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The Role of Proactive Personality in the Workplace

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A person with Proactive personality is an individual who is rather unconstrained by circumstantial factors that affect environmental change (changes in the environment). Proactive personalities identify opportunities and take advantage of them. They show interest, react and go all the way to make it happen despite of any obstacles and difficulties. (Bateman and Grant, 1993)

Proactive personality has been also linked to objective and subjective indicators of career success, after considering factors like, demographics, human capital, motivation, type of organization, and type of industry (Seibert, Crant, & Kraimer, 1999)

Academic articles that have researched in proactive behavior show that in flat organizational structures which are usually uncertain and change rapidly demand a type of employee who is capable to fit in this kind of an operating firm. The ‘new employee’ should be able to work according to his intuition and without anyone telling them what to do. Also, this ‘new employee’ tries his level best to shape and put in his best effort that he can in the workplace. (Bakker, Tims and Derks, 2012)

These theories tell us that, people with proactive personality are more likely to ask for feedback and the boss or partner’s opinion on his/her work. They also prefer work which involves challenges and are ready to put all their energy to do and get the required work done. Also, they are the type which will ask for more work to keep themselves occupied and remain hungry for work. (Bakker, Tims and Derks, 2012)

Anticipation, planning and action are three core factors that define the behavior of a proactive employee.

Anticipation is the debut of the proactive behavior process. Employees anticipate the likely future results to be proactive. (Ashford and Grant, 2008)

Anticipation is the prediction of an event or goal that may or may not become possible in the foreseen future. It also involves measuring the the pros and cons of pursuing a particular decision. Anticipating and imagining events boosts the employee’s confidence and imagining future outcomes motivates oneself to work harder to succeed. Envisioning relationship with fellow employees or partners directs oneself to strengthen the bond over time in working together. Furthermore, anticipating and predicting will lead the employees to tailor their actions for more fruitful results. (Ashford and Grant, 2008)

Planning is the second factor of the proactive behavior process. Employees need to plan out on how they are going to enforce and bring about their ideas. Planning can be referred to preparing one’s duty or project before hand by preparing for steps that will lead to the employee’s anticipation and goals to result in the best possible outcome. While anticipation focuses on foreseeing/predicting a particular outcome, planning intends to transform this idea on whether or not this practice should be put into action or not. Planning helps to create a backup plan and to develop alternative strategies as what one has initially planned out will not always be successful. Despite the fact that planning is often left out/overlooked by scholars, it plays a major role in the proactive behavior process because it helps employees to connect the dots that lead to what they have anticipated psychologically with specified steps and plans. (Ashford and Grant, 2008)

Action directed towards future impact is the last and the third factor of the proactive behavior process. Anticipation and planning refers to the psychological representation of a particular behavior, whereas action directed towards the future focuses on how you are going to physically anticipate and plan those behaviors. When employees address an action based on the future, they are conscious about the fact that how their actions are going to impact themselves and their surroundings. They not only take into consideration the long term but the short term effects as well of their actions. Their actions try to prevent foreseen problems and grasp future opportunities. (Ashford and Grant, 2008)

Big five traits and its relation with proactivity.

The Big five traits consist of Neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The big five personality factors are somehow related to proactive personality as well and that is proven by research which is done in the past 20 years. The two factors which are consistently related are Conscientiousness and Extraversion.   Research has shown consistent positive relationships between proactive personality and two Big Five factors: Conscientiousness and Extraversion (Bateman & Crant, 1993; Crant, 1995; Crant & Bateman, 2000). In one study, proactive personality was also positively correlated with openness and negatively correlated with neuroticism (Crant & Bateman, 2000).

However, recent findings have compared and contrasted proactivity with each of the big five factors and the findings will be explained in detail below. (Thomas, Whitman and Viswesvaran, 2010)

Conscientiousness: Individuals with this quality are more focused and go beyond their way to be successful which leads them to proactively anticipate and plan their goals to avoid inefficiency. However, these individuals are quite ethical in their ways and this might have a negative effect when challenging tasks are provided to them as they will not go against the book and will abide by it. (Thomas, Whitman and Viswesvaran, 2010)

Emotional Stability/Neurotocism: Employees who are emotionally stable will also be self confident and relaxed and that will lead to them being action oriented and focused as a result of proactive influence. This is supported by research which shows that employees who are more relaxed tend to be more proactive. (Sonnentag, 2003). However, individuals who are not emotionally stable tend to be anxious and depressed and that affects their ability to focus and influence their surroundings. (Thomas, Whitman and Viswesvaran, 2010)



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