ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1484-1496.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01484

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“Advantages and disadvantages” of individual proactive behavior in organizations

LI Lingling1, HUANG Gui2,3()   

  1. 1Zhengzhou Shengda University, Zhengzhou 451191, China
    2School of Business, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510527, China
    3Xinhua College of Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510520, China
  • Received:2020-05-25 Published:2021-06-25
  • Contact: HUANG Gui


Individual proactive behavior refers to the future-oriented and change-oriented work behavior, which is made actively by individuals in organizations. In the changing and uncertain organizational environment, whether an organization has appropriate individual proactive behavior determines whether the organization can survive and develop better. But does that mean that proactive behavior always has a positive impact on the organization? Scholars have given similar answers from different perspectives, that is, whether at the individual level or the organizational situation level, individual proactive behavior has advantages and disadvantages in the results. Specifically speaking: (1) On the themes of the researches, most studies found that individual proactive behavior could bring positive results, while some scholars also noticed the cost of individual proactive behavior; (2) From the perspectives of the analyses, the positive and negative effects of individual proactive behavior on individuals and organization situations were mainly included; (3) In terms of the theoretical mechanisms, the “advantages and disadvantages” due to individual proactive behavior could find answer in dominance complementarity theory, self-determination theory, attribution theory.
Although the positive and negative effects of individual proactive behavior have attracted the attention of scholars, and some preliminary research attempts have been made on its principles, there is still a lack of integration. Such as dominance complementarity theory, self-determination theory, attribution theory, etc., explained the positive and negative effects of different characteristics of leaders or employees on individual proactive behavior results from different theoretical perspectives. In fact, just as “a coin has both positive and negative sides”, the three factors that affect the results of individual proactive behavior, namely, different forms of individual proactive behavior, the characteristics of proactive actors and observers and various aspects of the situation, also have inherent two sides. They just cover the two sides of the characteristics of leaders or employees explained by the previous three theories, which are relatively more comprehensive and can reveal the internal mechanism of the advantages and disadvantages of individual proactive behavior to a certain extent.
Therefore, this study looks at proactive behavior from the perspective of contradictory duality, and points out that the duality of the factors affecting the outcome of proactive behavior is the main reason for the “advantages and disadvantages” effects of individual proactive behavior. In the long run, the two sides of the contradiction can partially or conditionally transform each other. From the perspective of organizational management, understanding how to deal with the inherent dual contradiction of individual proactive behavior and effectively manage it should also be included in the theoretical framework. This study proposes that future research can integrate the following theories from the perspective of two sides of contradiction:(1) Starting from the types of individual proactive behavior itself, its internal mechanism will be revealed, based on the perspective of wise proactivity theory; (2) From the perspective of the two sides of characteristics of actors or observers of individual proactive behavior, the mechanism behind it will be discussed empirically; (3) Dynamic researches will be conducted from the perspective of the development of the subjective and objective characteristics of proactive behavior. By revealing the dynamic and static internal mechanism of the “advantages and disadvantages” effects of proactive behavior, we hope to further develop the “advantages” side of individual proactive behavior, avoid its “disadvantages” side, especially the interference of subjective factors, complete the research framework of proactive behavior, and deepen the regular understanding of the result effects of proactive behavior.

Key words: initiative, individual proactive behavior, advantages and disadvantages

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