Counteracting the curvilinear relationship between organizational tenure and career initiative: the role of mentoring and network barriers

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

European Journal of Training and Development




Purpose: This study investigates the antecedents of career initiative, a proactive behavior, whereby individuals engage in activities to promote their career development. The authors first argue that organizational tenure – the length of time employed within a specific organization – will exhibit a curvilinear or inverted-U-shaped relationship with career initiative. In the early years of an employment relationship, career initiative gradually increases as employees overcome the initial challenges of joining a new organization. However, career initiative will plateau and eventually decline as employees struggle to envision further development. Design/methodology/approach: This study uses a survey design with data collected from the North American operations of a large global telecommunications company. Findings: This study identifies two key mechanisms, both concerning relational context, that drive the curvilinear relationship between organizational tenure and career initiative: mentoring and barriers to networking. Specifically, increased mentoring and reduced barriers to networking both significantly weaken the curvilinear effect. Research limitations/implications: The results suggest that organizations can promote proactive behaviors through employee mentoring and by removing network barriers, particularly for those most at risk for reduced career initiative: early- and especially later-tenure employees. Originality/value: Career initiative is a valued behavior among employees, but individual-level phenomena can be fostered, or inhibited, by relational context. So, while some scholars have found a trend toward “boundaryless” careers, this study reveals the importance of considering how the boundaries and social context within organizations can create an environment in which employee proactivity can flourish.


Career development, Career initiative, Proactivity, Tenure