Difference Between Reactive and Proactive

Reactive vs Proactive


Reactive and Proactive are two terms between which a number of differences can be identified. If you look closely, both words reactive and proactive have the root word ‘active’ common in them. It is their prefixes that make all the difference. In a class, there are 30 students and the teacher explains the concepts to all of them. While all try to grasp them, there are very few who try to verify and learn by experimenting. These are proactive students who do not accept anything in their life without being actively involved. They are in the thick of the things because the rest of the students who are passive and learn without any curiosity are those who produce mediocre results all through their lives. There are many more aspects of being proactive and reactive that will be dealt with in this article.

What is Reactive?

The term reactive can be defined as being responsive to something. A person who is reactive usually responds to another, but does not act on himself. Such people do not usually take the initiative in something. They only at when there is the need to respond to something else. This can even be viewed as a negative feature of an individual as the person is almost lifeless and is not spontaneous. People who are reactive in society need a push to complete a task. They do not take it upon themselves unless they are being told to by someone else.

For an example imagine a person who goes to college, gets a good education but is unable to find a job. This person does not make any effort and shows no enthusiasm towards finding a job. While other students engage in internships to harness their capabilities, this particular individual does not. It is only after being pointed out and told that the individual reacts.

This highlights that a reactive individual is only responsive and does not take the initiative. There are companies spending lots of money in R&D to come up with new, innovative products full of features that they think would be appreciated by the consumers and these are the companies that are being proactive. Proactive companies introduce new products in the market and, for this reason, can reap the reward much more than those who are reactive and readily follow the trend. Though both approaches are workable in today’s society, it is clear that the proactive approach is more rewarding. However, it also carries risks that are inherent in the approach but proactive people are prepared to take responsibility for their actions and are for this reason never afraid to think along new lines.

Difference Between Reactive and Proactive- Reactive

What is Proactive?

Proactive refers to being prepared even before an incident takes place. A proactive person takes the initiative and is prepared, unlike a reactive person. He is not lifeless but full of spontaneity.

Let us take the same example, if a college student is enthusiastic and makes an effort to find employment engages in different programs and internships, such an individual is proactive.

In a workplace, one can easily see the difference between proactive and reactive employees. The difference is all the more glaring if you have a proactive leader in one department and a reactive leader in another department of the same organization. Unlike a reactive leader who responds to situations as and when events take place, a proactive leader is one who anticipates what is going to happen and works accordingly to minimize the effect of the event or to work to take advantage of the event.

Difference Between Reactive and Proactive- Proactive

What is the Difference Between Reactive and Proactive?

  • Reactive and proactive are approaches that people take in different situations in life.
  • Reactive approach entails action after an event has taken place to either minimize its effects or to take advantage of the event.
  • On the other hand, proactive approach enables people to gauge or anticipate events and work accordingly to reap the rewards in a bigger manner.


Image Courtesy:

1. Bundesarchiv Bild 183-13055-0008, Hohendorf, JP mit Dorflehrer” by Bundesarchiv, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

2.”John Brennan briefs Kathleen Sebelius on H1N1 4-28-09″ by Pete Souza [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons