Our Research & Projects

About our research

Our proactivity research aims to understand the causes and consequences of proactive behavior within organizations. Our research has three features:
  • We focus on proactive behavior as a unique and distinct way of behaving. As we discuss elsewhere, we define proactive behavior as "self-initiated and future-oriented actions that aims to change and improve the situation or oneself" (Parker, et al., 2006). We do not see proactive behavior as simply another form of citizenship; nor a type of extra-role behavior. Rather, we suggest all actions can be more or less proactive. If the behavior is self-intiated, future-oriented, and involves change, then it is proactive.
  • We focus on proactive behavior at work and in organisations. This focus includes how people behave proactively to improve the organization they work in, how people manage their careers proactively, and how people proactively influence their organization's strategy. We recognise that people can be proactive in many areas of their lives (e.g., managing their health), but our focus is on proactivity within work.
  • We use, as far as possible, rigorous research methods such as longitudinal designs, because we believe passionately the importance of good quality evidence guiding practice and policy.

Current projects

Wise proactivity

I recently attracted ARC funding to investigate wise proactivity. This project will define the construct and investigate its antecedents and consequences. 

Silence and voice amongst nurses

This project, conducted with colleagues at the University of New South Wales, focuses on silence amongst nurses (Parker, Hong, Johnson, Collins, et al.,). We focus on the particular scenario in which nurses believe doctors have made an error or omission, yet either fail to speak out or speak out in a guarded way. Our project investigates why these nurses are silent or guarded, as well as the consequences for mental health of this silence.

Motives for silence

We have developed a measure of silence motives, and are currently preparing this work for publication (Parker, Bindl, VanDyne).

Leading for proactivity 

Leadership is one of the most important factors in our work life. But how - if at all - do proactive employees need to be led? What leadership style encourages proactivity or inhibits it? Do proactive people need to be told to be proactive? Or do leaders need to step back and take a more stimulating and inspiring role to encourage proactivity? We are investigating these and related questions in a number of projects.

  • The ability to communicate an inspiring vision of the future has long been considered an important part of leadership effectiveness. We explore whether leaders can stimulate proactive behavior by influencing the way employees think about the future. Our research shows that leader vision promotes increased proactivity for individuals who are high in self-efficacy. If individuals lack self-efficacy, vision does not promote increased proactivity.
  • Employees' having a salient and elaborate 'future work self' can be a powerful mechanism that drives proactive career behavior (Strauss, Griffin, & Parker, under review). We are exploring how leadership can contribute to the creation of such future selves and thereby promote greater employee proactivity (Strauss, Griffin, & Parker, in preparation).
  • We are currently investigating which types of leader behaviors make the greatest positive difference to employees. We are examining the behaviors of immediate leaders and higher-level managers.

Values and proactive behavior

What values do people who behave proactively hold? Do different values predict different types of proactive behavior? One would expect that values are important for proactive behavior because it is highly self-directed. It is not imposed or forced, but rather, it is self-initiated. So it would be surprising if values were not related to proactive behavior in some way. The current project uses Schwartz' value model to investigate this question.

Attachment style and proactivity

As a result of early interations with their parents, children develop an 'attachment style'. Children who are securely attached willingly explore novel environments compared to insecurely attached individuals. Evidence shows that attachment styles influence adult behavior as well. We are currently investigating how individual's attachment style influences their proactivity (Wu & Parker, under preparation). 

Intervening to enhance proactivity

With Karoline Strauss, I am currently working on a study that involves comparing a traditional stress management intervention with a proactivity-oriented stress management intervention. The formal involves education employees about stress and encouraging their to cope with that stress. The latter involves encouraging a future-focus (identifying one's future work self), and then building employees' confidence to actively take charge of their work environments in order to obtain that future. We have compared these two interventions in police and health service contexts in the UK and are currently analyzing the findings (Strauss & Parker, in press).