Relationship quality and virtuousness: Emotional carrying capacity as a source of individual and team resilience

By: John Paul Stephens, Emily D. Heaphy, Abraham Carmeli, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Jane Dutton

Stephens, J.P., E.D. Heaphy, A. Carmeli, G.M. Spreitzer, and J.E. Dutton. Relationship Quality and Virtuousness: Emotional Carrying Capacity as a Source of Individual and Team Resilience. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 49, No. 1, 13-41, 2013.


Virtuousness in organizations involves individuals and teams being resilient, or bouncing back from setbacks in ways that allow them to adapt and grow. In two studies, we focus on emotional carrying capacity (ECC), wherein relationship partners express more of their emotions, express both positive and negative emotions, and do so constructively, as a source of resilience in individuals and in teams. Study 1’s findings indicate that ECC is positively related to individual resilience and that ECC mediates the link between relationship closeness and individual resilience. Study 2’s findings indicate a similar pattern for resilience at the team level: ECC is positively related to team resilience and mediates the connection between trust and team resilience. Together, these studies provide insight into how emotional expression in relationships is a key mechanism in explaining resilience, a foundational element for the pursuit of long-term virtuousness for individuals and for teams.