Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Proactive Personality as a Moderator between Work Stress and Employees' Internal Growth

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Proactive Personality as a Moderator between Work Stress and Employees' Internal Growth

Article excerpt

In the field of career development, work stress is usually regarded as negative, and therefore researchers and practitioners have striven to avoid or minimize the negative effects of work stress (Han, Wang, & Dong, 2014). In the short term, stressful events may be harmful to employees' health and career development (Hutri & Lindeman, 2002). However, in the long term, work stress may even promote employees' growth and development. Similarly to other life experiences, the phenomenon of stress-related growth can also be observed in the workplace. For instance, the employee whose computer is frequently out of order is more likely than other employees are to improve their computer maintenance skills.

Unlike previous researchers who focused on the negative outcomes of work stress (Han et al., 2014), we paid close attention to the phenomenon of stress-related growth, and elucidated the fact that work stress may have a positive impact on employees' career growth. Further, we highlighted the internal aspect of stress-related growth (e.g., increase in knowledge and/or skills), which is different from external growth indicators (e.g., promotion, salary increase) described in the traditional literature on career development (Keller, Bergman, Semmer, & Samuel, 2014). However, when the concept of stress-related growth is interpreted in greater depth, an unresolved issue emerges: If work stress leads to employee growth under some conditions but does not under others, then what are the conditions under which stress-related growth occurs? To answer this question, we empirically examined the moderating effect of proactive personality on the relationship between work stress and employees' internal growth.

The Phenomenon of Stress-Related Growth

On the basis of his observation of the phenomenon of stress-related growth in daily life, Caplan (1964) proposed crisis theory, in which he proposed the potential and probability of individuals to attain growth from adverse life experiences. When faced with stress, individuals think and reflect, seek help, or attempt to deal with stress. As time goes by, changes that indicate the attainment of growth will take place in their life philosophy, social relations, and coping behavior (Schaefer & Moos, 1992). This phenomenon of stress-related growth occurs in a wide variety of life experiences, for example, accidents, love, and death of a relative or friend.

A similar phenomenon of stress-related growth occurs in the workplace. For example, if a subproject under the management of an engineer cannot meet the requirements of the project leader, the engineer will feel stressed. The stress will drive the engineer to work harder, learn from his/her mistakes, and finally obtain the project leader's approval. After the experimental project is completed, the engineer's professional knowledge and skills are significantly improved. Consequently, he or she is selected as the leader of a new project. Meeting the unreasonable demands of customers can make a client manager feel stressed. He or she is driven to ask some experienced colleagues for advice because of the confusion and anxiety. Therefore, the client manager learns how to refuse customers' unreasonable requirements skillfully. As a result, new customers are gained and many valued customers are retained because of the improved communication skills of the client manager, whose performance is improved and salary increased at the same time.

In the situation of stress-related growth in daily life, instead of social status, money, or other external aspects of growth, the internal aspects of personal growth are emphasized, such as personal philosophy and coping skills (Park, Cohen, & Murch, 1996). Similarly, when stress-related growth occurs in the workplace internal growth-as opposed to external growth-is highlighted. Increase in knowledge and skills (internal growth) is an indispensable aspect of employees' career development. …

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