Taking charge as a double-edged sword : understanding its benefits and costs from a resource perspective

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Taking charge as a double-edged sword : understanding its benefits and costs from a resource perspective

 

Author: Ouyang, Kan
Title: Taking charge as a double-edged sword : understanding its benefits and costs from a resource perspective
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2016
Subject: Organizational behavior.
Psychology, Industrial.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Management and Marketing
Pages: 221 pages : illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2864155
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/8440
Abstract: Taking initiative and being proactive can actually backfire. The following situation occurred in a well-known international airline corporation (Campbell, 2000): A business traveler who has to attend an extremely important meeting misses his scheduled flight and anxiously approaches the counter agent of the airline. The agent has been taught by his manager and company that employees should show initiative and be proactive to satisfy their customers. Therefore, the employee goes the extra mile to reschedule the customer's route and eventually assists the customer to arrive in his destination on time. The customer is satisfied, but the agent's manager is not because the act of proactivity cost the company a huge amount of money. Scholars have started to investigate the caveats that individuals should be aware of when engaging in proactive behavior despite the limited number of studies in this area (e.g., Bolino, Valcea, & Harvey, 2010; Grant, Parker, & Collins, 2009). This dissertation focuses on one specific type of proactive behavior, that is, taking charge, which involves employees initiating and enacting positive changes in work methods and procedures, and investigates how it acts as a double-edged sword for individuals. Drawing upon conservation of resources theory, I examined the advantages and disadvantages of taking charge in terms of (1) the double-edged effects of taking charge on individual psychological states (i.e., pleasant mood, unpleasant mood, psychological meaningfulness, and organization-based self-esteem) and turnover intention through vitality and depletion; (2) the three boundary conditions (i.e., controlled motivation, role breadth self-efficacy, and interaction frequency with supervisor) that influence whether taking charge leads to positive or negative consequences; (3) the effects of taking charge on fatigue and subsequent act of such behavior through resource depletion; and (4) the moderating effect of break on the taking charge-resource depletion-fatigue linkage.
In Study 1 (Chapter 4), I used a sample of 392 supervisor-employee dyads from a group corporation in Mainland China and found that the relationship between taking charge and vitality was significantly positive for employees with high role breadth self-efficacy and low controlled motivation and significantly negative for employees with low role breadth self-efficacy, high controlled motivation, and low interaction frequency with supervisor. Moreover, I found that the relationship between taking charge and depletion was significantly negative when employees were under the conditions of low controlled motivation and significantly positive when employees were under the conditions of high controlled motivation and low interaction frequency with supervisor. Vitality and depletion also mediated the joint effects of taking charge and the three moderators on psychological states. Finally, individuals' psychological states were significantly associated with their intention to leave the organization. In Study 2 (Chapter 5), I used three laboratory experiments that involved 224 participants and found that participants who had been continuously performing taking charge behavior experienced resource depletion and in turn higher fatigue. Accordingly, fatigued individuals engaged in lower levels of taking charge afterwards. The association between taking charge and fatigue was buffered when individuals took a break after accomplishing such behavior, whereas the association was exacerbated when a break was not taken. These results demonstrate that taking charge tends to elicit varying and opposing influences on individuals under different conditions, thus suggesting that it can be both a blessing and a curse. The implications of the two studies for theory and practice are discussed.

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