Does proactivity take its toll?

In today’s monthly scientific insight, we draw from Cangiano, Parker, and Ouyang’s paper to highlight the potential negative consequences that proactive behavior can have under certain circumstances on employees’ well-being.

What is proactive behavior? 

Proactive behavior is when an employee makes a self-initiated and future-oriented action to change and improve oneself or the context.

Why is it important? 

When employees are proactive, they tend to feel more competent and perform better in their work, which also reflects in the company’s profitability.

Should we be cautious about it? 

Short answer: Yes

But these benefits come with a catch. It appears that when individuals are not motivated in their work by the value of the activities they engage in and their alignment with their sense of self, being proactive may lead to a drain of resources. Moreover, when individuals feel that their resources are diminished, they also find it more difficult to detach from work.

How to encourage healthy proactive behavior?

Stimulate self-managed motivation. How? Allow individuals to make relevant choices in the way they approach their work; give them a say in the decisional processes.

  1. Parker, S. K., Williams, H. M., & Turner, N. (2006). Modeling the antecedents of proactive behavior at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 636-652.
  2. Cangiano, F., Parker, S. K., & Ouyang, K. (2021). Too proactive to switch off: When taking charge drains resources and impairs detachment. Journal of occupational health psychology, 26(2), 142–154.