Drive and Direction : Empathy with Intended Targets Moderates the Proactive Personality - Job Performance Relationship via Work Engagement

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

8 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575–605
Number of pages31
Journal / PublicationApplied Psychology
Issue number2
Online published30 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


Proactive employees are self‐starting and driven. Thus, they typically exhibit high levels of work engagement. While work engagement reflects the degree to which employees are attentive and absorbed when performing their work tasks, it does not guarantee effective job performance unless their actions are strategic. We draw on Grant and Ashford’s (2008) proactivity framework to develop a drive and direction contingency model that expands our understanding of how and when proactive personality predicts job performance via work engagement. We argue that employee’s drive (represented by the positive relation of proactive personality with work engagement) predicts job performance only when the employee also has high (vs. low) empathy with their intended targets, such as customers. Empathy with intended targets allows employees to understand and feel their targets’ concerns and feelings, thus providing a direction that guides their work engagement to address their targets’ interests and predict job performance. Results from a multiple‐source (employees, supervisors, and organizational records) lagged (T1–T2) field study and a lab experiment support our model. We discuss the implications, limitations, and future directions of our findings.

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