Proactivity, stress appraisals, and problem-solving: a cross-level moderated mediation model

Andrea Espedido*, Ben J. Searle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem-solving demands have been shown to exert both positive and negative effects on employees. We examined whether these inconsistencies could be explained by the way people appraise (interpret) their problem-solving demands, either as a challenge or a threat. We proposed a cross-level moderated mediation model whereby the effects of problem-solving demands on a range of proactive behaviours (i.e. proactive innovation, problem prevention, voice, and proactive undermining) would be mediated by stress appraisals and moderated by psychological safety climate. Surveys were administered twice daily for 5 consecutive workdays to 248 employees from a variety of industries. Multilevel analyses showed that appraisals of challenge mediated the relationship between problem-solving demands and favourable forms of proactivity, whereas appraisals of threat mediated the relationship with unfavourable forms of proactivity. Depending on the type of proactive behaviour, these effects manifested at either the within- or between-person level. Finally, we observed a cross-level moderated mediation effect in which psychological safety climate strengthened the positive effects of within-person problem-solving demands on challenge appraisal, which in turn promoted proactive innovation. These results emphasise the explanatory power of stress appraisals and climate in shaping a range of proactive behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-152
Number of pages21
JournalWork and Stress
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • stress appraisal
  • proactivity
  • problem-solving
  • multilevel
  • challenge-hindrance
  • psychological safety climate

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