Too Proactive to Switch Off: When Taking Charge Creates Work-Life Conflict and Impairs Detachment

Francesco Cangiano, Kan Ouyang

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Proactive behavior, or self-initiated and future-oriented actions aimed at changing oneself or one’s environment, is crucial for individual effectiveness at work. However, its consequences for employee well-being and other such more personal outcomes have had little attention. In this research, using a within-person perspective, we investigate how proactive behavior - more specifically, taking charge - affects psychological detachment from work. Drawing on ego depletion theory, we hypothesized that taking charge would be detrimental to psychological detachment by increasing work-life conflict. However, we theorized intrinsic motivation as a boundary condition for these effects, and argued that taking charge is detrimental to detachment only when intrinsic motivation is low. A sample of 77 managers participated in a 5-day diary study that tracked taking charge and its effects over time. Multilevel analyses showed findings consistent with our hypotheses. Specifically, daily taking charge behaviors resulted in lower detachment from work in the evening, via work-life conflict, but only on days in which people reported low intrinsic motivation at work. Detachment in the evening, in turn, was positively associated with feelings of recovery from work demands the following morning. Findings from this research offer significant implications on how proactive behavior can interfere with employees’ life outside of work. Furthermore, this study offers several practical implications for how managers should encourage and or reward (if at all) the proactivity of their employees, and paves the way for future research looking at the personal consequences of proactivity.
Original languageEnglish
Journal Academy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management: At the Interface - Hilton, Atlanta, United States
Duration: 4 Aug 20178 Aug 2017
Conference number: 77th


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