King's College London

Research portal

Work related proactivity through the lens of narrative: Investigating emotional journeys in the process of making things happen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-645
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jun 2018
Accepted/In press9 Apr 2018
E-pub ahead of print22 Jun 2018
Published1 Apr 2019



King's Authors


Organizations benefit from proactive employees who initiate improvements at work. Although evidence suggests happy employees are more likely to become proactive, the emotional journeys employees take during the process of making things happen, and their implications for future proactivity at work, remain unclear. To develop an understanding of patterns of emotions in the process of proactivity, I conducted a qualitative study based on 92 proactivity episodes by employees and their managers in the service centre of a multinational organization. Findings, through the lens of narrative, indicate that emotional journeys in proactivity took different forms. First, a proactivity-as-frustration narrative captured individuals’ emotional patterns of proactivity as a consistently unpleasant action when initiated and seen through. Second, a proactivity-as-threat narrative captured instances of proactivity that derailed at the onset, owing to feelings of fear. Third, a proactivity-as-growth narrative, although initially characterized by negative emotions, gave way to feelings such as excitement, joy and pride in the process, as well as to sustained motivation to engage in proactivity. Overall, findings of this research show that as employees embark in showing initiative in their organization, they are set on different emotional paths that, in turn, likely impact their future willingness to become proactive at work.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454