Self-control at work: Its relationship with contextual performance

Benjamin J. De Boer, Edwin A.J. Van Hooft, Arnold B. Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Individuals differ in their levels of self-control. Trait self-control has been found to relate positively to desirable and negatively to undesirable behaviors in contexts like physical health, academic performance, and criminality. The purpose of this study is to examine the relevance of trait self-control in work-settings. The authors distinguished between two types of self-control, stop-control (inhibitory control) and start-control (initiatory control), and tested their differential validity in predicting contextual performance. Design/methodology/approach – In two independent employee samples, stop-control, start-control, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), personal initiative, and proactive coping were measured. Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) was added in Study 2. Findings – Results showed that only start-control was positively related to OCB, personal initiative, and proactive coping. Both stop-control and start-control were negatively related to CWB. Research limitations/implications – Findings support the validity of distinguishing between stop-control and start-control, suggesting that self-control theory and models should be refined to incorporate this distinction. Limitations include the correlational design and self-report measures. Although results were similar across two independent studies, future research is needed to test the generalizability of the conclusions in other settings, using non-self-report data. Practical implications – The distinction between stop-control and start-control may help organizations in selecting staff and assigning tasks. Originality/value – The present research introduces the distinction between two conceptually different types of self-control (stop-control and start-control), demonstrating their relevance to work-related behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-421
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Organizational behavior
  • Personality
  • Resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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