Boundaryless Careers and Occupational Wellbeing


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Furthermore, the literature claims that transitions to different organizations are motivated by the need of individuals to seek opportunities that maximize their extrinsic rewards, in terms of a higher level of objective career success, leading to an increase in the salary level, a better position on the hierarchical ladder or a better contract Mao, ; Cheramie et al.

However, empirical support for this claim is still limited. Similarly, the literature on emotional and social competencies ESCs has demonstrated how they predict job performance across industries and jobs Boyatzis, , ; Spencer and Spencer, ; Goleman, ; Williams, ; Beigi and Shirmohammadi, ; Zhang and Fan, , but has neglected their influence in explaining the individual's mobility across boundaries and, in turn, to attain career success. This study aims to contribute to fill these gaps by examining the relationship between ESCs, on the one side, and physical career mobility and career success, on the other.

Specifically, we address the following research question: Do ESCs spur individuals to cross boundaries in their career path and to pursue a higher objective career success over time?

Boundaryless Careers and Occupational Wellbeing

This paper adds to career management and competency-based literature in several ways. First, it contributes to building the conceptual bridge between the literature on the boundaryless career and the research stream on ESCs, by considering them as antecedents of physical career mobility across organizational, industrial, and geographical boundaries. In so doing, we also address the need of extending the conceptualization of physical mobility beyond the mere organizational boundaries dimension.

Secondly, it adds to the debate on ESCs and boundaryless career by investigating their effects on objective career success. Thirdly, it provides a dynamic perspective in studying the impact of ESCs on the individual's career mobility and success over time. Indeed, contrary to prior research in which data were primarily collected at only one point in time, we adopt a time-lagged design to investigate how ESCs influence the evolution of managers' careers.

This paper is organized as follows. In the next section, we propose a framework that aims to bridge career management and the competency-based literatures, introducing the research hypotheses on the relationship between the possession of ESCs, the pursuit of a physical boundaryless career, and the attainment of a higher career success.

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Next, in the Methods Section we illustrate the setting and the time-lagged design adopted in this study. Afterwards, we present the results of the empirical analysis, and in the final section we discuss the implications and future research avenues in terms of career development. As recently highlighted Fleisher et al. However, recent research has demonstrated that in order to successfully perform in their careers, individuals require not just knowledge about their motivation and identity, skills, and inter- and intra-organizational networks, but also a set of behavioral abilities, namely emotional and social competencies, that enable them to pursue effectiveness Brown et al.

The competency framework is based on the premise that individuals' past behaviors predict their future outcome Spencer and Spencer, ; Boyatzis, According to these definitions, a competency is manifested by a set of behaviors that are driven by motives and are instrumental in attaining work outcomes Boyatzis and Kelner, Prior studies that aimed to identify those behavioral competencies that distinguish outstanding from average performers across professions and sectors Boyatzis, , ; Spencer and Spencer, ; Emmerling and Boyatzis, , have discriminated between emotional and social competencies.

The former refers to the ability of recognizing, understanding, and managing emotional information about oneself, for example planning, achievement orientation, adaptability, self-control, whereas social competencies concern the ability of recognizing, understanding, and managing emotional information about others, such as empathy, teamwork, negotiation, networking, conflict management, and leadership Goleman, ; Boyatzis, Prior research has shown the impact of emotional and social competencies on work performance across a wide range of roles, in terms, for example, of financial performance McClelland, ; Boyatzis, , service quality Beigi and Shirmohammadi, , project performance Zhang and Fan, , customer satisfaction Williams, , and effectiveness in public service Sharma, However, to date ESCs have not been investigated as predictors of career decisions with specific regard to boundaryless career paths.

Addressing this issue we aim to understand if ESCs are antecedents of actual career moves, namely physical mobility. In this study, we do not investigate the second dimension of boundaryless career, that is psychological mobility, since it only captures the individual perception or belief about the capacity to move across boundaries and it does not imply an actual shift toward new job opportunities Briscoe et al. Indeed, as recently demonstrated by Vansteenkiste et al. Moreover, this subjective dimension of boundaryless career may be stimulated by self-reflection and awareness about the personal resources that individuals perceive to possess, that are only one component of emotional competencies.

Since emotional and social competencies are manifested by a set of actual behaviors that spur individuals toward the attainment of superior performance, we aim to understand their impact on objective career changes. Critics of the boundaryless career concept have highlighted the possible downsides individuals face when they undertake physical mobility.

Zusammenfassung

Crossing career boundaries may create uncertainty and generate stress Rodrigues and Guest, related to the job insecurity that individuals face when they perceive threats to the continuity of one's employability and to the uncertainty regarding the quality of the subsequent employment Colakoglu, This perception of ambiguity may increase if the individuals not only change employer but if they also face a new industrial context and operate in a different geographical location.

For these reasons, we expect that individuals who demonstrate emotional competencies, and are thus better able to understand their feelings and are more successful in regulating them through a thorough awareness of their self, may obtain a higher efficacy in planning and managing career-related issues, and in turn be more proactive and prone to identifying career opportunities. Specifically, individuals who possess a higher level of emotional competencies are expected to be better able to envisage and organize their future, setting desired career goals, defining a series of actions toward the achievement of their goals, moderating risks in a situation prior to taking action, and anticipating obstacles.

Thus, we expect that:. Hypothesis 1.

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Emotional competencies positively relate to a boundaryless career. Another drawback usually ascribed to frequent career mobility is related to the limited propensity of these individuals to invest in their relationships at work or in their internal career development, due to their strong focus on frequent job changes and consequent limited time in the same position Verbruggen, The incapacity to build and use contacts may negatively influence the recognition of opportunities for job mobility, and prevent individuals attaining subsequent career outcomes. Individuals pursuing physical boundaryless careers may require social competencies in order to develop and utilize networks of contacts that provide them with access to critical information and opportunities for attaining career mobility.

Developing relationships with different professional communities with disconnected contacts Burt, and nurturing them beyond the current employing organization provides not only information but also other important resources such as influence, reputation, and guidance, offering a competitive advantage to the individual. Besides, networking activities and social competencies may support individuals in better understanding different perspectives and settings through an empathetic listening and in influencing others in the effort of gaining continuous employability.

Therefore, we maintain that:. According to Arthur et al. Career success has consistently been shown to favor people's well-being and organizational success Pachulicz et al. The first has been conceived in terms of job progression and has been measured, for instance, by salary level and progression Orpen, ; Wayne et al. The second dimension, subjective career success, is associated with the concept of psychological success and primarily measured by variables such as career satisfaction and comparative judgements Greenhaus et al.

Since in this study we are interested in the longitudinal impact of ESCs and boundaryless careers on objective advancements attained by individuals during their career path, we focus our attention on the objective career success rather than considering subjective perceptions in terms of feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction with one's career.

Moreover, since the labor market and organizational changes have reduced the opportunities for only hierarchical advancements, nowadays objective career success includes both vertical and horizontal promotions. Despite the fact that competency-based research has produced consistent studies on the relationship between ESCs and job performance, only a few of them have devoted attention to the impact of emotional and social competencies on objective career success. These contributions have primarily focused only on single competencies that refer to the emotional and social competency constructs.

For instance, prior research found that the individual's concern for working toward a standard of excellence and for developing challenging and specific goals, namely achievement orientation, enables individuals to improve their own performance and outperform others McClelland, This positive impact on job performance may provide a higher visibility in the marketplace increasing the opportunity for getting career promotions Kuijpers and Scheerens, ; Abele and Spurk, Also, the capacity to adapt to new working demands, to different groups and environments has been highlighted as a key competency in the career competency literature DeFillippi and Arthur, ; Hall, Focusing on self-control, namely the effective regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors Converse et al.

Similarly, prior literature review has provided evidence on the impact of emotional competencies on job advancement Zeidner et al. Therefore, we posit that:. Hypothesis 3. Emotional competencies positively relate to objective career success.


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The ability to perceive and understand emotions in others, namely social competencies, may favor positive evaluations from others and supportive relationships that in turn impact on career advancements Poon, Another study provided evidence on the significant and positive effect of the ability to build social relationships on salary growth Wolff and Moser, Building and using contacts may yield a higher work performance, due to the possibility of relying on competent relations and to efficiently complete the tasks, and in turn increase performance ratings and salary.

Hypothesis 4. Social competencies positively relate to objective career success. Previous research has found contradictory evidence on the relationship between boundaryless career and objective career success.

However, these studies have primarily considered salary attainment as a measure of career success and have relied on cross-sectional data Verbruggen, ; Vinkenburg and Weber, ; Sammarra et al. Crossing organizations, industries or geographical domains may stimulate individuals over time toward learning and professional development.

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Different and changing requirements in new jobs encourage individuals to continuously gain new education and training Heilmann, According to Arthur and Rousseau , individuals who undertake a boundaryless career possess a higher propensity to learn and to reflect on their strengths and weakness than individuals who embrace a traditional career. People who build experience in a variety of fields and roles strengthen their job profile, acquire a wider view of the phenomenon and consequently have more opportunities to be promoted.

Indeed, for higher-level managerial roles, firms may prefer individuals with a generalist background rather than a specialist Verbruggen, Moreover, as suggested by Feldman and Ng , individuals who are not able to get promoted in the current organization, seek out opportunities for career advancement crossing organizational boundaries. Building upon these considerations we expect a positive effect of a boundaryless career on objective career success.

Therefore, we suggest:.

Boundaryless Career - Oxford Handbooks

Hypothesis 5. A boundaryless career relates positively to objective career success. We tested our hypotheses with data collected in a time-lagged study on a sample of Italian managers who participated in a 2-year part-time Executive MBA program from to The sample used in this study was initially composed of managers who responded to an online survey and for whom we had T1 and T2 data All participants to this study gave explicit consent to data collection for the purposes of this research, and all the researchers have been subject to the Ethical Code of their affiliating Institution.

To assess the non-response bias we compared some characteristics of the population with those of the managers who completed the survey in T2. Due to the presence of missing values four units and outliers three units , the final sample was reduced to The average age of the males was Concerning the sample's educational profile, Considering the whole sample As for their professional profile, on average the respondents had If we consider the sample's professional background according to the gender, females had 10 years of working experience S.

In terms of traditional foreign assignments, A total of Boundaryless career was measured considering three types of physical mobility dimensions, namely crossing organizational, industrial, and geographical boundaries. Prior research has mainly reduced the operationalization of a physical boundaryless career to inter-organizational mobility Sullivan, ; Inkson et al.

We add to the ongoing debate that draws attention to the need of developing measures that better capture the original construct, introduced by Sullivan and Arthur , who also included—within the concept of physical mobility—industrial and geographical domains. Similarly, Bidwell and Briscoe suggest the relevance of geographical mobility as a further dimension of the boundaryless career, and a recent empirical research confirmed that the preference for moving across geographical boundaries can be considered part of the boundaryless career construct Gubler et al.

First, we included the movements of the managers across different industrial boundaries. Second, we considered changes in different geographical locations. Specifically, we asked the managers of the sample to indicate: a organizational mobility: the number of firms they worked for; b industry mobility: the number of different sectors they operated in; and c geographical mobility: the number of times they worked abroad for at least 1 year, all with reference to the period of time from T1 to T2.

We measured geographical mobility in terms of time spent in a foreign country for a period longer than 1 year instead of in terms of time spent in different regions of the same country. This decision is motivated by the fact that in Italy and in Europe in general the mobility within the same country is not perceived as a form of boundary crossing, due to the limited geographical distances and the same cultural background that characterize the regions of the same country.

We divided the three indicators by the number of years since the end of the MBA to obtain comparable data among managers who finished their course in different years, and consequently may have had different opportunities to practice their ESCs and pursue a boundaryless career and higher objective career success. Objective career success was assessed by using the number of promotions earned by each manager from T1 to T2 that is consistent with a dynamic concept of career as a process of individual change over time.

Thus, this definition enables us to consider not only vertical progressions but also horizontal career transitions. We weighted the number of promotions with respect to the different number of years after the MBA, in order to take into account that the different time lag may impact on the opportunity to earn promotions.


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  8. Such transformation is consistent with the practice of other studies on objective career success Judge et al. Unlike prior studies that usually assess competencies through self-reported measures, we adopted behavioral measures of competencies as rated by the research team to evaluate managers' ESCs Amdurer et al.

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