Personality, Emotions and Performance Analysis

Executive Summary

The link between performance in the workplace and personality has acquired a recent significance due to research in that direction. Studies show that personality can be used to understand performance in organizations. There are many models of personality measurements: the Big Five Model, Emotional Intelligence Model, the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. My scores on various personality measurement models have been analyzed. The Big Five model shows that I am an extraverted person who needs to score more on conscientiousness factor. The Emotional Intelligence model has highlighted that I am an overall well balanced person and I need to work on being empathetic. Several specific strategies have been identified to help improve workplace performance such as managerial counseling and guidance, communication, goal setting, feedback, training and job design.

Introduction

Researchers and practitioners in industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology have long been intrigued by the potential for measures of personality to describe, explain, and predict the behavior of individuals at work. The organization is built on the foundation of the individual and its success depends on the characteristics of the individuals compose its work force. This concept is today widely accepted among management experts and psychologists. It has been found that when personality traits are included in job recruitment procedures, job performance outcomes are better predictable (Luthans, 2005). In his book titled “Personality and the fate of organizations” (2007), Hogan holds that personality and performance are intricately linked, and personality has proven to have a direct influence on an individual’s leadership ability and style, team performance, and overall organizational effectiveness. Hogan argues that personality can be used to understand, evaluate, select, deselect, train, and understand organizations. Bernd et al (2007) have found that cognitive abilities are very strongly correlated with maximum performance. With increasing evidence that personality and performance are interlinked there is more emphasis today on evaluating and improving personality variables. This paper discusses the effect of personality and emotions on performance, analyzes my own personality test scores and also lists strategies to improve my workplace performance.

Body contents

Effects of Personality and Emotion on Behavior and Performance and Work

Personality is all about the person, and includes his external appearance, and traits, self, and situational interactions. In recent years, personality has been linked to performance based on the five factor trait-based theory of personality. According to this theory there are five core personality traits called the Five Factor Model (FFM). The “Big Five” as they are generally known include conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion, openness to experience (Luthans, 2005). Conscientiousness refers to being dependable hardworking, organized, self-disciplined, persistent and responsible. Emotional stability refers to being calm, secure, happy, unworried. Agreeableness indicates how much a person is cooperative, warm, caring, good-natured, courteous, and trusting. Extraversion refers to being sociable, outgoing, talkative, assertive and gregarious. Openness to experience indicates a curious, intellectual, creative, cultured, sensitive, flexible person. There is now considerable agreement and accumulated research that these five best predict performance in the workplace (Luthans, 2005).

Studies reveal that two of the five personality traits, Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability, are universal predictors of overall job performance across nearly all jobs (Barrick, Mount, & Judge, 2001). In contrast, the other three traits (Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience) are contingent predictors of performance (Barrick et al., 2001). These traits relate to success in only a few jobs or with a few criteria (Barrick et al, 2003). For example, Extraversion has been found to be related to performance in jobs with a large competitive social component as in the case of sales and managerial tasks. Agreeableness is a valid predictor of performance in jobs that entail teamwork and has cooperative demands or opportunities (Barrick et al, 2003). Finally, Openness to Experience has not been found to relate to many outcomes of interest at work is it is the least well understand personality construct in the FFM literature (Digman, 1990). Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability can also be linked to motivation. Conscientious people set goals, are more committed to those goals, and exert more effort (Barrick et al., 1993; Gellatly, 1996). Thus, they are more “motivated” at work and strive to achieve. In contrast, neurotic employees who are low in Emotional Stability have significantly reduced motivation at work. Emotionally unstable people do not see themselves as worthy, are less confident, are frequently distracted by worrying and become obsessed with details, and are more dissatisfied with themselves, their jobs, and lives.

The association between happiness and productivity has been very elusive. Happiness can be seen to be made up of two components: positive and negative emotions; and job satisfaction. For example, Judge, Thoresen, Bono, and Patton (2001) suggested a high degree of correlation between satisfaction and performance of the order of.30. Other researchers have suggested that positive emotions (Cote, 1999; Wright & Staw, 1999) are more likely than job satisfaction to make workers more productive. Judge, Erez, & Bono, 1998; Judge et al (1999) noted that self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism are important predictors of performance. Many of these variables are conceptually related to happiness (Lucas et al., 1996). Judge et al. (2001) point out that early formulations of the happy productive worker hypothesis were based on the theory that job satisfaction is an attitude, attitudes lead to behavior, and therefore employees who have a positive attitude toward their job will engage in positive behaviors, which should result in higher productivity. According to this interpretation, happiness and satisfaction should result in higher productivity regardless of the nature of the tasks being performed.

Researchers have also shown that the personality trait of extraversion is strongly correlated with subjective well-being or happiness. Happy people to be more socially engaged than unhappy people and hence, they appear to be more helpful and altruistic than unhappy people. Carnevale and Isen (1986) have showed that people are more cooperative after experiencing a pleasant mood induction. Happy workers are more liked by their coworkers, and this facilitates teamwork. Barrick and Mount (1991) found that extraversion is positively correlated with job performance in jobs that require social interaction and cooperation (Mount, Barrick, and Stewart, 1998). In occupations that do not require social contact, the desire for social rewards may be a distraction. Furnham and Miller (1997) found that although extraverted sales employees tended to be high performers they were also absent most frequently – due to boredom. At the team level, Barry and Stewart (1997) argued that in a team, a mix of half extraverts and half introverts was ideal.

Daniel Goleman introduced the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to explain leadership effectiveness. He believed that the most important act for a leader is in creating and driving positive emotions in others. He also argues that it is possible for people to develop their emotional intelligence, unlike IQ. In order to do so, it is important that people must first understand how they learn and then reprogram the way their brain responds to given situations. In his 2002 book “Primal Leadership”, Goleman favors four domains of emotional intelligence: Self-awareness (emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and self confidence); Self-Management – (emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement orientation, initiative, optimism and conscientiousness); Social Awareness (empathy, organizational awareness, and service orientation); Relationship Management (Inspirational leadership, influence, developing others, change catalyst, conflict management, building bonds, teamwork, collaboration and communication). Goleman believes that emotions can contradict with thoughts and hence a person’s logical response can be contradicted by his emotional response. Goleman argues that a person who achieves a better self understanding and understanding of others can contribute better to the success of the company. According to a study by Vanessa Urch Druskat, involving the USAF and IDF, it was found that there is significant relationship between emotional intelligence and occupational performance. Individuals who are more emotionally intelligent and have greater EQ scores, perform better in the workplace (Druskat, 2006). The factorial components of the EI model make sense. In order to have maximum performance, leaders should be effective. For leaders to be effective, they need to be aware of their emotions (Emotional Self-Awareness) and accurately understand themselves (Self-Regard); they also need to be adept in understanding others (Empathy) to relate well with them (Interpersonal Relationship). And to get the work done, leaders also need to be self-reliant and decisive in making realistic and effective solutions to problems as they arise (Schneider, 2004). And that which facilitates this process is apparently the ability to work well under pressure (Stress Tolerance) and maintain a positive approach (Happiness). All these factors are implied in a person with high EQ score (Smith, 2004). Further, a study by Fabio Sala (2007) indicates that emotional intelligence scores are related to humor and humor is related to workplace effectiveness. Executive use of humor, managerial competence, and emotional intelligence.

There is another model of emotional intelligence known as the Salovey – Mayer model of emotional intelligence that encompasses four interrelated abilities: perceiving and expressing emotions, using emotions to facilitate thinking, understanding emotions, and managing emotions in self and others (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Salovey, Woolery, & Mayer, 2001). These abilities are expected to influence people’s capacity to interact well with others, communicate effectively, handle conflict, manage stress, perform under pressure, and create a positive work environment. These capabilities in turn increase workplace performance (Druskat, 2006). The Salovey-Mayer model differs from the Goleman model in that it does not include personality traits other than those linked with emotions and thinking. Goleman (1998) includes over 25 characteristics of emotional intelligence ranging from emotional self-awareness to diverse qualities as teamwork and collaboration, service orientation, initiative, and achievement motivation. Hence the Goleman model is a mixed model of Emotional Intelligence, whereas the Salovey-Mayer model is a purer model (Druskat, 2006).

However there is a serious drawback to personality tests in general. Researchers Morgeson et al (2007) argue that using published self-report personality tests to measure performance capabilities is not highly valid and recommend finding alternatives to self-report personality measures.

My Personality Analysis

Based on the Big Five Model, my self assessment results show that I have scored high in extraversion, moderate in Agreeableness, Emotional Stability and Openness to Experience. This indicates that I am someone who is highly sociable, outgoing, assertive, talkative and gregarious (extraversion). I am also – to a slightly lesser extent according to my scores – dependable, hardworking, organized, self-disciplined, persistent, responsible (conscientiousness); calm, secure, happy, (emotional stability); cooperative, caring, courteous, trusting (agreeable); and curious, intellectual, flexible, sensitive and creative (openness to experience). As an extraverted person, I can be associated with management and sales success. Since I have high emotional stability, I can handle stressful situations and due to my agreeable nature I can also be good at handling consumer relations. I may also be suitable for job training proficiency which needs a lot of imagination and creativity. But the slightly lower score on the moderate level in the context of conscientiousness needs to be improved. Studies show that conscientiousness has the strongest consistent relationship with performance and has been linked with job satisfaction, work motivation and personnel selection as well. I need to work on setting higher goals for me, have higher performance expectations and learn to respond better to job enrichment and empowerment strategies. According to a study by Judge et al (2007), it has been found that the combination of emotional stability and extraversion -reflecting a happy and buoyant personality may be more important to performance than either trait in isolation. In that respect I am a high performer as I have high scores on extraversion and emotional stability.

Emotional intelligence is linked to job performance. But emotional intelligence is difficult to measure because it may be different from different perspectives. A tool to measure emotional intelligence is the Hede’s Emotional Intelligence Diagnostic. Using that tool, I have compared my own scores with those provided by my boss, staff, best friend and normal friend. From my own perspective, I am a very empathetic person with good interpersonal skills and self management. But I need to work on self-awareness. As far as my boss is concerned, he views me as emotionally very intelligent giving me good scores in three factors of self-awareness, self management and interpersonal skills. However, he seems to consider me less empathetic. My staffs rate me still higher than my boss when it comes to self-awareness (9.58), self management and interpersonal skills. But rate me very low in empathy. My good friend rates me highly in all four factors of EQ and hence considers me a very effective leader. He holds that I am as empathetic as I consider myself. A normal friend rates me highly in self awareness, self management, and interpersonal skills but rates me a bit lower in the context of empathy.

Overall, analyzing all the scores, I feel that my only weakness is Empathy. I am seen as empathetic by my best friend and by my own evaluation. But others do not think so. This means, in the performance context, I am a person who has self confidence, optimism, achievement orientation, leadership qualities, capacity to influence and change, ability to handle people, conflicts and changes. My only problem area is likely to be in empathy. I honestly feel I am empathetic. I do have the capacity to see things from the other person’s viewpoint. But I need to let them know that I am empathetic.

The Enneagram is another tool used to classify people along nine personality types: the Reformer; the Perfectionist; the Helper; the Motivator; the Individualist; the Investigator; the Loyalist; the Enthusiast; the Leader and the Peacemaker (Hay, 1998). I scored 7 on the helper and 7 on the enthusiast. Hence I am equally a helper and an enthusiast. This means, while I am nurturing, concerned and possessive, I am also enthusiastic, fun loving and excessive.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality questionnaire developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs, to identify certain psychological differences according to the theories of Carl Gustav Jung. The MBTI endeavors to sort some of these psychological opposites into four opposite pairs, or dichotomies, with a resulting sixteen possible combinations. Examples: ISTJ – Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging; ENFP – Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving; and so on for all sixteen possible combinations. It must be noted that the MBTI is not a measure of any particular aptitude; rather it indicates a preferential trait.

My MBTI result is ENFP. I am more extraverted in nature. I tend to trust my intuition and insights more than factual information. I take decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, taking an inside perspective and taking one that would meet the needs of the people involved. According to Keirsey, ENFPs belong to the temperament of the idealists and are called “Champions”. This interpretation shows me as an initiator of change, who can identify future possibilities. I am likely to enjoy the start-up phase of a project or relationship and be in search of new interests. I can be a fun person to live with. I also tend to idealize people, and can be disappointed when the reality is not as per expectations. However, a project that needs a great deal of follow up or attention to detail is not one for me.

Recommendations: Specific Strategies for Improving my Workplace Effectiveness

According to the behavioral theory, there is a five step method of improving performance: identifying, measuring, analyzing, intervening and evaluating performance. The tests so far used have helped me in identifying, measuring and analyzing my personal strengths and weaknesses. By adopting suitable strategies I can intervene and evaluate my own performance. This model would be the framework for specific strategies to improve workplace performance. Based on my scores, I find I need to work on developing empathy and conscientiousness. But there is always scope for improvement in all realms and hence I would like to discuss specific strategies to improve my overall workplace effectiveness.

Managerial counseling can help employees do a better job and give them an accurate evaluation of their standing in the organization. Likewise I feel counseling can also help the manager do a good job. However, counseling is most effective when it is restricted to job performance. During counseling, thoughts, ideas, and words are exchanged between two people, and these are not limited to the conscious processes; and usually a great deal occurs at the unconscious level (Megginson, 1972). I personally feel if I have counseling sessions with some of my subordinates I can know how I can be of assistance. And I can also help in removing any kind of anxiety or fear the employee has. It will enrich my leadership capabilities and to treat each person differently as unique individuals. According to Kamdar and Van Dyne (2007), high quality social exchange relationships can even overcome personality limitations in the context of performance. Counseling, in my opinion is a high quality social exchange that can help me overcome my personal limitations.

My personal EI scores as evaluated by me and my best friend show that I am an empathetic person. But the fact that my staff and boss do not find me very empathetic is maybe I lack the communication skills to express my empathetic nature. The communication of intangibles like warmth, acceptance, respect, and trust are complex processes which are difficult to be expressed. Effective counseling will emphasize feelings and perceptions of people in a given work climate and this will enhance communication of the intangibles as well.

Goal setting is another technique to improve performance. Steve Kerr, a noted organizational behavior researcher at Goldman Sachs has noted that many organizations fail because they do not use a simple technique of “stretch goals”. Usually, performances fail when the goal is set too high and there is no needed support to achieve them. Kerr believes that easy goals are too simple and do not improve performance and that difficult goals can be very difficult to attain. Stretch goals force people to go beyond what they are accustomed to doing, and thus improve performance, and are also attainable. I believe in setting goals according to the rules recommended by Steve Kerr: do not set goals that overly stress people; if goals require them to stretch, do not punish them if they fail; and if they are being asked to do things that they have never done before, give them whatever tools and help are available.

Feedback enhances individual performance in behavioral management. A very recent Stajkovic and Luthans study found that the performance feedback intervention yielded a highly significant 20 percent performance improvement. I would like to get feedback on a regular level from people like my boss and my staff to improve my workplace performance.

Almost all factors that lead to improvement in workplace management are included in the term ‘leadership’ and recent belief is that leadership can be built through development of knowledge, trust and power. Briscoe and Hall suggest a ‘metacompetencies’ approach to leadership development. Leaders must be trained using a learning-based model where continuous learning is encouraged and they are taught to adapt to the changing environment. By joining such a learning based leadership development program, I believe I can improve gaps in my knowledge, improve my personality and improve work performance. Besides leadership development programs, other indirect techniques to improve performance include training, job design and behavioral management. I can undergo training programs that are a combination of psychological exercises and outdoor adventures.

Job design is another technique that can be used to improve performance. In the context of me being a manager, I can enrich job for my staff by building in more responsibility, identity, variety, autonomy, significance and feedback. I am particularly interested in including autonomy and feedback into the jobs so that it would ensure that their needs are always taken care of.

Conclusion

Thus, I am open to using several techniques to improve my workplace performance. I am an employer to my boss and a manager to my staff. I need to know how to extract maximum work from my employees and also how to give my personal best to my boss. My personality scores based on several tests show that I am basically a very efficient person who can still improvise in the areas of Agreeableness, Emotional Stability, Openness to Experience and Empathy. I also understand that different people value me differently in a particular trait such as empathy. Hence, there is always scope for performance improvement and I intend using techniques such as behavioral modification, counseling and guidance, communication and feedback, goal setting, training and job design as specific strategies to improve my performance in the workplace.

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