Business leaders often talk about the “carrot and stick” approach to motivation – that is, a combination of rewards and punishments should be used to induce desired behaviors in the workplace. The idea that humans are motivated by desires to approach rewards and avoid punishments is not new – in fact, this distinction traces its roots to the ethical hedonism advocated by the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus.
Today’s blog will focus on the “Big 5” personality trait most related to carrots – Extraversion. The trait most related to sticks – Neuroticism – will be discussed in a forthcoming entry.
Defining the Extraversion – Introversion Continuum
It is naïve to assume that everyone is equally motivated by the promise of external rewards. Some individuals are extremely sensitive to carrots . . . we call them Extraverts.
When these folks walk into a new situation, the first thought that runs through their minds is “what can I gain here?” They then immediately attune to anything and anyone that could potentially provide them with some sort of reward (be it a monetary reward, a social reward, whatever). As such, these individuals are much more likely to take risks – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
When people hear the word “Extraversion”, they often equate the term with “sociability”. It is true that Extraverts seek out and frequent large social gatherings . . . but this is because the probability for potential rewards increases in these situations.
From a biological standpoint, Extraverts have a high “dopamine threshold”. Dopamine is a chemical released by our brains whenever we experience something rewarding. Extraverts, having a stronger tolerance for dopamine, require more of the chemical in order to feel energized.
Introverts, on the other hand, have a lower dopamine threshold. For them, a little reward goes a long way. It’s not that Introverts are necessarily indifferent to the promise of rewards . . . it’s just that they don’t have to constantly get their dopamine “fix” like their Extraverted counterparts.
Accordingly, Introverts tend to take less risks (physical risks, financial risks, social risks), as the potential for rewards for risk-taking is less tempting. Furthermore, large social gatherings are less appealing to Introverts as they can be quickly overwhelmed . . . introspection and intimate conversations provide just enough of a dopamine kick.
Please keep in mind that (as is the case with all Big 5 traits), the majority of individuals fall somewhere in the middle of the Extraversion – Introversion continuum.
Let’s now bring this back to the workplace – how does this knowledge of Extraversion – Introversion help us in terms of employee selection and development? From a selection standpoint, we should realize that certain workplace environments are imbued with greater risk-taking, social interaction, and potential for reward – a commission-based, face-to-face sales role is a classic example. Extraverts are more likely to thrive in such a role . . . both in terms of job satisfaction and job success. Introverts would be absolutely overwhelmed. Accordingly, you would want to test job candidates for Extraversion prior to filling such a role.
Note here that the Big 5 traits that we have been discussing do not operate in isolation. If an individual is high on Extraversion and also high on Agreeableness, they many appreciate the high risk/high reward nature of sales, but not have the nerve to push a potential client after an initial rejection. We will discuss this idea of trait interactions in more detail in a subsequent entry.
From an employee development perspective, it should be clear that the use of carrots as a workplace motivator is differentially effective depending on individual levels of Extraversion – one-size-fits-all motivation initiatives, while seemingly convenient, will fail to engage (and perhaps disengage) many employees.
Moreover, people managers undoubtedly benefit from knowing how to manage the “dark side” of Extraversion – Introversion. For example, due to their passion for achievement and reward, Extraverts have the tendency to get hung up on missed opportunities. For managers, the advantages of having upfront knowledge of these ineffective trait manifestations (as well as having techniques to effectively handle them) are obvious.
1) Not everyone is equally motivated by the promise of external rewards
2) Extraverts (relative to Introverts and those in the middle of this trait continuum) have a higher tolerance for high risk/high reward situations
3) Managers that are made aware of the individual differences in Extraversion levels amongst their direct reports have a clear competitive advantage
Next up, an analysis of Agreeableness . . .
Robert and Michael are college roommates. They listen to the same music, root for the same sports teams, and share the same circle of friends. Unfortunately, the vast difference in their individual levels of Conscientiousness often leads to disagreements.
Conscientiousness is one of the aforementioned “Big 5” traits – it involves an individual’s propensity for planned versus spontaneous behavior.
Robert, for example, is low on Conscientiousness . . . he is laid back and loves doing things on a whim. His workplace can be generously described as disordered. This drives Michael nuts. Michael, you see, is high on the trait of Conscientiousness. He is spectacularly organized and the very definition of dependable. Michael often feels as though he is a babysitter – he tries to make sure that Robert goes to class on time and works on his class projects well in advance. Robert sometimes resents Michael’s need for control and wishes that we would just “chill out”.
(Please note that Robert and Michael illustrate relatively extreme versions of Conscientiousness. The majority of individuals fall somewhere in the middle of the Conscientiousness continuum.)
Aside from roommate compatibility, Conscientiousness is linked to a host of important life outcomes. Like other personality assessment firms, we believe that an individual’s particular level of Conscientiousness helps to predict job performance and satisfaction. However, others tend to hold to the traditional interpretation of this relationship – i.e., higher Conscientiousness is correlated with higher job success regardless of the particular job role.
At Never Work, we take a broader perspective on the role of Conscientiousness: specifically, we have found organizational contexts where a more flexible, spontaneous mindset – i.e., lower Conscientiousness – promotes greater success (e.g., professional Photographers often benefit by being able to react quickly and not overthink a shot). Likewise, we have found areas where an obsession with “playing by the rules” vis-à-vis higher Conscientiousness hinders job success.
As we have said before, particular personalities are compatible with particular environments. Dependability in one setting can manifest as “analysis paralysis” in another. On the other hand, flexibility in one setting can manifest as apathy in another.
Next up, an explanation of Extraversion . . .
Ever since he was a child, John has had a wild imagination. He has an insatiable curiosity and spends his free time reading fantasy novels and visiting art museums. In college, he majored in philosophy and critiqued traditional values in his writing assignments. Currently, John is employed at XYZ Company as a Network Support Specialist . . . and he is miserable. Moreover, he is often reprimanded by his supervisor for doodling and daydreaming.
Victoria is also a Network Support Specialist at XYZ Company . . . and she is thriving. She enjoys the straightforward nature of her role and is often commended by her supervisor for her engagement. Unlike John, Victoria has a more traditional worldview. She appreciates social conventions and prefers routine to variety. As a child, she always looked for the most practical solutions to problems that she encountered. Victoria majored in statistics in college.
Relative to other individuals, John is high on the trait of Openness, whereas Victoria is low on this trait. Everyone has a certain degree of Openness . . . there are numerous people like John and numerous people like Victoria. There are many more individuals that are somewhere in between them. There are even some people more open than John and less open than Victoria.
Openness involves a general, persistent appreciation for the abstract. As is the case with the other four “Big 5” traits, Openness has a strong genetic underpinning and can be validly assessed through properly designed questionnaires (like the used in our Never Work Job Search service).
Your level of Openness (along with the other four “Big 5” traits) helps to determine the degree of “fit” that you will experience in your work environment. Our personality traits characterize the way we adapt to the world . . . like the pieces of a puzzle, particular personalities are compatible with particular environments.
Next up, a comment on Conscientiousness . . .
Here at Never Work, we leverage the science of personality psychology to help job-seekers discover a job they love through our job search service, and help hiring and people managers find and develop top talent through our insights service.
If you have even a passing familiarity with personality psychology, you have likely heard of the “Big 5”. This popular theory contests that the way in which individuals differ from one another (in psychological terms) can be principally explained by 5 traits, namely, Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (the acronym O.C.E.A.N. is useful for remembering the “Big 5”).
Each of these traits represent a continuum – for example, an individual can exhibit high Openness (think of a particularly imaginative person), low Openness (think of a particularly practical person), or somewhere in the middle.
Furthermore, each of the “Big 5” traits is associated with a stable pattern of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These patterns characterize the way that we adapt to the world. For example, a highly extraverted individual likely derives pleasure from, often thinks about, and is active in large social gatherings. Accordingly, such a person would likely seek out and fit in situations that offer opportunities for social interaction.
Research has demonstrated that when prompted by a well-designed questionnaire, people can accurately report on where they stand on each of the “Big 5” traits. Herein lies the value to job-seekers, hiring managers, and people managers…measurement leads to awareness which leads to action. The job-seeker who has discovered that he is low on Agreeableness may want to pursue job roles that require assertive tactics. The hiring manager looking to fill a Systems Analyst position may want to search for an introverted, conscientious individual who has a bit of a neurotic streak to help sniff out potential problems. The people manager, after discovering that there are numerous extraverts on her team, may want to use more carrots than sticks when motivating these particular team members.
Over the course of the next several blog posts, we will discuss each of the “Big 5” traits in turn, with specific emphasis on how individual personality patterns fit in particular organizational roles. We begin with Openness…
Posted November 15, 2012on:
Never Work is excited to announce the launch of Version 2.0 of their popular mobile application – “Personality Job Fit Test” – for Android. The application leverages Never Work’s powerful web-based software to match users’ personality traits with exciting career opportunities, all while on the go!
Research has consistently shown that personality-environment fit is one of the most reliable predictors of long-term job success and satisfaction. Never Work mobile app users take a brief, scientifically-validated personality assessment and are then provided with customized personality reports and localized job openings that match their core traits. Users can instantly apply for any open position within our extensive job network.
And that’s not all! With the Personality Job Fit Test app you can also organize your job matches according to your preferences, be notified of the most recent relevant job postings, share your personality reports with your friends, and access weekly-updated educational videos and custom curated articles tailored for job-seekers.
“By bridging the gap between personality assessment results and actual job opportunities, this application provides users with actionable insights” notes Dr. Mark D. Scott, Co-Founder of Never Work. “In light of the current job climate, the Never Work mobile app serves as an invaluable resource for those looking for meaningful work.”
With this new application, active job-seekers (or those researching potential careers) can choose a job they love, so they “never” have to “work” a day in their life!
Visit the Google Play store at http://bit.ly/NeverWorkApp to download the Never Work mobile application on your Android device.
Never Work, founded at Startup Weekend Princeton in November 2011, is a web-based software firm that provides scientifically-validated personality assessment and development tools for use in the job search/selection process. Contact Matthew Myers at email@example.com for more information regarding Never Work.
Thank you everyone for being patient with the lack of updates from us. After a couple weeks of coding and solving some engineering challenges, we have relaunched the Never Work platform.
Why would you completely overhaul the site after two weeks of being live do you ask? That’s a good question. Well the answer is pretty simple. The original tool was designed with our friends and family in mind as a sort of public beta where we could have a small user set generate feedback for us on how to make the site function better and to offer more to you the user. The new site is much cooler and much more fun.
So without further ado, here is what’s new:
- We’ve got a new look and feel that’s much more interactive. We’ve added a bunch of tidbits about you and your personality throughout the site – so click around a little bit to find out more about who you are and where you fit best. After all, a site about personality should have some personality itself.
- Profiles, profiles, profiles. This is just awesome. You now have the option to create a profile which will allow you to save your assessment responses and instantaneously get linked to your personality profile and job matches whenever you want.
- Your “My Results” page is now enhanced as part of having profiles. Now it’s a personalized hub of valuable job-seeker information. Every week we keep adding more and more jobs to our database and more and more personalized content from tips on how to get a job to specialized video content relevant to your personality profile.
- Never Work Job Network. We are mighty proud of this one. We are committed to providing you with the most relevant local job opportunities that match your personality profile. Seamless integration allows you to apply right from within Never Work.
So now that we have a more robust platform, play around with it, create a profile, and just have fun exploring your personality and the career opportunities you might not have known would be a fit for you. As always, if you have anything you want to say to us, comments, likes, dislikes, arm wrestling challenges, send me an email at Matt@neverwork.co.
“Statistics provide methods for collecting and analyzing data and generalizing their results.”
We live in a data driven world. Data points drive many business decisions and statistics are more relevant than ever in helping to analyze and interpret this data to make the most logical decisions possible in our lives.
Mark and I developed the Never Work platform because we see largesse in the hiring process and want to use the most predictive data available to us to optimize job selection and increase the bottom line for client firms.
Consider the following statistics regarding new hires:
- The average monetary loss by a firm of a bad hire with a $60,000 a year salary is $180K to $260K when you factor in hiring costs, first year salary, benefits and rehiring a new candidate to fill the vacancy.
- 46% of all new hires leave company within 12 months of start date – mostly either switch jobs or fail to mesh with the firm.
Imagine you are tasked with filling 10 new positions this year. Based on the statistics above, your firm would lose $1.014 million dollars this year due to the costs of the bad hires you would bring on board through the use of traditional job selection techniques.
At Never Work, we want to improve the job selection process. Our core belief is that hiring currently focuses too much on non-predictive metrics – for example, years of education and past work experience. We believe that skill sets (which rapidly change in today’s marketplace, by the way!) can be taught, while personality endures. Harvard Business Review has cited Person-organization fit (P-O fit) as the key predictor of both future job satisfaction and job success. Accordingly, P-O fit – which can be achieved through validated personality assessment – should be the core of the hiring process!
Bad P-O fit leads to disgruntled workers. Disgruntled workers are not company evangelists, are unhappy at work and feel overwhelmingly stuck in their job. Consider the following statistics regarding disgruntled workers. (A complete list of disgruntled worker stats can be found here.)
- A Social Workplace Survey in 2011 of 10,914 respondents found only 31% felt they were engaged at their workplace.
- 2010 Time Magazine survey found only 45% of workers are happy with their jobs.
- According to Telework Research Network – 1 in 4 Workers plan to jump ship within 1 year.
All of these stats contribute to our main thesis – companies lose too much revenue because of bad hires, affecting their bottom lines. One of Never Work’s principal goals is to help your firm keep this revenue to reinvest and grow your company. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help your firm and head over Never Work’s homepage to get your personality-career matches. More features are added daily so keep checking the home page to keep up to date with all things Never Work.