A Lifespan Perspective on Proactive Socioemotional Behaviors and Work Attitudes and Performance
Beier, Margaret E
Doctor of Philosophy
Lifespan development perspectives propose that people’s social interactions change with increasing age, such that there is a shift from knowledge-related social goals (social behaviors primarily for instrumental gain, such as networking for promotions, or eliciting supervisor feedback about job performance) to emotion-related social goals (social behaviors primarily for affective gain, such as developing close friendships). The current research examined the extent to which workers used proactive socioemotional behaviors (PSBs) to experience emotionally rewarding social interactions, and whether these behaviors particularly benefited the work attitudes and performance of older workers, as predicted by lifespan development perspectives. Workers provided examples of their social proactivity, which were used to develop a PSB scale (Study 1; N = 143). In a separate sample of workers, the scale was assessed for reliability and validity (Study 2; N = 216). The relationships between age, PSBs, and work attitudes and performance were examined in a separate sample of workers (Study 3; N = 250); colleague ratings of workers’ work attitudes and performance were used to validate responses. Factor analysis of the PSB scale revealed three facets: emotional intentions (behaviors that concern experiencing emotional satisfaction through social interactions with colleagues), social intentions (behaviors that concern creating opportunities for socializing with colleagues), and generativity intentions (behaviors that concern teaching, training, or providing job feedback to colleagues or improving the work environment for colleagues). PSBs accounted for variance in work attitudes and performance, beyond other proactivity measures. The expected age differences in PSBs were not found. Rather, the findings suggest that use of emotional intentions and generativity intentions are similar between younger and older workers, but that younger workers use higher levels of social intentions than older workers. The current research furthers knowledge about the proactive role of workers in their job satisfaction, engagement, and performance through emotion-related social interactions. Organizations may be interested in the results, particularly for a future of work that may limit opportunities for workers to proactively experience or bring about preferred social interactions.