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Hella Sylva

Employee proactivity: Champions and rebels in the workplace


Inspired by the growing need for employees to engage in self-directed, anticipatory actions to perform effectively in the contemporary work environment, four empirical studies were conducted on employee proactivity. The studies presented in this dissertation address two lines of research in relation to employee proactivity. The first line of research is focused on a specific type of proactive behavior, namely career initiative and aims to integrate the work on proactivity and the theoretical framework of person-environment fit. The studies suggest that individuals who proactively manage their career may achieve higher performance levels and greater career satisfaction by establishing and maintaining a higher level of congruence between themselves and the characteristics of their job. Outcomes of a parallel growth model suggest that in order to sustain correspondence with job demands, one needs to actively manage one’s career on an ongoing basis.

The second line of research is focused on proactive personality in relation to various performance dimensions and potential adverse effects. It thereby challenges the often implicit assumption of proactivity as good without qualification. The studies indicate that proactive personality is not only related to higher performance levels but also indicate the co-occurence of adverse effects as highly proactive individuals were more at risk of fueling employee-supervisor conflict and being perceived as behaving counterproductively. Particularly excessive levels of proactive personality (both deficiency and excess) seemed to be related to higher levels of perceived counterproductive behaviors. These associations were conditional and strongly impacted by the supervisor’s affective regard towards the focal employee.