Why You Hire Proactive People but Can’t Keep Them

By Paul Joiner

Why You Hire Proactive People but Can't Keep ThemBoth Reactive and Inactive leaders know they need to hire PROACTIVE people.


The Proactive bring an immediate positive impact to the organization, moving the business and workflow forward with ideas and innovation that solve problems, generate increased productivity, and frankly ease the stress, pressure, and pain due to lack of planning or lack of action that is prevalent in most work cultures.


The new proactive “golden child” is viewed as one who can fix the issues that nag the leader and beset the organization. When the Proactive steps in, it is an optimistic breath of fresh air as he has the leadership’s full attention and blessing to navigate a new course of action for the company. Because change has been sorely needed, the Proactive receives full cooperation from the Reactive and Inactive leaders who are willing to give the Proactive whatever he needs to help fill in the gaps caused by his own personal leadership deficits or dysfunctions the greater team has been experiencing.


But like any good program that requires discipline, commitment to the Proactive’s innovation can be short-lived.


The Proactive’s purpose, plan, and program is not respected when the Reactive and Inactive become unmotivated to honor, or value, the needed processes, protocols, and procedures the Proactive has set in place (timelines, schedules, staffing, operational needs, due dates, etc.)—disciplines that have brought new order and heightened productivity to the organization.


Soon, the leader’s reactive or inactive nature gets the best of them, and now the Proactive’s purpose and contribution to the bottom line of the organization appears no longer honored or respected.


Not honored, as the Reactive believes: “I understand the purpose of what we hired them to do, but they report to me, not me to them. And besides, my agenda is more important than theirs. I don’t want to deal with this now. I’ve got other matters more pressing.”


Not valued, as the Inactive feels: “I see what they are trying to do, but I just don’t understand why it has to be done this way. And why is this so important that it has to be done now? I don’t want to deal with this at the present. I am going to kick this can down the road.”


The lack of support for the Proactive’s program will become more obvious to the Proactive as he notices he is increasingly ignored or dressed down as conflict of cooperation arises and the Reactive or Inactive expresses displeasure or disrespect.


After a period of being ignored or disrespected, one of three things will happen:

  • The Proactive Become Inactive: After many attempts to fulfill their purpose, they stop trying to take the initiative because, when they do, they are either ignored or reprimanded. Their job has become too stressful to keep pushing. They collect a paycheck and no longer use the innovation and ingenuity to move the organization forward.
  • The Proactive Become Reactive: After many attempts to fulfill their purpose, they force the matter with demonstrations of operational independence or emotional outbursts in order to be heard and get a response of any kind.
  • The Proactive Leave: After many failed attempts to fulfill their purpose, they feel their leader does not respect their contribution, and they look for work where they are more valued. They see the ripple effect of their leader’s reactivity or inactivity is now affecting their life, bringing undue stress to their work. As a result, they conclude they can no longer successfully execute what they were hired to do. They no longer feel honored for what they know or do, or feel valued for who they are, and leave believing the situation is hopeless and will not change.


The irony of hiring a proactive staff is when Reactive and Inactive leaders do not honor or value their proactive nature—the Proactive leave.



The irony of hiring a proactive staff is when Reactive and Inactive leaders do not honor or value their proactive nature—the Proactive leave.

— Paul Joiner

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