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J Posit Psychol. 2014 Jan 1;9(3):209-218.

Survivor mission: Do those who survive have a drive to thrive at work?

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  • 1Psychology Department, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.


Are helping professionals who have experienced the same types of struggles as their clients more engaged at work? In the current investigation, we examine this question in samples of police detectives (with and without a history of violent victimization) and mental health workers (with and without a history of mental illness). Our results indicate that police detectives who have experienced violent victimization and mental health professionals who have experienced the same mental illness as their clients do indeed exhibit greater work engagement than their colleagues who lack these parallel life experiences. The link between a professional's firsthand experience of his/her client's hardships and work engagement appears to be partially explained by higher levels of grit among police detectives and by a greater sense of life-narrative continuity among mental health professionals.


altruism born of suffering; empathy; grit; survivor mission; work engagement

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