Impulsivity and Introverts May Bring Great Deal to Table

Studies Support Workplace Conclusions From BPS

What’s great about the British Psychological Society is that their postings and opinions are based on actual studies. So when I reported on brainstorming from a study on that site a couple months ago—that it may be better to let people think of ideas on their own before coming together—it was based on a study in Texas that discussed “cognitive fixation, where being exposed to another’s idea makes it more salient in your mind and blocks ideas of other types.”

So I return to England today—exactly a week before SIPA has its first-ever London Burns Night—to check on BPS’s 2012 resolutions about employee performance—and human nature:

1. “Challenge black-and-white notions of ‘what good looks like’ at work. For instance, two voguish notions are that emotional intelligence is a desirable trait, and impulsivity a problem one.” A recent study by Doan Winkel of Illinois State University says the opposite may, in fact, be true. The study found that impulsivity leads to more behaviours that promote the organization as a whole. And emotional intelligence was associated with deviant behaviours that harm the organisation.

2. “Avoid driving your introverts to distraction. Work environments differ in their bustle and activity, and research suggests the introverts bear the brunt of a noisy environment.” A team from University College London worked with 118 female schoolchildren (aged 11-18) to find out how tasks that demand focus are influenced by various sounds. “On a test of abstract reasoning, the participants did best under conditions of silence.” With music they did okay, but noise led to the lowest performance. The performance of extraverts, however, was pretty even in all noise conditions.

3. “Leverage the broader assets your people bring to organisations.” So while extraverts have more friends—see Facebook—and that’s good for spreading messages or identifying resources to solve problems, introverts should not be neglected. They may have fewer contacts, but their relationships are just as profound. In their study, Thomas Pollet from the University of Groningen, and University of Oxford collaborators Sam Roberts and Robin Dunbar found that it’s pretty hard to stay close to all the friends in your network. So while extraverts can help spread your gospel, introverts should also be consulted for their close friends/contacts. “…valuable networks contain the right people, not the most.”

4. “Consider people’s different expectations for what they get out of work.” People with lower expectations may accept bad things more in stride, and those with high expectations and optimism may leave their job faster. “Positive pollyannas” will leave managerial career tracks if their aspirations aren’t quickly met.” The low expectations conclusion comes from a study where people who received more information, were better grounded and sadly, had lower hopes for themselves, were more likely to stay. As for the positive folks, a recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology reported that people who expected a higher lifetime salary did get closer to it. But they also changed jobs more, whenever those expectations weren’t being met. Their “infectious positive affect at interview” allow them to change jobs easier.

5. “Don’t get sucked in by the claims of the arrogant; it’s often they who need attention.” Bluster and complaints about others and a personal highfalutin may mask poor performance. The researchers in this study came up with a Workplace Arrogance Scale (WARS)—which included traits like, “shoots down other people’s ideas in public.” They concluded that arrogant individuals report fewer accomplishments by other employees, are marked poorer by the employees under them, and may even grade themselves weaker at relationships and overall performance.

The conclusion from the author of this post, Alex Fradera: “Be imaginative about how to develop employees’ capabilities.”

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