It is a commonly held assumption that athletics and the performing arts often teach people life skills that are applicable in a variety of important contexts, such as the workplace. However, empirical evidence to support such claims is scant. The present study provided evidence for these assumptions by linking these activities to the workplace through the construct of mental toughness. Research has established that mental toughness is a key factor for success in athletics, and has a role as a stress-buffering attribute (Chen & Cheesman, 2013; Crust & Azadi, 2010; Gerber et al., 2013; Golby & Sheard, 2004; Nicholls, Levy, Polman, & Crust, 2011; Wagner, 2011). Research also indicates that stress plays a role in employee’s workplace performance – stressed employees engage in more counterproductive work behaviors (CWB), fewer organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), and experience more burnout. It was hypothesized that athletes and performers would exhibit higher levels of mental toughness and report engaging in fewer CWBs, more OCBs, and experience less burnout. It was predicted that experience and success as an athlete would play a key role in the development of mental toughness. ANOVA analyses indicated that athletes reported higher levels of mental toughness, and experience less work-related burnout. Regression analyses suggested that mental toughness is a valid predictor of workplace performance, significantly predicting CWBs, OCBs, burnout, promotions, raises, self-report job satisfaction, and self-report job performance. The number of individual accolades won as an athlete also contributed significantly to mental toughness and workplace performance. These results suggest that mental toughness plays a crucial role in determining employee productivity. The results propose that athletics may be an effective way of developing mental toughness. Organizations may apply these results by investing in mental toughness training and taking note of mental toughness indicators during the hiring process.


Gillund, Gary




Industrial and Organizational Psychology


Mental Toughness, Athletics, Counterproductive Work Behavior, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, Burnout

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Nicholas M. Flannery