Studies linking proactive personality to creativity have primarily taken a future‐oriented perspective, describing a process where individuals assess future opportunities and risks of creative endeavors. Complementing this approach, we draw on an attribution theory perspective to delineate how proactive personality relates to employee creativity through the serial mediating effects of job reflective learning—a backward‐looking cognitive process—and activated positive affective states. Job reflective learning captures backward‐looking self‐assessments and the underlying internal causal attributions, and it is differentiated into two valences: job reflective learning from successes and from failures. Based on two separate multi‐wave, multi‐source field studies, our findings consistently show a serial mediation process linking proactive personality to creativity through both valences of job reflective learning and activated positive affective states. Job reflective learning from successes breeds joviality, whereas job reflective learning from failures arouses attentiveness. Joviality and attentiveness—both types of activated positive affective states—in turn, promote creativity. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of how proactive employees manifest their proactivity trait into actual creativity through backward‐looking cognitive and affective processes.
Bibliographical noteThis research has partly benefited from financial support from National Natural Science Foundation of China (71872143)and an MOE (Ministry of Education in China) Research Planning Foundation Project of Humanities and Social Sciences (18YJA630050) awarded to Fuli Li.
- activated positive affective state
- job reflective learning
- proactive personality