A brief on Personality and Emotions

From the early 1900s through the mid-1980s, researchers sought to find a link between personality and job performance. The outcome of those 80 plus years of research was that personality and job performance were not meaningfully related across traits or situations. However, the past 20 years have been more promising, largely due to the findings surrounding the Big Five. Seeking employees who score high on conscientiousness, for instance, is probably sound advice. Similarly, screening candidates for managerial and sales positions to identify those high in extroversion also should pay dividends. In terms of exerting effort at work, there is impressive evidence that people who score high on conscientiousness, extraversion, and emotional stability are likely to be highly motivated employees. Of course, situational factors need to be taken into consideration. Factors such as job demands, the degree of required interaction with others, and the organization’s culture are examples of situational variables that moderate the personality / job performance relationship. So you need to evaluate the job, the work group, and the organization to determine the optimal personality fit.

Although the MBTI has been widely criticized, it may have a place for use in organizations. In training and development, it can help employees to better understand themselves. It can provide aid to teams by helping members better understand each other. And it can up communication in work groups and possibly reduce conflicts.

Managers cannot control the emotions of their colleagues and employees. Emotions are a natural part of an individual’s make-up. Managers err if they ignore the emotional elements in organizational behavior and assess individual behavior as if it were completely rational. As one consultant aptly put it, one can’t divorce emotions from the workplace because you can’t divorce emotions from people. Managers who understand the role of emotions will significantly improve their ability to explain and predict individual behavior.

Emotions affect job performance. They can hinder performance, especially negative emotions. That’s probably why organizations, for the most part, try to extract emotions out of the workplace. But emotions can also enhance performance. They can enhance performance in two ways. First, emotions can increase arousal levels, thus acting as motivators to higher performance. Second, emotional labor recognizes that feelings can be part of a job’s required behavior. So, for instance, the ability to effectively manage emotions in leadership, sales, and customer-interface positions may be critical to success in those positions.

What differentiates functional from dysfunctional emotions at work? Although there is no precise answer to this, it’s been suggested that the critical moderating variable is the complexity of the individual’s task. The more complex is a task, the lower the level of arousal that can be tolerated without interfering with performance. Although a certain minimal level of arousal is probably necessary for good performance, very high levels interfere with the ability to function, especially if the job requires calculating and detailed cognitive processes. Given that the trend is toward jobs becoming more complex, you can see why organizations are likely to go to considerable efforts to discourage the overt display of emotions especially intense ones in the workplace.