Employee Motivation and Proactivity

Employee Motivation and Proactivity

Employee work motivation has a direct relationship with the level of proactivity. Parker et al (2010) define proactivity as the employees’ desire to anticipate, identify and solve problems, and seize opportunities without external pressure. In their model for proactive motivation, Parker et al (2010) the level in which employees identify the overall organizational goals with their personal goals either boosts or hinders their proactivity. Greguras&Diefendorff (2010) argue that the satisfaction of psychological needs improves the performance of employees in terms of in-role performance and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). Despite the fact that this literature focuses on employees at all organizational levels, further insights need to be given regarding the relationship between motivation and proactivity among the subordinates.

Employee motivation derived from the type and quality of leadership used in organizations promote the level of proactivity and proficiency in undertaking tasks. According to Martin et al (2013), employee motivation is achieved more when leaders use the empowering leadership styles rather than directive styles. Grant et al (2011) state that organizations register higher performance improvements when the motivation strategies adopted in the organizations are autonomous rather than controlled. It is evident that employees are more proactive, hence increase the core work proficiency when they work in environments which offer intrinsic motivation, through empowering leadership. However, Martin et al (2013) add that the effect of motivation on core work proficiency is subject to the affinity of the group to the leadership. Groups which have a high affinity to their leaders are more proactive regardless of the level of motivation. This statement raises the question of the implications other dimensions on proactive behavior by workers.

Proactivity among workers can be achieved through identified regulation. According to the conceptual model of mediation adopted in this study, proactive behavior among workers can be achieved through aligning the individual goals to those of the organization. Spence &Deci (2016) suggests that proactive behavior can be achieved if the regulations and desired changes are personally identifiable by the employees. The self-determination theory argues that people are more likely to make extra efforts and risks if they value the end result as a factor that may satisfy their innate psychological needs (Spence &Deci, 2016; Dong et al, 2015).

Martin et al (2013) argues that individuals can be motivated to be proactive by both current and future-oriented identities. The current identities offer realistic values that individuals can use to attach to the overall objectives. Future-oriented identities are the perceived values which can be used to compare the current scenarios hence promote proactivity with the hope of achieving personal goals at future dates (Spence &Deci, 2016). In their ‘future work self’ concept, Parker et al (2010) had similar notions that imminent future career success may capture the individuals’ aspirations hence enhancing their self-motivated contribution to the work-place.

Evidently, the literature on motivation and proactive behavior is silent on the level at which the individual’s enhance their proactivity. Moreover, a generalized view that assumes employees at all organizational levels have similar psychological needs does not explain how the two variables may have different impacts on workers at different levels. This study will fill in the gap in literature by focusing on the impacts of motivation drawn from the two variables of empowering leadership on subordinates. Additionally, through the use of the proactivity subscale of the Work Role Performance scale,the study will explain the level of subordinates’ proactivity at individual, team, and organizational levels.



Dong, Y., Liao, H., Chuang, A., Zhou, J., & Campbell, E. M. (2015). Fostering employee service creativity: Joint effects of customer empowering behaviors and supervisory empowering leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(5), 1364.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038969

Grant, A. M., Nurmohamed, S., Ashford, S. J., &Dekas, K. (2011). The performance implications of ambivalent initiative: The interplay of autonomous and controlled motivations. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 116(2), 241-251.        doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.03.004

Greguras, G. J., &Diefendorff, J. M. (2010). Why does proactive personality predict employee life satisfaction and work behaviors? A field investigation of the mediating role of the self‐concordance model. Personnel Psychology, 63(3), 539-560.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2010.01180.x

Martin, S. L., Liao, H., & Campbell, E. M. (2013). Directive versus empowering leadership: A field experiment comparing impacts on task proficiency and proactivity. Academy of Management Journal, 56(5), 1372-1395.doi: 10.5465/amj.2011.0113

Parker, S. K., Bindl, U. K., & Strauss, K. (2010). Making Things Happen: A Model of ProactiveMotivation. Journal of Management, 36(4), 827-856. doi:10.1177/0149206310363732

Spence, G. B., &Deci, E. L. (2016). Self-determination Theory within Coaching Contexts: Supporting Motives and Goals that Promote Optimal Functioning and Well-being.Routledge Publishers.


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