Purpose A worker with a proactive personality actively pursues changes in the environment instead of maintaining the status quo, leading to an expected result of a negative relationship between proactive personality and psychological withdrawal behaviors. The authors propose that based on the trait activation theory (TAT), this negative relationship is moderated by servant leadership. Design/methodology/approach Empirical data collected from subway station workers in three metropolitan cities in South Korea supported all the hypothesized relationships. Even though the workers are not public servants, the subway companies are owned by three metropolitan cities. With reliability and validity tests for the measurements, the authors performed an ordinary least square (OLS) hierarchical multiple regression analysis for hypotheses testing. Findings A multilevel analysis showed that the higher a worker's proactive personality is, the less likely it is that he/she shows withdrawal behaviors at work and that the negative relationship between the two is stronger under servant leadership. An organization pursuing maximization of its members' proactive personality may find an advantage in servant leadership. Research limitations/implications First, the data was collected from three metropolitan city-owned companies, which may have different work attitudes and behaviors. Second, the authors hypothesized and found a negative relationship between the predictor and the dependent variable. To apply TAT more appropriately, the dependent variable could have been a positive work behavior showing a positive relationship between the predictor and the dependent variable. Originality/value The results of this study have both theoretical and empirical implications. In terms of theoretical implication, the study rather indirectly supports TAT. While Greenbaumet al.(2017) demonstrated the triggering effect of abusive supervision on employees' Machiavellianism, which leads to unethical behaviors, this study showed a stronger negative relationship between proactive personality and psychological withdrawal behaviors. This study provided empirical evidence showing servant leadership's role in lowering negative behaviors. This study's findings suggest how an organization could maximize the benefits of members' proactive personality under high servant leadership.