Matthew Valle publishes article in Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The study examined the effects of promotion focus and prevention focus on work engagement.

Research co-authored by Matthew Valle, the Martha and Spencer Love Professor of Business and professor of management, has been published in The Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship (Vol. 21, No. 1). “Regulatory Focus and Perceived Self-Value as Predictors of Work Engagement” was written with colleagues Martha Andrews, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and K. Michele Kacmar, Texas State University.

Work engagement has been widely recognized as a critical factor driving organizational performance and providing organizations with a competitive advantage. Work engagement has been defined as a positive state of mind that is reflected through the energy, vigor, absorption, attention and dedication individuals have toward their work. Engaged individuals are decidedly focused on their work allowing them to be highly efficient and effective and therefore more productive. Thus, engagement has frequently been studied for its positive effects on job performance, organizational commitment, health, career succes, and job satisfaction and its negative effects on stress and turnover.

Regulatory focus theory (RFT) outlines how individuals self-regulate to be in alignment with their goals. RFT is based largely on an approach/avoidance theme in which individuals are concerned with the occurrence or absence of positive outcomes (i.e., approach orientation) or the occurrence or absence of negative outcomes (i.e., avoidance). Those primarily concerned with positive outcomes are promotion focused while those concerned with negative outcomes are prevention focused. This is a key variable to examine as extant research has found regulatory focus to be a strong predictor of numerous meaningful work outcome. These include multiple types of performance such as task, safety and innovation, as well as job satisfaction, commitment and citizenship behaviors. Given that work engagement so often predicts these same outcomes, regulatory focus is worthy of being explored as a primary antecedent to work engagement. 

With regard to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial organizations, it may seem that being promotion focused is more advantageous for entrepreneurs and their organizations, but such implications do not always flow easily from this research. For instance, while a promotion focus may aid entrepreneurial opportunity recognition, a prevention focus may be better suited to the evaluation of those opportunities.  Promotion focused individuals have been found to be more innovative and creative, yet prevention focused individuals have been found to be more adept at synthesizing and testing ideas and concepts.  In fact, research suggests that both promotion and prevention focused individuals are critical to innovation, with promotion focus providing the creative insights necessary for idea generation and prevention focus providing  for the careful evaluation of alternatives.  In any case, individuals high in promotion focus or prevention focus exhibit higher levels of work engagement; this fact alone makes the identification and measurement of individual regulatory focus a useful line of research with application in a wide range of organizational environments.

Abstract:  Using regulatory focus theory as the theoretical foundation, this study examined the effects of promotion focus and prevention focus on work engagement. Perceived self-value was examined as a moderator of these relationships. Analyses of data from a sample of 282 participants indicated a positive relationship between both promotion and prevention focus and work engagement. Results also indicated support for the moderating effect of perceived self-value on the prevention focus–work engagement relationship but not for the promotion focus–work engagement relationship. Implications for managers and entrepreneurs are discussed.