The Relationship between Lack of Controllability and Proactive Work Behaviour: An Empirical Analysis of Competing Theoretical Explanations


Accounting and Business Research

2017, vol. 47, n°2, pp.144-171

Departments: Accounting & Management Control

Keywords: controllability principle, management control systems, role theory, role conflict, flexible role orientation, proactive work behaviour

The controllability principle suggests evaluating managers solely based on performance measures they can control. In practice, however, companies often disregard this principle. Therefore, our study addresses organisational benefits linked to the lack of controllability in measures used for managers’ performance evaluations. We draw on important case-based findings to establish a positive ‘base relationship’ between lack of controllability and proactive work behaviour. We test this base relationship with a large-scale sample and find that companies encourage higher levels of proactive work behaviour when they rely on less controllable performance measures. Drawing on recent developments in role theory, we advance previous research and extend the base model by including the theoretical construct of flexible role orientation. We examine different mechanisms through which flexible role orientation potentially impacts the base model. Using survey responses from 432 managers, we find evidence for a mediation model as opposed to an interaction model. Specifically, we find that lack of controllability enhances role conflict, which in turn induces more flexible role orientations ultimately resulting in higher levels of proactive work behaviour