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Is your Workforce Proactive or Reactive?
By Shelle Rose Charvet   Printer Friendly Version

PROACTIVE

Proactive people initiate. They tend to act with little or no consideration; to jump into situations without thinking or analyzing. They may upset some people because they can bulldoze ahead with what they want to do. They are good at going out and getting the job done. They do not wait for others to initiate.

REACTIVE

Reactive people wait for others to initiate or until the situation is right before they act. They may consider and analyze without acting. They want to fully understand and assess the situation before they will act. They believe in chance and luck. They will spend a lot of time waiting. Some people may get upset with them because they do not get started. They will wait for others to initiate and then respond. In the extreme, they operate with extra caution and study situations endlessly. They make good analysts.

Hiring

Proactive people are suitable for those positions which require taking the initiative, going out and getting it done. They would work well in outside sales, in independent businesses or the kind of work where having chutzpah1 is an asset. If you are advertising for a highly Proactive person, ask the applicants to phone instead of sending in a résumé. (Reactive people will not phone.)

People who have a Reactive pattern in the work Context are well-suited to jobs that allow them to respond to requests. Representatives on customer service desks tend to be more Reactive. Many research and analytical jobs need someone who can spend a lot of time analyzing data.

Most people and most positions require a mixture of the two patterns. When hiring, you will need to examine what proportion of the work to be done consists of Reactive or Proactive activities to determine the kind of balance you need. It is appropriate to profile the others on the team to make sure you have an good balance.

There are some key questions to ask yourself regarding this category when profiling a position. To what degree will this person need to take the initiative? How much of the job consists of responding, analyzing or is dependent on the actions others? You might want to estimate the percentage of overall time in Proactive or Reactive activities.

Golden Handshakes

During the early to mid 1990's, large corporations and subsequently governments decided they needed to shed large numbers of workers. In order to accomplish these large-scale layoffs, many organizations used the Golden Handshake approach, offering an attractive package to those who would take the money and leave.

Can you guess who took the money and jumped ship? Have you noticed that this period also coincided with the largest ever increase in home-based businesses?

Proactive people jump at the Golden Handshake as a chance to go out and set up their own operations. Organizations lost many of their most dynamic people. One friend told me that her boss said: "Oh, but we didn't want you to leave!" Too late buddy.

My suggestion to organizations is to plan any necessary lay offs by first deciding which roles to keep. (Easier said than done, I know.) The roles will probably call for a mixture of Proactive and Reactive, as well as many of the other patterns described in this book. I then suggest that particular people be offered the buy-out package; those who do not fit the desired profiles. Also, I believe it is important to offer counselling to those who will be leaving, to help them make decisions and set up their next steps.

1a Yiddish word, meaning having a lot of nerve

 


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