Does an employee-experienced crisis help or hinder creativity? An integration of threat-rigidity and implicit theories

Inseong JEONG*, Yaping GONG, Bijuan ZHONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Although a crisis provides room for creativity, organizations often suffer from creativity deficits in such a situation. Indeed, threat-rigidity theory suggests that an employee-experienced crisis may hinder employee creativity. An interesting but unresolved question is thus, “When does an employee-experienced crisis stifle or stimulate creativity, and how?” Embedding our study in a person-in-situation creativity research stream, we introduce employee-experienced crisis, defined as the impact an employee experiences from crisis event(s) in a team, and examine its interaction with implicit theories (i.e., a fixed vs. a growth mindset) in employee creativity. We hypothesize that an employee-experienced crisis stifles employee creativity via increased job anxiety when the individual possesses a strong fixed mindset. In contrast, the same phenomenon stimulates creativity via enhanced creative process engagement when the individual has a strong growth mindset. In Study 1, we collected multisource, time-lagged field data from 506 employees working in 107 research and development (R&D) teams. The results supported our hypotheses. To further explore how the moderating effects of mindsets occur, we conducted Study 2, another multisource, time-lagged field study of 260 employees in 40 R&D teams. We found that the moderating effects of implicit theories are mediated by goal orientations (i.e., implicit theories are more distal moderators, and goal orientations are more proximal moderators). Overall, we provide an integrative account of when and how an employee-experienced crisis hinders or helps employee creativity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1394-1429
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number4
Early online date5 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: The first two authors contributed equally and are listed in reverse alphabetic order. We thank Melody Chao and Ellick Kin-Fai Wong for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We thank the associate editor and anonymous reviewers for their insightful ideas. We would like to acknowledge the financial support for this project from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (Project No. 16514016 and Project No. 16501418)

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • creativity
  • employee-experienced crisis
  • implicit theories


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