PROACTIVE PERSONALITY, PERSONAL INITIATIVE AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: A ROUTE TO EMPLOYABILITY?
University of Portsmouth (UNITED KINGDOM)
Proactive behaviour, as opposed to reactive or passive, is deliberate, active and future oriented (Tornau & Frese, 2013). Proactivity has emerged as a topic of interest among researchers and practitioners in recent years prompted by organizations seeing it not as a novelty, but rather a necessity in dynamic and global economies (Bindle & Parker, 2011). In addition iindividuals higher in proactivity have increased job search self-efficacy and thus find employment more easily and once in employment enjoy greater career success and satisfaction (Fuller Jr., Hester & Cox, 2010; Li, Liang & Crant, 2010). Such outcomes are naturally desirable to graduates who through university have invested time and money in their human and social capital in order to enhance their career success and are embarking on job search activities. This attraction to graduates makes proactivity an important topic for universities who are increasingly expected to turn out work-ready students (Tymon, 2013). However there is also potential for double benefit for universities because of the potential for proactivity to enhance academic performance in the same way that it has been shown to enhance performance in other contexts. Yet there is scarce empirical support for how or why universities can enhance proactivity.
Proactivity is an umbrella term for various constructs with some such as proactive personality being more stable over time and others such as personal initiative being more malleable and thus more trainable (Tornau & Frese, 2013). Responding to recent interest in studying possible connections between these various constructs the aim of this paper is to enhance our understanding of the interplay between these two facets of proactivity and their effect on academic performance in a study of 166 university students.
Drawing on literature we hypothesized and found that students high on both personal initiative behaviour and proactive personality achieve better academic grades than those low on both, or high in just one. Importantly we also found that those high on proactive personality but low on personal initiative achieved the lowest grades of all. Thus this study contributes to the literature on the nature of proactivity and the potential negative effects of proactive personality in particular.
Practical recommendations include that universities could improve academic performance by nurturing and developing proactivity to produce double benefit but with a focus on personal initiative behaviour. Firstly, because personal initiative is the more trainable dimension of proactivity and secondly, because failure to do this could lead to the misuse or underuse of the potentially valuable trait of proactive personality. Thus this study could assist universities in deciding where to focus scarce resources.