Are You Active or Reactive?

Choosing to either act or react can make a huge difference in the workplace. Keep reading to find out why!
Are You Active or Reactive?
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

What does it mean to be active or reactive? It’s possible that you’ve never reflected on these two concepts even though they’re particularly relevant in the workplace. These traits actually tend to influence what kind of career path you take, which is why we decided to explain them further.

You probably have a friend or acquaintance who’s always moving forward, making strides at work or in some other aspect of their life. They’re constantly on the lookout for opportunities and challenges that push them to succeed. You probably also know someone who seems stuck in their job. They don’t have any particular aspirations. This is the main difference between a reactive and an active person.

Active People Take Initiative

Are you still unsure about whether you’re active or reactive? Well, the first thing you should analyze is whether you take initiative or not.

Initiative is related to a skill that’s highly valued in the workplace: proactivity. You can read more about proactivity in this article from the Harvard Business Review: “Managing the Perks and Pitfalls of Proactive People“.

A guy with glasses thinking in a window.

When you take initiative, you carry out certain actions that make you a producer instead of a receiver. For example, instead of waiting to find a job, you directly contact the businesses that interest you. You might do this by emailing them cover letters discussing your interest.

This is a great way to tell if you’re active or reactive. Active people rarely wait. They aren’t afraid to take the reins, try new things, and move forward. They experiment and make mistakes instead of waiting for things to happen.

If you’re an active person, you don’t let a closed door, a “no,” or failure stop you. You’re proactive and keep trying. Whether you believe it or not, being this way opens new doors for you. Although it might not bear fruit immediately, it’ll help in the long run.

“Taking initiative does not mean being pushy, obnoxious, or aggressive. It does mean recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.”

-Stephen R. Covey-

A Reactive Person Waits for Results

By now you should have a better idea of the difference between an active and a reactive person. If you didn’t identify with the first description, maybe you will with the second. What does it mean to be a reactive person?

To begin, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t dedicated to your job. Maybe you work a lot but always get the same results. You’re the wallflower that no one sees. Why? Because you haven’t told anyone that you’re there. You might even hide your skills as if you were ashamed of them.

Sometimes you might feel comfortable being a reactive person. Other times, however, you probably wish you were more active, although you don’t know how to make that happen.

Being reactive means you find it difficult to move forward. You believe it’s easier to stay in your comfort zone.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

-Tony Robbins-

A woman walking barefoot on a path outside.

The Two Sides of Reaction

It’s your choice whether you want to be an active or reactive person, and your results and success will depend on that choice. If you’re a reactive person, you can feel happy in your changeless routine. However, if you want something more, this attitude can become a real hindrance.

What happens when you wait for things to happen? Well, you’ll probably feel frustrated, and just complain and whine about your bad luck. As we mentioned before, that happens in part because you want to be proactive but don’t know where to start.

If you tend to be a reactionary person, taking action makes you uncomfortable. However, that isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re flexible enough to take action when you need to.

Are you more active or reactive? It’s important to remember that neither one is better than the other. They’re simply different strengths that will put you on different paths. The beauty of it is that you can always opt for the one that suits you best.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • García M, González B, Aldrete M, Acosta M, León S. Relación entre Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo y Síntomas de Estrés en el Personal Administrativo Universitario. Cienc Trab.  [Internet]. 2014  [consultado el 11 de julio de 2022]; 16(50): 97-102. Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.