For the past decades, organizations have been getting increasingly dependent on teams or groups in order to be more productive, agile, and sustainable within the dynamic and challenging business world. Scholars and practitioners began to realize that successful utilization of the knowledge and expertise of each employee will promote performance improvement [1
]. Recently, many researchers claimed that the transactive memory system (TMS) is an effective mechanism of incorporating employees with different expertise and coordinating their decentralized personal skills and knowledge. The transactive memory system (TMS) refers to a collective system that exists in teams or groups as a form of knowledge repository for encoding, storing, and retrieving information [2
], and the system provides (1) information about each member’s specialized skills and expertise, and (2) a transactive processes that enable group members to link and cooperate with each other with their specialized expertise [4
]. The concept of the TMS was initially developed in dyadic relationships, such as couples [5
], and gradually extended to the organizational level and group level to explain team and organizational success. TMS as a social cognition system enables the organizations or groups to optimize the assignments of tasks to the appropriate group member as well as knowledge consultation and sharing. Some scholars found that the transactive memory system (TMS) offers efficiency and innovation [6
] through which organizations can maintain a sustainable competitive advantage [7
]. Thus, TMS has been more and more recognized and adopted in organizations [9
], and has become an emerging area of academic research. Prior studies found that TMS contributes to team performance [10
], team effectiveness [1
], and team reflexivity [13
]. The study of TMS has also been extended to the organizational level. Heavey and Simsek suggested that there is a positive relationship between a top management team’s TMS and firm performance [9
]. Argote and Ren’s research indicated that TMS is positively related to organizations’ capabilities in dealing with the dynamic business environment [8
]. Although most studies focused on the team level and the organizational level impact of TMS, some scholars also explored the influence of TMS at the individual level. For instance, Jarvenpaa and Majchrzak found that TMS would affect an individual’s ability to combine knowledge from others [14
]. However, there is still relatively insufficient study focused on the influence of TMS on individual-level outcomes. Indeed, with a well-developed TMS, individuals are assigned tasks that best match their specific expertise and also aware of everyone else’s expertise; even if they had issues that are out of their specialties, they know whom they need to go for consultation [4
]. Hence, TMS leads to great coordination, and job–person fit would eventually lead to positive outcomes of individuals. Thus, exploring the effect of TMS on an individual level would extend our understanding about the implications of TMS in organizations.
The current study is designed to fill the research gap on an individual level. We focused on the individual perception of TMS and examined how this perception might predict their behaviors and career-related capabilities in the longer term. The first goal of this study is to explore whether the TMS positively impacts individuals’ career resilience (CR). CR captures the ability to adapt to changing and even unfavorable environments in one’s career life [15
]. As the work environment in today’s world becomes more dynamic and challenging, CR becomes an important factor for individuals to obtain a sustainable career [17
] as well as occupational health, and CR as a type of career capability is developable [18
]. Some studies suggested that CR increases with age and the accumulation of work experience [15
], and career-management training programs may also enhance personal CR [19
]. A study conducted by Abu-Tineh indicated that learning in organizations was positively associated with CR [20
]. Drawing on the conservation of resource theory (COR) and in the view of existing literature on TMS and CR, we argue that by activating effective resource transition and investment, TMS will promote individual proactivity and self-confidence toward their job, and increase their CR eventually.
In addition, this study further explores the potential mechanism between TMS and CR by adopting COR as the theoretical foundation and focusing on the mediating role of an employee taking charge. Taking charge refers to one’s initiative and constructive efforts aiming at changing the status quo and facilitating organizational effectiveness [21
]. As mentioned above, TMS is positively related to team effectiveness, team flexibility, and general performance, due to the effective task assignments and knowledge sharing within such a social system. Thus, we suggest that in an organization or group with well-developed TMS, it is most likely that members possess a bigger and clearer vision of what is going on in their work and have more confidence in making their personal work—even the whole work process of the group—more efficient and innovative. In other words, employees are more inclined to conduct taking-charge behavior in a more flexible, transparent team environment such as teams with great TMS. As a form of challenge-oriented proactive behavior [21
], taking charge might lead to increased self-efficacy. At the same time, the change-oriented nature of taking charge makes it is always accompanied by risk while individuals conduct such behavior [21
]. Scholars also suggest that voluntary engaging in taking charge indicates that individuals are less dependent on external instruction [21
]. Taking together, taking-charge behavior is closely related to the three subdomains of CR: self-efficacy, risk taking, and dependency [15
]. Thus, we presume that individuals with well-developed TMS are more inclined to perform taking charge-behavior, which would afterward contribute to increased CR.
The third purpose of this study is to examine the boundary conditions under which TMS results in elevated CR. In this study, we take self-promotion as an important moderator for the relationship between TMS and taking-charge behavior. Self-promotion behavior, as one strategy of image management, refers to individuals’ ability to anticipate being recognized as competent and valuable via showing off or talking about their experiences or accomplishments [23
]. Individuals with high self-promotion are more likely to seek out any chance to demonstrate their competence [24
]. Thus, we presume the individual differences of self-promotion would be a potential moderating factor. The high tendency of self-promotion would strengthen both the linkage between TMS and taking charge, as well as the indirect effect of TMS on CR.
To summarize, our research contributes to the transactive memory system (TMS) and career resilience (CR) literature in several ways. First, by applying the resource conservation perspective, our research sheds light on the effect of TMS on individual CR, which extends the outcome scope of TMS to include the individual level. Second, by testing the mediating role of taking charge, our research offers a novel mechanism by which TMS impacts CR. Finally, by examining the moderating role of self-promotion, our research identifies the boundary conditions for TMS to influence taking charge, which in turn influences CR. To test the hypotheses and research model, we conduct time-lagged two-wave survey research to better illustrate the relationships between the research constructs.
4.1. Confirmatory Factor Analyses, Descriptive Statistics, and Correlations
In the current study, we conducted confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) with Mplus 7.4 to examine the discriminant validity of the main variables. We first assessed the six-factor model that included TMS (three dimensions), taking charge, career resilience, and self-promotion. This model had quite an acceptable fit with indexes (χ2 = 534.62, df = 260; CFI = 0.92; TLI = 0.91; RMSEA= 0.057; CFI: Comparative Fit Index; TLI: Tucker-Lewis Index; RMSEA: Root Mean Square Error of Approximation.).
Then, we examined the model fit of four alternative models to compare with the hypothesized six-factor model. In model 1, three dimensions of TMS make up the same factor (χ2 = 903.94, df = 269; CFI = 0.82; TLI = 0.80; RMSEA = 0.085).
In model 2, TMS and taking charge make up the same factor (χ2 = 1252.64, df = 272; CFI = 0.72; TLI = 0.69; RMSEA = 0.105). Model 3 combined the three variables collected in the first wave, including TMS, taking charge, and self-promotion (χ2 = 1860.18, df = 274; CFI = 0.55; TLI = 0.51; RMSEA = 0.133). In model 4, all the items of four variables were combined into one (χ2 = 2469.68, df = 275; CFI = 0.38; TLI = 0.32; RMSEA = 0.156). The results indicate that our hypothesized six-factor model had better model fit indexes than the other alternative models (p for Δχ2 < 0.01); thus, the discriminant validity of the main constructs used in the current study was supported.
presents the descriptive statistics, intercorrelations, and reliability for the study variables.
4.2. Measurement Model
We first adopted hierarchical multiple regression to test Hypothesis 1. We controlled for demographic characteristics, and the results revealed that TMS has a positive relationship with individual CR (b = 0.22, p < 0.01), supporting Hypothesis 1.
Then, we adopted the PROCESS macro for SPSS developed by Hayes [73
] to assess the hypotheses involving mediating, moderating, and moderated mediation effects (Hypotheses 2–4). During the regression analysis, a bootstrapping method was implemented to enlarge the sample to 5000, and all the statistical significance of the effects we tested was computed based on bias-corrected confidence intervals. Table 4
shows the results of regressions testing Hypothesis 2 and Hypothesis 3 using bootstrapping in SPSS PROCESS macro.
Hypothesis 2 proposed that TMS would be significantly related to taking charge. The result of Model 1 shows that TMS is positively and significantly related to taking charge (b = 0.51, p < 0.01, Model 1). Thus, Hypothesis 2 is supported. After controlling for TMS and the control variables, taking charge was positively and significantly related to career resilience (b = 0.12, p < 0.01, Model 2). Moreover, the indirect effect of TMS on career resilience via taking charge was significant (b = 0.06, boot 95% CI [0.03,0.12]), supporting Hypothesis 3.
To examine the moderating role of self-promotion between TMS and taking charge, we centralized the data and conducted hierarchical regression. As indicated in Model 4 and shown in Table 5
, self-promotion positively moderated the linkage of TMS and taking charge (b = 0.34, p
As showed in Table 6
, conditional indirect effects of TMS on career resilience via taking charge were stronger when self-promotion was high (b = 0.09, boot 95% CI [.03, 0.16]), but when self-promotion was low, the conditional indirect effect was insignificant (b = 0.03, ns). These results supported Hypothesis 4b and identified that self-promotion strengthens the mediating effect of taking charge of the relationship between TMS and career resilience. These results revealed that self-promotion strengthens the mediating effect of taking charge of the relationship between TMS and CR. Thus, Hypothesis 4b was supported.
To better illustrate the interaction patterns, the simple slopes were plotted (see Figure 2
). The figure showed that the forms of interaction consisted of our prediction that the relationship between TMS and taking charge was stronger when individuals had a high level of self-promotion than when they had a low level of self-promotion. Taken together, Hypothesis 4a was supported.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
The present research investigated the effect of TMS on an individual level through the resource-based perspective. We theoretically proposed and empirically examined whether TMS motivates individuals to perform proactively (i.e., exhibiting taking charge), and eventually translates into personal CR. Moreover, the relationship between TMS and taking charge and the mediating effect of taking charge for this linkage were moderated by self-promotion. That is to say, for individuals with high self-promotion motives, TMS will more effectively prompt behaviors related to taking charge; also, the mediating effect on TMS and CR relationship is strengthened.
In sum, TMS as a social cognitive system can be utilized as an effective resource and competitive advantage for teams and organizations. Therefore, it is important for both scholars and practitioners to get deeper insights on how and when TMS will positively affect individuals. Our theoretical model and empirical results extend th literature of TMS by exploring the mechanism of how TMS encourages individuals to perform proactively and whether this change is correlated with their CR. We hypothesized that TMS positively influences CR, and taking charge mediates this influence. Moreover, we identify self-promotion as an important boundary condition factor for the above relationships. We hope our work improves the current understanding of TMS and inspires future studies.
5.1. Theoretical Contributions
Our research contributes to the transactive memory system (TMS), taking charge, and career resilience (CR) literature. For the first and biggest contribution, by adopting conservation of resources theory (COR) as the theoretical foundation, we have proposed and examined a research model that focuses on the potential effect of the TMS on individual CR. Although previous research has found that TMS can benefit teams and organizations [8
], the relationship between TMS and individual-level outcomes has not been examined. However, the TMS as a social cognitive system that depends on individual knowledge structures as well as the coordination of individual expertise [4
] can also be considered as a resource within the group or organization. In this case, the development of the TMS determines how much one can utilize it as a resource to invest in career advance according to the conservation of resource perspective, by which we can claim that TMS will influence individual-level outcomes. Thus, we theoretically and empirically identified the influence of TMS at the individual level. By introducing the resource-based perspective, our research offers a fundamental theoretical justification for the function of TMS. The result supports our anticipation that TMS can contribute positively to individual-level constructs of CR. Such a finding substantially extends the scope of the studies on TMS’s outcomes by including an important form of personal ability. This finding also demonstrates that as a critical contextual resource, the value of TMS is not limited to the team and organizational level, but it is also functional at an individual level.
Meanwhile, our research has enriched the literature on CR as well. Past research primarily focused on the effect of workplace support on CR [74
]. However, the effect of a supportive environment provided by the knowledge system on CR has seldom been discussed and examined. CR is an important ability for employees to adapt to today’s changing and challenging career environment [76
], and this ability is finite and developable [18
]. Our founding indicates TMS as a unique and effective form of resource that can be translated into individual career resilient capacity.
In addition, our findings regarding the mediating role of taking charge also offer deeper insights into the research on the linkage between TMS and CR in general and with TMS in particular. First, by introducing the resource-based perspective, our research explicitly explains the transmitting processes from TMS to CR via individuals performing proactively, which complements the scarcity of research on the underlying mechanism by which the environment is associated with individual CR [18
]. This finding suggests that individuals with a resource provided by TMS are more inclined to make voluntary and constructive efforts in the workplace, and such work experience consequently translates into CR. Second, as noted earlier, although many studies have claimed the critical impact of TMS on teams and organizations, an insufficient amount of research has focused on the effect that TMS has had on the individual level. By applying the COR perspective, this study focused on individual perceptions of TMS, and our findings highlighted that TMS motivates individuals to engage in taking charge, and then, as a form of proximal behavioral outcome of TMS, taking charge can help to transmit the influence of TMS on CR.
Furthermore, this study extends the current literature by testing the moderation effect of self-promotion on the relationship between TMS and CR via taking charge. Specifically, the indirect effect of TMS on CR via taking charge was found to become stronger when self-promotion was higher compared with the lower end. These findings suggest that the processes involved in transmitting a well-developed TMS to CR through taking charge seem to be more effective and beneficial for individuals with high self-promotion motives. At the same time, by integrating TMS and the image management perspective, this study deepens our understanding of how collective cognition systems, individual proactive extra-role behaviors, and CR relate to each other.
5.2. Practical Implications
For practitioners, our study offers a comprehensive understanding of how TMS can be translated into individuals’ CR partially through engaging in taking charge, which offers guidance to both practitioners and organizations. This is important because CR has been positively associated with organizational commitment as well as job satisfaction [77
], which then lead to less intention to quit [78
]. Moreover, organizations are also facing a more competitive and challenging environment nowadays, and increasing the proactivity of their employees can help organizations gain developmental and competitive advantages [79
]. Thus, as organizations are expecting employees to take charge and be more career resilient, building TMS might be an important strategy. Organizations and group leaders need to develop a well-functioning TMS, which may encourage employees to be more proactive (e.g., conduct taking-charge behavior) and result in enhanced CR. On the other hand, the contemporary career environment is dynamic and stressful for individuals, so there is a need for them to develop career resilience to cope with increasing career uncertainty [35
]. For employees who want to be more competent and resilient in an uncertain and even disruptive environment, a TMS may provide opportunity and help to them. Employees who experienced well-developed TMS could expect to be more capable of dealing with different situations in work, and eventually benefit a certain group or organization.
In addition, the current research demonstrates that individuals with relatively high-level self-promotion motives are likely to translate the benefits of TMS into taking charge, which in turn enhances CR. Although image management motives have been seen as inappropriate, individuals who want to be viewed as valuable may be truly dedicated to their organizations [23
]. Therefore, this study suggests that managers need to be moderately tolerant of employees’ self-promotion behaviors, which would promote individuals to behave proactively and obtain increased CR.
5.3. Limitation and Future Directions
This study still suffers several research limitations, which would be considered in the future. Firstly, we adopted a longitudinal design to collect the data at two time stages, which may address some the causal logic concerns about our hypothesized model. However, we measured all the variables using the employee’s self-rating source. We need to consider multiple sources for the data in a future study, especially considering a non-self-rating source for the behavioral outcomes of the employee. To take out the worries about the reliability and validity of our results in this study, we chose our survey design for the following reasons: Previous research pointed out that taking charge can be better measured when self-reported [71
], and we controlled for tenure and demographic variables. Besides, the results of Harman’s one-factor analysis showed that six extraction components had eigenvalues over 1, and the sum of squared loading of the first factor is only 23.53%, indicating that the fits of Harman’s one-factor analysis were unacceptable [80
]. Taken together, we believe that our research is not seriously threatened by common method variance. Another concern is that there was only a six-week span between our two-stage survey, which might be too short to capture the change of an individual’s career attitudes and capabilities. Even though this study showed significant associations between our proposed variables, studies with longer time spans are still needed to construct a model with more reliability. Also, our study suffers from a limited sample size, which is the traditional barrier of many clinical experiments and research studies. Acquiring large samples in future studies will help to strengthen the generalizability of the results.
Second, as a form of resource, TMS can elicit motivation for taking charge, and then be translated into an individual resource as CR. However, it is worthwhile and needed for further studies to explore the effect of TMS on the individual level. For instance, TMS provides an environment of mutual trust and knowledge-sharing, based on social exchange theory, such an environment could be helpful to enhance individual affective commitment to the organization and reduce quit intentions.
In addition, in the current study, we focused on the moderation role of self-promotion. Comparing with other forms of impression-management motivations, individuals who have high self-promotion motives focus more on showing off qualifications and competence. However, it could still be interesting for future studies to examine the moderation role of different image management strategies.
Last but not least, even though many studies adopted Chinese firms as their research settings and samples [81
], we still need to pay attention to the cultural effects as we try to generalize our finds. In the most recent study of Bachrach et al. [56
], they explored cultural effect using meta-analysis and found that some cultural contexts such as power distance and in-group collectivism can influence the TMS and performance relationships. In the future study, adopting multi-cultural samples may be helpful to generalize our finds. Moreover, it would be interesting to look into the cultural unique constructs such as ‘Guanxi’, which may have a great impact on TMS and the TMS–performance relationship. Guanxi refers to personalized social ties and networks that not only involve work and exchange-oriented relationship (e.g., leader–member exchange relationship) but also involve non-work related connections (e.g., mutual interest, caring for personal life) [83
]. Guanxi can be established either between leaders and members or between group members, and there can be many dyadic relationships as well. The quality of Guanxi within a group may have a profound influence on the dynamics and interactions with TMS.