In Organizational Behavior and Industrial/Organizational Psychology, proactive behavior (or proactivity) by individuals refers to anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behavior in the work place. Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen. Proactive employees generally do not need to be asked to act, nor do they require detailed instructions.
Proactive behavior can be contrasted with other work-related behaviors, such as proficiency, i.e. the fulfillment of predictable requirements of one’s job, or adaptivity, the successful coping with and support of change initiated by others in the organization. In regard to the latter, whereas adaptivity is about responding to change, proactivity is about initiating change.
Proactivity is not restricted to extra role performance behaviors. Employees can be proactive in their prescribed role (e.g. by changing the way they perform a core task to be more efficient). Likewise, behaviors labeled as Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) can be carried out proactively or passively. For example, the altruistic OCB s can be proactive in nature (e.g.of offering help to co-workers in anticipation, even before they ask, is an example of a proactive action. Other OCBs concerned with the compliance with rules and expectations might even be incompatible with proactivity.
In Organizational Behavior, literature on proactive behavior has emerged from diverse research areas, such as research on seeking feedback, personal initiative, expressing voice, implementing ideas and solving problems. Papers on different types of proactive behaviors have been published since the 1980s. In the early 1990s Thomas Bateman and Michael Crant introduced the concept of proactive personality, the disposition to initiate change in one’s environment. At about the same time Michael Frese and colleagues started to publish on the similar concept of personal initative.
It was not until 2000 that a review article by Michael Crant conceptually drew together different streams of research on proactive behavior in organizations and paved the way for a more integrated research on proactive behavior. In recent papers, Adam Grant and Susan Ashford have provided a conceptual review and integration of the proactivity literature, and Sharon Parker and Catherine Collins have empirically integrated several different types of proactive behavior.
Over the last decades, researchers have identified proactive behavior as an increasingly important determinant of organizational success in dynamic and uncertain economic environments. Today, there is a growing stream of research on proactivity and research articles on proactive behavior are published in scientific journals such as Journal of Applied Psychology and Personnel Psychology.
Bateman, T. S., & Crant, J. M. (1993). The proactive component of organizational-behavior: A measure and correlates. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(2), 103-118.
Campbell, D. J. (2000). The proactive employee: Managing workplace initiative. Academy of Management Executive, 14(3), 52-66. Crant, M. J. (2000). Proactive behavior in organizations. Journal of Management, 26(3), 435-462. Frese, M., & Fay, D. (2001). Personal initiative: An active performance concept for work in the 21st century. Research in Organizational Behavior, 23, 133-187. Frese, M., Kring, W., Soose, A., & Zempel, J. (1996). Personal initiative at work: Differences between East and West Germany. Academy of Management Journal, 39(1), 37-63. Grant, A. M., & Ashford, S. J. 2008. The dynamics of proactivity at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 28: 3-34. http://www.unc.edu/~agrant/publications.htm Griffin, M. A., Neal, A., & Parker, S. K. (2007). A new model of work role performance: Positive behavior in uncertain and interdependent contexts. Academy of Management Journal, 50(2), 327 - 347. Parker, S. K., & Collins, C. G. (in press). Taking stock: Integrating and differentiating multiple forms of proactive behavior. Journal of Management. Parker, S. K., Williams, H. M., & Turner, N. (2006). Modeling the antecedents of proactive behavior at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 636-652.