Proactive Employees Are More Productive and Committed

Given the dynamic nature of the work environment, being proactive has become necessary for today’s leaders and managers. What does that mean? More specifically, what is employee proactivity and what does it lead to? Measuring employee proactivity has varied from measuring “proactive personality,” which is considered a steady, natural propensity to direct or control circumstances and dynamically provoke change, to measuring “voice,” which measures the tendency to constructively discuss change. Two other ways of measuring it are the self-explanatory variables “personal initiative” and “taking charge.”


In this study, using meta-analysis (or a statistical combination of many past studies), the authors analyzed 103 data sets totaling 32,967 participants. They found that employee proactivity, measured as “proactive personality,” ”taking personal initiative,” and “taking charge,” positively correlated with both subjective and objective job performance.

For employee proactivity as “voice,” its correlations with performance varied across studies (sometimes positive, sometimes negative, sometimes there was no relationship). From this we can see that job performance depends less on discussing proactive changes and more on being proactive, having personal initiative and taking charge. Could employee proactivity add to the prediction of job performance over and above the prediction made using measures of participants’ conscientiousness? Indeed, the researchers found that employee proactivity makes a unique and positive contribution to the prediction of job performance.


In addition, employee proactivity measured as “proactive personality” and “voice” was positively correlated with job satisfaction. This finding supports several theories that suggest that employee proactivity leads to job satisfaction by facilitating a sense of autonomy; escalating person-job fit; increasing general work adjustment; and leading to greater career success. 

Employee proactivity measured as “proactive personality,” “voice,” and “personal initiative,” was positively correlated with organizational commitment. As theorized by many, being proactive strengthens commitment to the organization and vice-versa.


Employee proactivity measured as “proactive personality” was correlated with social networking, as expected. Being proactive by taking “personal initiative” was not related to social networking. 

As for relationships between employee proactivity and personality (the big five personality traits of conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion, openness, agreeableness), “proactive personality” was positively related to conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion, and openness, but it was not related to agreeableness. “personal initiative” and “voice” were also positively correlated with conscientiousness. Employee proactivity as “taking charge” did not correlate to being conscientious.

Overall, employee proactivity did not relate to experience, age or general mental ability. However, there were a few notable exceptions. The employee proactivity measure “voice” was positively correlated with experience, and “personal initiative” was positively related to general mental ability.


Thomas, J. P., Whitman, D. S., and Viswesvaran, C. (2010). Employee proactivity in organizations: A comparative meta-analysis of emergent proactive constructs. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83, 275-300.