ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (1): 79-92.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00079

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A Cross-level Analysis of Achievement Goal Orientation and Performance Control on Team Member’s Creativity

MA Jun; ZHANG Haomin; YANG Tao   

  1. (School of Management, Shanghai University, Shanghai 200444, China)
  • Received:2013-06-24 Published:2015-01-26 Online:2015-01-26
  • Contact: MA Jun, E-mail:; YANG Tao, E-mail:


In the critical period of innovation-driven development and transformation, employee creativity is regarded as an important source of competitive advantage, and organizations are increasingly seeking innovative ways to foster individual creativity. Against this background, managers are facing the dual challenges, not only to identify employees with creativity potential, but also managing team context to render it more conducive to individual employee creativity. Hence, organizational researchers had devoted great attention to uncovering variables that influence employee creativity both on individual level and on team level. Previous researches have revealed strong links between achievement goal orientation and employee creativity, however the empirical studies show mixed results and this relationship has remained ambiguous and contested. For example, it is uncertain whether there is always a positive relationship between mastery goal orientation and creativity in different team contexts, and whether there is always a negative relationship between performance goal orientation and creativity under any circumstances. The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework about the cross-level influences of individual goal orientation and the team context on team member’s creativity. Adopting a cross-level approach, we examined how achievement goal orientation may relate to individual creativity in different team contexts. Multi-source data were collected from 540 members within 54 R&D teams. Although both individual differences in dispositions and team context play important roles in the creative process, person-in-situation approaches that account for their interactive influences are still in development. Our study also enriches and extends the nonlinear cross-level approach in organizational behavior research, providing further evidence for the promise of this approach. The results are as follows: firstly, mastery goal orientation is positively related to creativity, and low performance control strengthens this positive relationship; but in the high-performance control context, mastery goal orientation has an “S-type” effect on creativity, which means excessive learning and exploratory behaviors suppress team member’s creativity, thereby supporting the learning overload theory. Secondly, performance- approach goal orientation has a significant positive effect on creativity in the low-performance control context. Thirdly, performance-avoidance goal orientation is negatively related to creativity in the low performance control context, but the relationship is positive in the high-performance control context. The findings support the performance contingency theory and trait activation theory. Performance control practices are a more complex issue. Our study shows that team performance control practices may regulate and influence individuals’ goal-directed behavior to activate or inhibit the creative expression of goal orientations. This inspired that we should shift the focus from employees’ goal-orientations trait differences to constructing performance control system that matched with them when managing employee creativity. Specifically, considering that in the high-performance control context, learning behaviors beyond a certain point (i.e., at high levels of mastery goal orientation) may diminish creativity, we need to control the learning and exploratory behaviors in a reasonable range for efficiently investing in practices that promote creativity. At the same time, vertical control should be adopted for the avoid-oriented team members, while the horizontal control is suitable for the approach-oriented individuals.

Key words: goal orientation, team performance control, creativity, cross-level analysis