Boundmakers Review
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Boundmakers Review

Why proactivity and self-efficacy are key for prevention?

Health promotion has become critical, but often when talking about well-being at work, organisations tend to rely and invest on wellness programs, and it seems that the sole focus is helping the individual improve their lifestyle and wellbeing habits and behaviors.

Research already showed that individuals need to be fully engaged and proactive when addressing health risks at work, and that building this participation is key to successful health promotions programs. This participation, however, not only concerns to the level of engagement in wellness activities and programs but also in the work design, work processes, and organizational environment.

Proactivity is a behavior that is driven, by a personal initiative, to do something that can alter events to achieve a goal. More specifically, it is an anticipatory behavior, since it is a future-oriented action, with an intrinsic initiative to change some situation, having control over it.

Self-efficacy on the other hand is defined as a belief about the completion of a specific task in a specific environment, referring to the self-perception whether someone is capable or not to do it successfully. Furthermore, in the self-efficacy paradigm defined by Bandura (1977) shows the impact of self-efficacy, stating that the expectations about efficacy (i.e., the level that the person feels that can enact that behavior) and the outcome (i.e., how the people feel that some behavior can influence the outcome) possess some influence on the result (i.e., the outcome).

These constructs are highly inter-related and self-efficacy is considered an antecedent of proactivity since it appears having a direct influence in enacting proactive behaviors. But the opposite is also true, self-efficacy could be a direct consequence from proactivity. Literature also shows that both dimensions, proactivity, and self-efficacy have a significant impact on wellbeing and stress management.

Proactivity positively affects performance, well-being and contributes for the satisfaction of the basic needs and the increase of vitality. Also, promoting confidence and performance has a positive impact in job autonomy, contributing for creativity, commitment, and job performance.

Moreover, self-efficacy is related to work safety. Once the employee feels safe in their work, they feel more capable of doing their tasks, as well as delivering increased impact through their performance. Leadership has a significant impact on self-efficacy, and a transitional leader seems to contribute to better results. Motivation is also increased by self-efficacy, using the future expectations coupled with the capability people feel they have, making the self-regulation and control of their feelings more useful and contributing for a clear and assertive communication with colleagues and leaders. Other benefits associated with self-efficacy are life satisfaction, and the increase of healthy behaviors and role clarity at the workplace.

Considering the impact on stress, building proactivity and self-efficacy, is mostly, a way of prevention. Self-efficacy influences the way in which the employees feel the impact of stress and the symptoms associated, contributing to a significant decrease of the later. By building self-efficacy, expectations also help to reframe the negative and stressful situations, since employees are more prepared to deal with those situations, contributing to a general decrease of the negative consequences. It makes people more prepared and empowered to manage stressful situations and to deal with challenges and their work demands, preventing emotional exhaustion and burnout. Proactivity promotes the satisfaction of basic needs and contributes for dynamic and varied tasks and job autonomy, given the feeling that the person can control their work and consequently control or even decrease their perceived stress level.

Parker and colleagues (2010) created a Model of Proactive Motivation Process and Antecedents that shows that proactivity is a goal directed process that has influence on motivation. The model defined that there exist three motivational states (1) “Can do” — self-efficacy and control; (2) “Reason to” — intrinsic and integrated motivation; (3) “Energized to”– activated positive affect. These states generate proactive goals and proactive goal striving. Job stressors, leadership and other contextual variables also have impact in this motivation and consequently in proactive behavior. Finally, this model explains the influence in the person’s environmental fit, but also in their work and strategic behavior.

Other advantages for the organization seem to be, better conflict resolution when employees have higher proactivity and self-efficacy, and they have more knowledge about their own capacities, while not blaming others, which makes overcoming obstacles easier by taking the initiative to identify the actions at hand. Additionally, it also contributes for a clear and active communication culminating in a better capacity to solve problems (e.g., taking the initiative to act and be more attentive to the needs, not just the individual needs) and expansion of their skills (e.g., when an employee is more interested in what they are learning, which boost their motivation to learn). Thus, increasing creativity and innovation, contributing for organisational growth and development of new products and services.

Proactivity and self-efficacy also seem to contribute to a decrease in presentism, absenteeism and burnout, and a significant increase in the commitment to the organisation.

In sum, proactivity and self-efficacy behaviors contribute for well-being at work and act in a fully preventive and protective way, decreasing work-related stress and mitigating health risks, while increasing motivation, performance and growth for the organization.

Where to start then, to boost proactivity and self-efficacy of people at the workplace:

  • Implement a culture of feedback, when feedback is properly managed employees can understand easily what they do better and increase their self-efficacy and consequently their proactivity to perform those tasks.
  • Have a clear communication about everything related to work setting and make it clear for your employees what issues they can be proactive about and where they cannot, whilst making it clear that their ideas and creativity are a plus for the organisation and you validate and cherish their effort.
  • Increase your employee’s motivation and autonomy, by using strategies that show them they can do the tasks autonomously, providing work meaning, increasing their job performance and creativity.
  • Let the employees learn the difference between self-efficacy, self-esteem, and self-confidence, improving their emotional literacy. Also, make it clear for them, what proactivity means in the workplace.
  • Invest on trainings and tools that can help your employees increase their proactivity and self-efficacy. Don’t just share theoretical knowledge, make it continuous practice and give them the tools to do it right and autonomously.
  • Measure self-efficacy and proactivity levels of your team by using evidence-based pulse surveys that measure what you want to measure and help identify contributing factors for increased self-efficacy and proactivity.


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