The article explores the mechanisms underlying prevention-focus and promotion-focus, two distinct dimensions of regulatory focus undertaken to fulfill different goals.
Research co-authored by Matthew Valle, the Martha and Spencer Love Term Professor of Business and professor of management, Suzanne Zivnuska of California State University Chico, and K. Michele Kacmar of Texas State University, has been published recently in Career Development International (Vol. 22 Iss 1, pp. 37-49).
The article, “The mechanisms of regulatory focus: Mindfulness, leader-member exchange, and motivational outcomes,” explores the mechanisms underlying prevention-focus and promotion-focus, two distinct dimensions of regulatory focus undertaken to fulfill different goals. We explore distinct triggers (mindfulness and leader-member exchange (LMX)) and outcomes (role overload and burnout) of each. Employees often strive for similar goals, such as career advancement, higher pay, and recognition, but use different strategies and tactics to achieve them. Underlying those strategies are different motivational frameworks. Regulatory focus theory (RFT) suggests that some individuals are prevention-focused, motivated to minimize pain by avoiding risk, following rules, and producing high-quality results. Other individuals are promotion-focused, motivated to maximize pleasure by focusing on career mobility and activities that further their attainment of visibility and position. Since these motivations are independent strategies rather than two sides of the same continuum, we argue that they likely have unique relationships with predictor and criterion variables.
Findings revealed mindfulness was positively related to prevention- and promotion-focus, while LMX was positively related only to promotion-focus. Prevention-focus mediated the relationship between mindfulness and role overload and burnout, while promotion-focus mediated the relationship between both mindfulness and LMX and role overload, but not burnout.
Our findings suggest that too much self regulation may not actually be a good thing. Our initial concern is for those individuals who are high in prevention-focus. These employees may be more prone to stress-related outcomes such as overload and burnout than those who are promotion-focused. Managers may be well advised to provide highly prevention-focused employees, who are often highly sought in the selection process, with a bit of balance. Helping them keep their goals reasonable and offering structure and rewards for following rules should allow them to manage their energy at a level that is sustainable for long-term career progression. Furthermore, we encourage highly values driven promotion-focused employees to channel their capacity for that regulation in healthy ways. Aligning one’s situation and resources (e.g. high LMX quality relationship with one’s supervisor) with one’s goals is important for long-term career success.
Careers and Development are inter-related fields of study with connections to many academic disciplines, organizational practices and policy developments in the emerging knowledge economies and learning societies of the modern world. Career Development International provides a platform for research in these areas that deals with questions of theories and theory development, as well as with organizational career strategy, policy and practice. Issues of theory and of practice may be dealt with at individual, organizational and society levels.
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