ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 2164-2176.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02164

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The sustainability of altruistic behaviors and its formation mechanism in organizations: From the perspective of proactive motivation

YU Kun(), WANG Zheyuan, PENG Xiongliang, WANG Pei, ZHAO Zejun, YAN Yidan, CAO Peiyue   

  1. School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2021-12-26 Online:2022-10-15 Published:2022-08-24
  • Contact: YU Kun


With the rapid development of the economy and society, the critical role of the sustainability of altruism is more salient for organizations and their employees to have a better adaptation and greater prosperity. Although altruistic behaviors are very critical to modern organizations, there are several severe deficiencies in the understanding of the nature of altruistic behaviors and the investigation of its formation mechanism in the current altruism literature. First, researchers have long believed that altruism behaviors are static trait-like behaviors, and behavioral differences mainly exist at the interpersonal level. Therefore, most of the previous research in this area focused on the exploration of interpersonal differences in the static value of altruistic behaviors. This deficiency not only keeps previous research from accurately reflecting the characteristics of long-term trajectories of altruistic behavior but may also cover up the possible outliers in the short-term volatility of altruistic behavior, which may lead to the misjudgment that treating the static value of altruistic behavior as the “ideal” altruistic behavior which is stable and sustainable. Second, the existing investigation of altruistic behavior via a dynamic theoretical lens or using dynamic methods generally lacks systematic integration. A key problem is that, although scholars generally believe that altruistic behaviors have features of both long-term trends and short-term volatility, most of the existing studies were based on narrower research frameworks and independently discussed either short-term volatility or long-term trend of altruistic behavior, respectively. If the above two issues remain unsolved, it will lead to our incomplete understanding of the antecedents and forming mechanism of altruistic behavior. Therefore, based on the model of proactive motivation, this paper attempts to construct a theoretical framework of the sustainability of altruistic behaviors, examining the short-term volatility and long-term trends of altruistic behavior simultaneously, and exploring individual and leadership antecedents and forming mechanisms of the sustainability of altruistic behavior. Specifically, using a mixed-method of longitudinal survey and experience sampling method, this study firstly aims to clarify the nature of the sustainability of altruistic behaviors, to uncover the relationship between the short-term volatility and long-term trend of altruistic behavior, and by which to enrich our understanding of the sustainability of altruistic behavior. Secondly, we aim to explore how employee antecedents (belief in a justice world and perceived overqualification) and leader antecedents (ethical leadership and abusive supervision) impact the goal-setting (short-term volatility) and goal-striving (long-term trend) of altruistic behavior via “energized to” path (state gratitude, psychological entitlement, and heroism), “reason to” path (organizational concern and impression management motives), and “can do” path (reciprocal cognition and career adaptability). To sum up, based on the model of proactive motivation, this paper facilitates the literature on altruistic behavior by filling an important research gap regarding the sustainability of altruistic behavior and advancing the knowledge on antecedents and forming mechanisms of the sustainability of altruistic behavior. Moreover, the findings of the current research would also provide practical suggestions for the construction of sustainable reciprocal teams and organizations.

Key words: altruistic behavior, sustainability of altruistic behaviors, model of proactive motivation, longitudinal study

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