Should You Be Proactive at Work?

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Employees often take charge of their jobs and their careers. They aren’t just rule-following drones that only complete assigned tasks. Employees participate in what’s called proactive behaviors to impact their work and their work environment. Today, we share some pros and cons of participating in these types of behaviors.

What is Proactive Behavior?

Proactive behavior is described as an anticipatory action that an employee takes to impact themselves or the work environment. In other words, it’s when an employee takes charge to make a change! There are many different ways an employee can be proactive. They may seek feedback on how to improve their work. They take charge on solving problems in processes. An employee comes up with new ideas and implements them on their own. They change the way certain tasks are done to become more efficient and effective. Overall, it all centers around an employee taking initiative and doing something focused on the future of the company or themselves.

Benefits of Being Proactive at Work

Being proactive comes with several benefits. Companies and employees alike can reap the benefits of proactive behavior! Proactive employees are generally higher performers and have more career success than non-proactive employees. Recent research has also shown that proactive behavior can influence wellness as well! Employees reap benefits through:

Being proactive can help you feel more alive!
  • Career success! We know employees are happier and feel more satisfied at work if they are able to achieve their goals.
  • Competence! People like being good at what they are doing. When employees are proactive at work, they are doing things to improve their work and make positive changes. Thus, employees feel good when they are being proactive!
  • Vitality! Proactive employees tend to feel more energized and alive. Vitality is a part of wellness, thus, proactive employees experience more well-being!

All of this sounds great. Based on the research, it seems like being proactive at work is the way to be! However, that’s not always the case. There is a dark side to proactivity and a time to avoid it entirely.

When Proactivity is Bad

Unfortunately, being proactive at work isn’t always a good thing. The way people around you react to your proactivity has a big impact on wellness. We know that positive work environments and psychological safety are important for employees overall. This is particularly true when it comes to proactive behaviors. Recent research has shown that your supervisor can impact whether being proactive at work is a good or a bad thing.

A punitive supervisor is never a good thing. Punitive supervisors blame employees for every mistake they make. They get angry at mistakes and often punish employees for making them. Sounds like a terrible type of person to work for, right? These types of supervisors cause employees to be afraid of ever making any mistakes. When people are afraid of making mistakes, they are less likely to take risks or be proactive in their approach to work. Employees in these situations often just do what they are told to avoid getting in trouble.

Don’t be proactive if your supervisor punishes mistakes!

If employees still try to be proactive while working for a punitive supervisor, they face some struggles in the wellness department. Being proactive with this type of boss causes increased anxiety. In turn, that increased anxiety stops employees from being able to disconnect from work at the end of the day. These anxious employees go home and continue to dwell on what happened at work and possibly fear the consequences of them being proactive. In these types of cases, being proactive is actually worse for the employee than just continuing to do the job normally.

Should You Be Proactive? It Depends!

In sum, we recommend employees be proactive IF they are in the right work environment. If you are going to be punished for each and every mistake you make, avoid it! It’s not worth it. If you work in a psychologically safe environment, then you should try to be proactive! Your new ideas, new approaches, and positive changes can help you feel more competent, more alive, and improve your career success! One size advice does not fit all in this case. Read your environment and decide what to do based on your own situation.

Now, we’d love to hear from you! What’s your work environment like? Can you be proactive at work? If so, what do you do that’s proactive?

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