielmi et al., 2016; Shibiti, 2020). On the other hand, job demands, such as student misbehavior, time pressure/ workload, and high emotional demands, were related to teachers’ burnout (e.g., Bottiani et al., 2019; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2011; Van Droogenbroeck et al., 2014; Yin et al., 2016). Relying on the JD-R model and the empirical evidence presented above, we hypothesized that social and developmental job resources would be positively related to teachers’ work engagement and negatively related to burnout, whereas job demands would be positively related to burnout.

How trait gratitude relates to burnout and work engagement: The mediating role of job demands and resources

According to the JD-R model (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017), personal resources help employees generate (or at least perceive) more job resources and cope with job demands more effectively. Empirical evidence indicates that personal resources (e.g., self-efficacy, organizational based self-esteem) might predict more job resources (e.g., autonomy, feedback, opportunities for professional development) (e.g., Vera et al., 2012; Xanthopoulou et al., 2009). Personal resources also influence the way employees evaluate their job demands. That is, employees scoring high on optimism, hope, self-efficacy, or resilience report that job demands (e.g., workload, emotional and physical demands, task complexity, etc.) are not as burdensome (Boudrias et al., 2011; Grover et al., 2018).

In this study, we argue that trait gratitude could impact the way teachers perceive job characteristics. The social-cognitive model of trait and state levels of gratitude (Wood et al., 2008) suggests that people who are high in trait gratitude show a bias towards appraising situations in a more positive manner. Specifically, individuals who are more grateful consider that the benefits they receive are more valuable, imply higher costs for the benefactor, and are provided because of the other person’s sincere desire to help. Moreover, when faced with difficulties, grateful people are able to use reinterpretation in order to see the bright side of the situation, as studies found that trait gratitude is associated with positive reframing (Lambert et al., 2009, 2012; Lau & Cheng, 2017; Wood et al., 2007). Relying on these previous contributions, we expected that grateful teachers would evaluate workplace stressors as being less frequent and/or less demanding, in addition to being more inclined to notice and appreciate job resources. Specifically, we hypothesized that gratitude would be positively related to job resources and negatively related to job demands.

Some empirical studies revealed that the relation between personal resources and employee outcomes could be accounted for by job characteristics. In the study conducted by Grover et al. (2018), perceived job resources mediated the relation between psychological capital (i.e., efficacy, optimism, hope, and resilience) and employees’ work engagement. Higher scores on psychological capital were related to higher perceptions of job resources, which in turn were associated with increased work engagement. In another study, Boudrias et al. (2011) found that the relation between personal resources and psychological health at work was explained by perceived job demands. Results showed that employees characterized by increased optimism and resilience reported fewer job demands that exceeded their capacities, which explained why they experienced better psychological health (i.e., reduced distress and increased well-being in the workplace). To advance the literature, we explored whether job demands and resources would mediate the association between trait gratitude, burnout, and work engagement. We hypothesized that job resources would mediate the relation between trait gratitude and work engagement, whereas job demands and job resources would mediate the relation between trait gratitude and burnout.

Method

Participants

The sample included 312 teachers (84.6% women), Mage = 38.44 years, SD = 11.96. On average, participants had been teaching for 14.40 years (SD = 10.80), with 31.4% of participants working in primary schools, 20.8% working in lower secondary programs and 22.4% in high schools. Some participants (25.3%) taught at more than one educational level (e.g., both elementary and lower secondary programs). Most participants were affiliated to educational institutions located in urban areas (59.3%). A small number of participants in our sample (4.2%) were special education teachers (SpEd), whereas the rest of the sample worked in mainstream (MS) institutions.

Procedure

This study was approved by the institutional Ethics Committee (no. 593). Participants were invited to take part in this study by undergraduate students enrolled in a Work Psychology course in exchange for extra credit. Each student recruited one or two teachers. The potential participants received a short description of the study’s goals and informed consent was obtained from those who agreed to participate in the research. Participants filled out the scales online because of the COVID-19 outbreak restrictions.

Measures

Trait gratitude

Participants filled out the Gratitude Questionnaire-6 (6 items; McCullough et al., 2002). Items were rated on a 7- point scale, from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree. A total gratitude score was calculated by summing up the scores of all six items (α = 0.70).

Job demands

A 10-item scale was used to assess job demands on three dimensions. Time pressure (3 items; α = 0.67) and discipline problems (3 items; α = 0.90) were each assessed using items adapted from Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2011) and emotional job demands (4 items; α = 0.87) was measured using items adapted from Taris and Schreurs (2009). All items were scored on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). A CFA indicated good fit for a three-factor model, χ2 (32) = 109.04, p < 0.001; NFI = 0.93; CFI = 0.95; RMSEA = 0.08, 90% CI [0.07, 0.10]. An average score was computed separately for each type of job demand. These scales demonstrated good psychometric proprieties in other studies and were related to various outcomes such as employees’ intention to quit, depressed mood, or performance (e.g., Metin et al., 2016; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2018).

Job resources

Participants filled out a 15-item scale assessing two types of job resources (social and developmental job resources). Social resources were measured with 9 items adapted from Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2011) evaluating participants’ perceptions of supervisory support (α = 0.92), relations with their colleagues (α = 0.93), and relations with parents (α = 0.87) (each subscale comprising three items). Developmental job resources included feedback and opportunities for professional development. Feedback (α = 0.83) was assessed using three items from the Work Design Questionnaire (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006), whereas opportunities for professional development (α = 0.90) were measured with three items designed specifically for this study (e.g., My job gives me the opportunity to learn new things). Items were rated from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) indicated acceptable fit for a model whereby supervisory support, relations with colleagues, and relations with parents are combined into a higher-order factor (social job resources), whereas feedback and opportunities for professional development loaded onto the developmental job resources factor, χ2(81) = 279.45, p < 0.001; NFI = 0.92; CFI = 0.94; RMSEA = 0.07, 90% CI [0.07; 0.10]. Total average scores were separately computed for social job resources (α = 0.88) and developmental resources (α = 0.87). These scales were previously shown to be related to important outcomes in the workplace, including job satisfaction and employees’ well-being (e.g., Mishima-Santos et al., 2021; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2011).

Burnout

Burnout was measured with the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI; Halbesleben & Demerouti, 2005). The 16-item scale assesses two dimensions of burnout: exhaustion (8 items) and disengagement (8 items). Items are scored on a 5-point scale, from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) indicated poor model fit for a two-factor solution, χ2 (103) = 642.30, p < 0.001; NFI = 0.69; CFI = 0.72; RMSEA = 0.12, 90% CI [0.11, 0.13] and reversed items (i.e., positively framed items) had lower factor loadings. Because positively and negatively framed items of OLBI might convey different meanings (Sedlar et al., 2015), we decided to only use the negatively worded items (see Gruszczynska et al., 2021, for a similar approach). The CFA indicated that a one-factor model using negatively framed items had good fit, χ2 (18) = 54.16, p < 0.001; NFI = 0.94; CFI = 0.96; RMSEA = 0.08, 90% CI [0.05, 0.10]. A total score was therefore computed by averaging negatively worded items only (α = 0.86); higher scores indicate higher levels of burnout. The OLBI questionnaire was previously used to measure burnout in samples of teachers and it relates to their depressive and physical symptoms (e.g., Baka, 2015).

Work engagement

The short Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (9 items; Schaufeli et al., 2006) was used to assess work engagement. The questionnaire measures three dimensions of work engagement, i.e., vigor (α = 0.86), dedication (α = 0.84), and absorption (α = 0.76) (each scale including three items). Participants rated each item on a scale from 0 = never to 6 = always/ daily. Two CFAs indicated that a one-factor model, χ2 (25) = 82.55, p < 0.001; NFI = 0.95; CFI = 0.97; RMSEA = 0.08, 90% CI [0.06, 0.10], fitted the data better compared with a three-factor model, χ2 (19) = 196.07, p < 0.001; NFI = 0.90; CFI = 0.91; RMSEA = 0.15, 90% CI [0.13, 0.17], Δχ2 = 131.52, df = 6, p < 0.01. Therefore, a total score was computed by averaging scores across all items (α = 0.92). The instrument demonstrated good psychometric proprieties in different samples of Romanian employees (Vîrgă et al., 2009).

Socio-demographic and occupational variables

Participants were asked to report their gender, age and tenure (in years), and the type of school they taught in (MS or SpEd school).

Results

Overview of the analyses

First, preliminary analyses were conducted in order to check whether participants’ demographic and occupational variables (i.e., gender, tenure, and type of school) were related to their gratitude, work engagement, or burnout. We also assessed common method bias using Harman's single factor test (Podsakoff et al., 2003). In this statistical procedure, all variables used in a study are entered into an exploratory factor analysis and the unrotated factor matrix is then examined. Common method bias might be present when only one factor emerges or when a single factor accounts for the majority of the covariance in the data. Second, zero-order correlations among the main study variables were computed. Third, structural equation modeling (SEM) in AMOS Graphics 20 was employed to simultaneously test the direct relations of trait gratitude and job characteristics with work engagement and burnout, as well as the meditational hypothesis. To evaluate the model fit, the χ2 statistic, the normative fit index (NFI), the comparative fit index (CFI), and the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) were used. The CFI and NFI values ≥ 0.95 (0.90), and RMSEA < 0.06 indicate well-fitting models (Hu & Bentler, 1999). We used Tofighi and MacKinnon’s (2011) method to test the significance of mediation, in which the confidence intervals for the indirect effects are based on the estimated unstandardized path coefficients and their standard errors.

Preliminary analyses

Descriptive statistics for the study variables are presented in Table 1. Participants’ tenure was positively correlated with work engagement, r = 0.13, p = 0.01, and unrelated to burnout, r = 0.04, p > 0.05. SpEd teachers reported higher levels of burnout (M = 3.41, SD = 0.98) and lower levels of work engagement (M = 4.17, SD = 1.30) compared with MS teachers (M burnout = 2.67, SD = 0.82; M work engagement = 4.96, SD = 0.80), t(310) = 3.14 and—3.36, respectively, ps < 0.01. Participants working in SpEd schools (M = 33.84, SD = 4.68) also obtained lower gratitude scores than participants working in MS schools (M = 36.57, SD = 4.77), t(310) =—2.02, p = 0.04. There were no gender differences in work engagement or burnout.

Table 1 Descriptive Statistics and Zero-Order Correlations between Main Study Variables

To test the common method variance, Harman’s single factor test was used. Eight factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 were extracted, consistent with the eight different variables that were measured in our study. These factors accounted for 59.87% of the total variance, with the first factor explaining only 24.67% of the total variance. These results showed that common method variance does not threaten the validity of the conclusions drawn from the analyses reported below.

Associations among main study variables

Zero-order correlations among the study variable are presented in Table 1. Trait gratitude correlated positively with work engagement, r = 0.46, p < 0.001, and negatively with burnout, r =—0.42, p < 0.001. Gratitude was also negatively associated with time pressure, discipline problems, and emotional demands, rs = -0.13, -0.20, and -0.13, respectively, all ps < 0.05. Further, trait gratitude correlated positively with social and developmental job resources, rs = 0.36 and 0.28, respectively, ps < 0.001. Social and developmental job resources correlated positively with work engagement, rs = 0.45 and 0.42, respectively, ps < 0.001, while also correlating negatively with burnout, rs = -0.29 and -0.18, respectively, ps < 0.01. Time pressure, discipline problems, and emotional demands were positively related to burnout, rs = 0.51, 0.41, and 0.49, all ps < 0.001.

SEM analyses evaluating the study’s hypotheses

Participants’ type of school (MS vs. SpEd) was included in the model as a control variable seeing that it was found to be significantly related to both the independent variable (trait gratitude) and the dependent variables (work engagement and burnout), thus potentially becoming a confounder that could artificially inflate the strength of the relation between these variables (MacKinnon et al., 2000). The hypothesized model had a good fit to data, χ2 (20) = 55.46, p < 0.001, NFI = 0.93, CFI = 0.95, RMSEA = 0.07, 90% CI [0.05, 0.09].Footnote 1 The model explained 36.2% of the variance of work engagement and 54.3% of the variance of burnout. Trait gratitude was positively related to job resources, β = 0.39, p < 0.001, and negatively related to job demands, β = -0.20, p < 0.001 (see Fig. 1). Further, job resources were positively related to work engagement, β = 0.39, p < 0.001, and negatively related to burnout, β =—0.16, p < 0.001. Job demands were positively related to burnout, β = 0.58, p < 0.001. Gratitude was positively related to work engagement, β = 0.30, p < 0.001, and negatively to burnout, β = -0.24, p < 0.001. Teacher’s type of school (MS vs. SpEd) was significantly related to both burnout, β = 0.10, p < 0.05, and work engagement, β =—0.11, p < 0.05. Job resources mediated the relations of trait gratitude with work engagement, Estimate (SE) = 0.24 (0.05), 95% CI [0.15, 0.35], and burnout, Estimate (SE) = -0.08 (0.03), 95% CI [-0.15, -0.03]. Further, job demands mediated the relations of gratitude with burnout, Estimate (SE) = -0.16 (0.04), 95% CI [-0.24, -0.07].

Fig. 1
figure 1

Results of Structural Equation Modeling Evaluating the Mediational Role of Job Demands and Resources. Note. Standardized path coefficients are reported. The error terms for work engagement and burnout were correlated (r =—.26, p < .001). Exogenous variables (gratitude and type of school) were permited to covary (r =—.11, p < .05). * p < .05; **p < .01; *** p < .001

Discussion

The present research aimed to investigate whether teachers’ trait gratitude is linked to their burnout and work engagement. Moreover, the study examined whether perceived job demands and job resources might explain the relations of trait gratitude with burnout and work engagement.

Our findings indicate that teachers who are more grateful also report higher work engagement and lower burnout. These results are in line with previous research showing that grateful employees are less likely to experience emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (e.g., Lee et al., 2018). To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that teachers who are higher in trait gratitude have the tendency to experience increased levels of work engagement.

Further, our findings showed that, similar to other personal resources (e.g., PsyCap; Grover et al., 2018), trait gratitude influences how teachers evaluate their work context. Grateful teachers reported that their schools provided them with more resources and that they had to deal with lower levels of job demands. These results support the theoretical view that gratitude is intertwined with a positive interpretation bias (Wood et al., 2008). For teachers who are more dispositionally thankful, even small positive changes in the workplace conditions will likely trigger appreciation. Contrastingly, employees who are low on gratitude probably feel entitled to receive even more benefits from their employer and will rapidly get used to the good things that are present in their work environment, a process called hedonic adaption (Lyubomirsky, 2011). While these benefits are taken for granted, the daily hassles and unavoidable shortcomings of life at work are more likely to stand out and affect their well-being. An alternative explanation for these results could be that grateful employees not only perceive more resources in the workplace, but build more resources themselves. First, gratitude may act as a moral motive, prompting people to behave prosocially towards their initial benefactor, as well as towards third-parties (McCullough et al., 2001). Therefore, expressing gratitude and helping others will in the long term benefit the grateful employees by strengthening their social network in the workplace, thus providing them with more social support in the future. In addition to building social resources, gratitude might also help employees consolidate and create other types of job resources (e.g., developmental resources). Gratitude was recently found to correlate with job crafting (Chen et al., 2021). It seems that grateful employees take more responsibility and initiative in the workplace, thus actively shaping their tasks in order to better align their job with their skills and goals. If gratitude determines employees to engage in job crafting behaviors, it should lead to increased job resources, according to the JD-R theory (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017). More work is needed in order to empirically test these relations.

In line with the JD-R theory (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017), job demands correlated with burnout, and job resources were related to both burnout and work engagement. These results bring further support to the idea that job demands and job resources initiate two separate processes – a health impairment process and a motivation process, respectively. Whereas job demands deplete employees’ energy resources, leading to exhaustion and disengagement, job resources help employees increase their levels of vigor, dedication, and absorption, thus enabling them to fulfill their work goals.

A key finding of our study is that job resources mediated the relation between teachers’ trait gratitude and their burnout and work engagement. It seems that teachers who are more thankful will be more likely to take notice of the resources that are available in their schools, which in turn will motivate them to stay engaged and will reduce their risk of developing burnout symptoms. Further, because teachers who are more grateful pay less attention to their job demands, this will also protect them from exhaustion and disengagement. These results align with other studies (Boudrias et al., 2011; Grover et al., 2018) suggesting that perceived work characteristics might explain the link between personal resources and various work outcomes, such as psychological health or work engagement. Future studies might examine other variables that could explain the relation between trait gratitude and employees’ outcomes. For instance, trait gratitude was shown to be a predictor of basic psychological need satisfaction (Reyes et al., 2022). In turn, research suggests that basic psychological need satisfaction influences a plethora of work-relevant variables, such as employees’ work engagement, organizational citizenship behaviors, or turnover intentions (Trépanier et al., 2015; Wörtler et al., 2020). Therefore, future studies might investigate whether basic psychological need satisfaction could be an explanatory mechanism in the relation between trait gratitude and employees’ outcomes.

Theoretical and practical implications

These results add to the literature on the JD-R model, as well as to the growing literature regarding the effects of gratitude in the workplace, by suggesting that thankfulness might be an important personal resource for educators. Our study advances the literature by showing that trait gratitude shapes the way employees perceive job demands and resources. Further, our research is the first to investigate whether perceived job characteristics may play a mediating role in the relation between trait gratitude, burnout, and work engagement. From a practical standpoint, our findings suggest that educational organizations should seek to cultivate employees’ gratitude, in addition to constantly striving to improve their work conditions. For instance, a count-your-blessings intervention might help teachers develop a new sense of appreciation for their work environment, thus positively influencing both work engagement and burnout. There is some evidence suggesting that such an intervention might indeed be effective. For instance, Chan (2011) found that an eight-week pretest/posttest count-your-blessings intervention was effective in reducing Chinese school teachers’ symptoms of emotional exhaustion and in increasing their life satisfaction. Future studies might explore whether the effect of the intervention is attributable to the changes in the way teachers perceive their job demands and resources.

Limitations and future directions

Despite investigating a previously underexplored yet important topic, this study is not without limitations. First, causal inferences cannot be drawn due to the cross-sectional and correlational design of the present research. It could be argued that job characteristics precede and determine teachers’ gratitude. That is, educators who have more resourceful and less stressful work environments have more reasons to be grateful. However, we measured trait gratitude, not work-specific gratitude. Although job resources and demands might have a direct influence on work-specific gratitude, it is unlikely that they will impact one’s disposition to experience gratitude in general. The imbalance in gender distribution is another limitation of the present research, restricting the generalizability of our results. However, our sample reflects gender distribution in this professional category, seeing that, at least in Romania, most teachers working in primary and secondary educational institutions are women. In order to further improve the generalizability of these results, future studies could examine the relations among trait gratitude, work engagement and burnout in other professions, which involve a different set of job demands and resources. Another limitation of the present work is that it did not take into account the distinction between hindrance and challenge job demands. Whereas hindrance demands are positively associated with exhaustion, challenge demands are positively related to vigor (Van den Broeck et al., 2010). Personal resources (such as professional self-efficacy) were shown to influence teachers’ perception of job demands. That is, teachers higher in self-efficacy perceived more challenge demands and fewer hindrance demands (Ventura et al., 2015). Gratitude could play a similar role. Scholars could explore the relation between gratitude and job demands in more depth, by testing whether gratitude has an effect on the way employees categorize job stressors as hindrances or challenges.

Conclusion

In summary, the present research shed some light on why thankful teachers are less vulnerable to burnout and more engaged. Gratitude seems to be an important personal resource which exerts a positive influence on how educators perceive job characteristics, thus protecting their health and improving their motivation. These relations should be examined in more depth by future studies using longitudinal designs. More research is needed to uncover other potential benefits of trait gratitude for the performance and well-being of teachers, as well as for the school communities they work in.