Does Positive Affect Predict Employee Proactivity?

People with positive dispositions and affect tend to display more self-initiative and higher goal setting than those with low moods. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Australia, the University of Sheffield and the University College London, sought to gauge just how positive affect affects proactive goal regulation. They chose to study this relationship because previous research has shown that positive affect directly affects behaviors when complex thinking is involved. They said, “Thus, positive affect has been found to facilitate decision-making and cognitive flexibility. Negative affect might also play a role because it can indicate a gap between a present and desired situation, thus potentially stimulating change-oriented, proactive behaviors.” Additionally, the researchers noted that this dynamic may also affect subsequent performance behavior. They added, “Consistent with these ideas linking positive affect and proactivity, evidence suggests that positive mood is associated with higher levels of self-reported personal initiative and with taking-charge behaviors on the same and the following working day.”

The team enlisted 694 call center employees, ranging in age from 18 to 61 years. Three quarters were full-time employees and over half of the participants were female. The researchers evaluated the moods of the participants with a Likert-type scale that identified specific mood types relating to positive mood, including enthusiastic, inspired and excited. Low moods were noted with measures including relaxed, calm or laid back. They discovered that people with low-activated positive moods did not exhibit proactive goal setting behaviors. However, they said, “It is important to note that high-activated positive mood was associated with proactive goal regulation element even after controlling for indicators of can do and reason to cognitive motivational factors.” The team concluded, “Thus, how employees feel at work is associated with overall proactive goal regulation, irrespective of their commitment to the organization, or individual self-efficacy beliefs.”

Bindl, Uta K., Sharon K. Parker, Peter Totterdell, and Gareth Hagger-Johnson. “Fuel of the Self-starter: How Mood Relates to Proactive Goal Regulation.” Journal of Applied Psychology (July 11, 2011). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024368

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Honor


    August 6th, 2011 at 4:22 AM

    You know there are days when I feel like I do not want to be at work.
    But then you get there and see that someone else is being so positive then you kind of feed on that and it lifts your mood too.
    But then the opposite is also true. You get there and others are in a rotten mood, no matter how you felt when you left the house you start to mirror how they are acting too.

  • Logan G

    Logan G

    August 7th, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    It is unacceptable to walk into work with a chip on your shoulder. Work is work and home is home- leave your home problems at home. That makes the work issues much easier to resolve at work!

  • fiona


    August 7th, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    its very convenient to say dont mix work and personal stuff.but it happens spontaneously.even if we dont want it to happen,things to run into each other and work and personal pressures do collide and one can affect the other.the aim should not be to separate the two but try to manage both well so that one does not interfere with the other.

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