First Advisor

Donald Truxillo

Date of Publication

Spring 6-4-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Psychology, Industrial, Organizational behavior, Personality and motivation, Personality and occupation



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 163 pages)


This study examines which and how trait relevant work design characteristics moderate the relationship between proactive personality and engagement. Proactive personality is defined as an individual's tendency to intentionally and directly affect change in their environment (Bateman & Crant, 1993; Crant, 2000). Previous research has been primarily focused on the positive aspects of proactive personality; to fill this gap, I used trait activation theory (Tett & Burnett, 2003) to identify which work characteristics will activate proactive personality to affect engagement and developed specific hypotheses about which work characteristics will attenuate the proactive personality engagement relationship. In the study I identified five work characteristics (autonomy, feedback from job, problem solving, social support, and feedback from others) that may be moderators of the proactive personality- engagement relationship. Data were collected from 258 participants who worked in organizations located in north and northeast Italy. Data were collected at two time points. At time 1, proactive personality and work design characteristics were collected. Work engagement was collected at time 2. Although main effects for proactive personality and the job characteristics on engagement were found, the data did not support most of the hypotheses in this study. However, supplemental analyses found interesting interactions with regards to the impact of decision making autonomy and feedback from others on the relation between proactive personality and work engagement. The supplemental results suggest that proactive personality may act as a personal resource when work design characteristics are lacking. However, when decision making autonomy or feedback from others is high there is a negative relationship between proactive personality and engagement.

The results of this study have several implications for management theory and practice. On the theoretical side there are at least three contributions. First, while the majority of research on PAP has focused on main effects, few studies have identified moderators (Crant, 2000). Second, this study adds to research by extending trait activation theory to apply to how proactive workers view work characteristics. Third, while all work design characteristics coexist simultaneously within a work environment, they are usually discussed individually, not simultaneously. Additionally, the results of this study have implications for practice. The results of this study suggest that organizations should consider the work design characteristics and their impact on proactive workers prior to selecting proactive workers. Also organizations who are interested in employing proactive workers can use the results of this study to optimize the success of both high- and low-proactivity workers. By having a more in depth understanding of how work design characteristics impact proactive people organizations will be better able to meet an employee's needs, and the theoretical understanding of proactive personality is advanced.


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