Influencing Employees: Personality and Work

Abstract

Influencing employees means to change their working behavior. The ability to influence employees is essential to human resource managers. This influence inspires employees to function optimally. Human resource managers can use various tactics to influence employees. These tactics include logical persuasion, inspirational appealing, consultation, collaboration, employee personality, perception, and managers’ emotional intelligence. This essay discusses three tactics of influencing the employees’ performance, which include personality, perception, and emotional intelligence.

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Introduction

Influencing means changing someone’s behavior. Influence allows an individual to determine some aspects, which would otherwise be impossible under normal situations. The ability to influence others is essential to human resource managers. Managers use influence to inspire their employees to deliver optimally. In a team setup, the leaders employ influence in the process of ensuring that all team members are involved. Influencing the employees’ performance involves several management practices, which may include learning and development. The process leads to the effective management of individuals and teams, which translates into improved performance for the organization. Individual employees or teams have to handle the continuous development of their service delivery, behavior, and skills. Therefore, influence is a long-term strategic process, which aims at developing an appropriate culture that connects individuals with long-term goals.

Effective employee management creates a collaborative approach that influences the individual performance, development, and goals of an organization. It pushes human recourses managers to come up with ways of managing the working relationships in the organization as well as improving their performance and that of the employees.

The Argument

Managers should guide their employees by influencing them to behave sensibly in their workplace. They have to make employees feel that they are important in their place of work. This way, employees would develop a positive attitude and have a sense of loyalty towards the organization. Therefore, managers should offer assistance and work with employees to achieve their desired goals. Although there are other ways of influencing employees, this paper discusses three tactics of influencing the employees’ performance. These tactics are personality, perception, and emotional intelligence.

These three tactics are interwoven, and managers have to use them to influence employees. Personality defines an employee’s uniqueness while perception defines how one views his/her environment (Barrick & Ryan, 2003). This environment could be other staff members, managers, or the organization among others. Emotional intelligence defines how a manager can control tensions (emotions) in the workplace. An employee’s personality may influence his/her perception. For instance, an employee who is active (personality) may see work as interesting (perception). In another example, an employee who is hot-tempered (personality) may view increased inquiries by customers or other staff members as a form of disturbance (perception). Therefore, an employee’s personality influences how s/he perceives various situations in the workplace.

The perceptions that employees have in the workplace (driven by their personalities) affect how they react to instructions, workloads, or management practices. Most probably, either the employees or managers will be annoyed by how each party reacts to the forces that change the situation (Maloa, 2001). A manager needs to exercise emotional intelligence to handle the situation. As a leader, s/he uses this attribute to manage his/her emotions as well as those of the employees. The argument here is that a manager can use emotional intelligence to control the employees’ perceptions that come from their personalities. This way, the manager influences employees towards the organization’s goals.

The Employees’ Personality

Every person has a unique characteristic that makes him/her different from other people. By understanding the personality of staff members, managers gain insights on how they are likely to feel or act in various situations. In a bid to motivate staff members effectively, it is important to understand their personalities. This knowledge also helps in placing the staff members in their appropriate job positions.

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Personality changes from time to time. According to Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer (2006), between twenty and forty years, people show high social dominance, emotionality, and conscientiousness. Additionally, openness to new experiences declines as people age. One’s personality can change even in childhood, and this aspect is said to have lasting consequences on people. The employees’ personality determines how they behave in the workplace.

For instance, sociable individuals are normally outgoing, and they establish relationships quickly and they can influence the workplace by promoting social activities and team spirit. In jobs that require working independently or freedom, personality influences the employees’ behavior strongly (Barrick & Ryan, 2003). Five traits explain the variations in personalities. These traits describe employees as being open, conscientious, extraverts, agreeable, and neurotic. Altogether, the traits form the acronym OCAEN. Every person has a level of each of these traits, which are regarded as the big five structures. The big five structure is shown below.

Personality traits: The big five (Bratton, 2015, p. 106)
Fig 1: Personality traits: The big five (Bratton, 2015, p. 106)

Openness

This trait means being inquisitive, creative, showing originality, and desire for new knowledge. Staff members with a high level of openness perform excellently is situations that involve learning new ideas. According to Barrick and Ryan (2003), these staff members are highly motivated to acquire new skills on top of being well suited for training. When in a new workplace, they use their openness to get feedback about their performance and build relations. Therefore, they adjust easily to new environments (Williams, 2001). When faced with a problem, open-minded people tend to be creative. Moreover, they are highly adaptable to change. Unfortunately, such individuals may lack zeal when activities turn into routines, and this aspect underscores the greatest weakness with open employees.

A good example is an employee who after getting the job, moves across the departments to familiarize themself with other staff, as well as what they do. A human resource manager can influence such employees by providing the right and comparative information to the employee’s queries. At the same time, the manager should set a challenge to the employee after answering the inquiries (LePine, 2003). For example, an employee inquires about the last year’s sales volume, the manager states the sales volume and notes that it is below the target or that of the competitors. The manager then asks the employee to come up with a new strategy in his/her department, which can raise sales by a given percentage.

Conscientiousness

This trait measures how an employee is systematic, time-conscious, organized, result-driven, and dependable. According to Barrick and Ryan (2003), this trait predicts uniformly how an individual performs across varying occupations. Conscientious persons perform well, and they are highly motivated. They have few instances of changing jobs, being absent, and they demonstrate a high level of work safety. Therefore, conscientiousness can be used to define job satisfaction among employees. In a bid to get the best performance from conscientious employees, managers should promote goal-focused leadership. They should communicate SMART goals to the employees. The staff performance goals should be aligned with the organization’s goals. In the above example of sales volume, the manager could ask a conscientious employee to oversee a specific task across the entire organization that if implemented could lead to increased sales volume. A good example is how departments manage their costs or time.

Extraversion

This trait measures the extent to which the employee is “talkative, outgoing, sociable, and enjoys socializing” (Ryan, 2003, p. 84). According to Barrick and Ryan (2003), these employees are suitable for jobs like sales. They are effective managers with an inspirational kind of leadership. Extraverts suit well in social situations, for example, where strong networks are needed. Due to being sociable, they adapt quickly to new jobs, and they are happy in their work environments. The talkative and outgoing nature of extraverts may be annoying and disturbing to other employees. Since this category could be regarded as disruptive, managers can influence the performance of such individuals by assigning them duties singly or jobs that require social influence. For example, in a kitchen, this person is assigned a task whose output is measured singly, like washing dishes, and not cutting vegetables.

Agreeableness

This trait measures the “degree to which employees are sensitive, kind, tolerant, affable, trusting, and warm” (Ryan, 2003, p. 84). Agreeable employees get along well with their workmates. Their mood does not affect this trait. When they take leadership roles, they create an enabling work environment for the employees, which increases work productivity. High agreeable individuals are suitable for jobs that need change-oriented communications. This assertion holds because when in a conflict, they may avoid it, thus missing a chance for constructive change. Managers can influence the performance of high agreeable employees by assigning tasks that require patience and friendly interactions. An example is workplaces were employees execute complex jobs and always complaining about the situation. Since an agreeable manager can make this environment favorable, the performance of these workers can be influenced positively by assigning them a manager of this caliber. S/he will ensure that although the work is complex, employees enjoy it.

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Neuroticism

This trait measures the “degree to which a person is irritable, anxious, moody, and temperamental and such people have problems in adjusting their emotions; hence, they experience stress and depression often” (Ryan, 2003, p. 92). They have challenges in forging and maintaining relationships. They are not approachable by their colleagues. These personalities complain about being unhappy at work, and thus they threaten to leave. When they are at the management level, they create an unfavorable work environment. On the other hand, less neurotic personalities have more positive than negative moods. They show satisfaction with their jobs as well as the commitment to the company’s values. Neuroticism is the only trait where scoring high is not desirable. Therefore, human resource managers should look for employees with low neuroticism. If the manager has this category, s/he should avoid assigning them leadership positions or frontline positions that involve direct dealing with customers. The manager can assign tasks related to such employees’ hobbies so that they enjoy working, thus minimizing the chances of them getting irritated.

Perception

Perception underscores how human beings detect and interpret stimuli from the environment. In most cases, people are insensitive to all the environmental. They tend to disregard some essentials that appear to be apparent to their colleagues. Whatever people “see in their environment depends on their values, fears, needs, and emotions” (Maloa, 2001, p. 88). Consequently, what people see may be entirely wrong due to these mental tendencies. Some types of perceptions are described below.

Visual Perception

Managers use visual perception to build opinions about their employees. This aspect also helps them to draw conclusions from the surrounding environment, whether social or physical, coupled with making proper inferences in the available data. Consequently, recognizing the aspect of bias in visual perception is critical.

As an example, a staff member sees his/her colleagues browsing the web during office hours. If this staff member has a negative attitude towards his/her peers, s/he may report this case to the relevant authorities not factoring in that the peers may have been looking for work-related information. This tendency to fill gaps creates bias. In essence, if an employee’s visual perception is slanted, s/he will draw wrong conclusions on a given issue.

Self-perception

Conventionally, when assessing themselves, people tend to make slanted decisions due to personal distorted views. In self-enhancement bias, a person exaggerates his/her performance and capabilities. People perceive themselves as being more powerful or able than how their colleagues see them. In most cases, this aspect affects staff members with egotistic personalities (Maloa, 2001). Another form of self-perception is self-effacement bias. In this case, people tend to underrate their capabilities or performance. They see events from a negative perspective. In a work setting, all these biases affect the employees’ performance. As an example, staff members with self-enhancement bias may wonder why they are not getting promotions, rewards, or other perquisites.

Social perception

This aspect underscores how people understand others in a given setup. This perception is subject to bias, and thus people make distorted opinions about others. An example of social bias is a stereotype, which means the generalizations of characteristics of a group. These generalizations may be negative or positive (Kusluvan, 2003). For instance, people may generalize that women are more trustworthy as compared to men or a certain race produces better workers than the other. Stereotypes arise from selective perception. This assertion means to pay “selective attention to some parts of the environment and ignoring others” (Kusluvan, 2003, p. 101). For example, a manager with a marketing background favors changes and improvements in that field. Due to this bias, individuals are not likely to see activities that do not conform to their beliefs. The first impression that enters a person’s mind concerning certain individuals lasts for long and such people are resistant to contrary information. Any information received to counter the first one does not work effectively due to the already formed impression (Dykes & Monroe, 2010).

How employees perceive their work influences the efficiency of attaining the organizations’ goals. If employees have positive perceptions of their jobs, organizations tend to achieve great worker retention, staff loyalty, and improved financial performance. The employees’ perceptions can be influenced positively by communicating clear goals to them including how they can contribute towards achieving the goals. This aspect makes employees feel being part of the company, and thus they become composed and work towards a common goal. Human resources should include their employees in the planning process, consult them, and implement their inputs. This way, employees will have a favorable perception.

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Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Emotional intelligence is a skill that requires a manager to recognize, understand, and manage his/her emotions as well as the emotions of other employees in the organization. Managers with high emotional intelligence recognize and understand their emotional state and that of the employees. They then use this knowledge to create good relations and achieve great success by managing better. The four major attributes of emotional intelligence include (Kite & Kay 2012):

Self- awareness

This attribute refers to the ability of managers to recognize and name their emotions together with detailing how these aspects influence their thoughts and behavioral conduct. Self-awareness helps managers to understand and accept their strengths and weaknesses objectively. This aspect results in high self-confidence.

Self-management

This attribute underscores the ability of a manager to control impetuous feelings and behaviors. This aspect leads to demonstrating and managing emotions healthily.

Social awareness

This dimension highlights the ability to understand the views of others and empathize with them at the same time.

Relationship management

This aspect refers to “building and maintaining good relationships, communicating clearly, inspiring and influencing others, and managing conflict effectively using social awareness” (Kite & Kay, 2012, p. 86).

Emotional intelligence can help human resources managers to build a high performing team with a great working culture. This goal can be achieved by improving their communication skills, building relationships, and creating an attractive work environment. In all workplaces, conflicts influence the employees’ performance adversely (Goleman, 2009). Influencing the welfare of the staff members is likely to result in unnecessary stress. For small organizations, emotional intelligence is critical. This assertion holds because the teams are small, and they work closely. This aspect makes such teams highly sensitive to conflict or emotional situations.

An emotionally intelligent leader motivates and inspires employees to function optimally, thus increasing their job satisfaction. Emotional intelligence helps human resource managers to improve their retention, raise the employees’ morale, improve communication, and encourage teamwork spirit. When combined, these elements move forward the organizations’ objectives.

Traditionally, emotions were seen as character traits that should be controlled because they are a sign of weakness and instability. The major focus was on the task as the only way of increasing efficiency. However, emotionally intelligent managers are self-aware. They know their strengths and the areas of improvement. Such managers know how their conduct affects staff members. This aspect helps them to manage their emotions effectively (Kite & Kay, 2012). To work professionally, managers have to accept and manage their emotions and those of the employees. This aspect encourages the smooth flow of information, and it reduces the chances of conflicts.

Managers should not ignore or hold up their emotions because this aspect may lead to stress. Additionally, this aspect may result in petty conflict issues in the workplace, which may sometimes run out of control. According to Goleman (2009), emotional intelligence is the knowledge of one’s feelings and ability to handle feelings without being stressed up. Besides, it underscores the ability to motivate oneself to get the work done. It also involves being creative to perform at one’s peak. Emotional intelligence may also mean having a sense of others’ feelings and handling relationships effectively.

The ability to read one’s emotions varies from one person to the other. However, human resource managers can employ some of the tips below to increase their emotional intelligence as well as that of other employees. The managers should

  • Study their teams to understand their mindset and emotional state
  • Get feedback to know their strengths and weaknesses
  • Encourage the open and honest flow of information,
  • Take time with their teams to recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate their efforts.

With Emotional Intelligence, human resources managers should take time and walk in the shoes of their colleagues and staff members whom they differ in socioeconomic status. This way, they are involved in intense conversations with the employees (Goleman, 2009). Consequently, managers become better coaches and good mentors in the workplace. They obtain frontline staff experiences and activities suitable for their positions.

Emotional Intelligence helps managers to recognize when anyone is stressed. This awareness results in taking proactive steps to control or manage stressors in the workplace. This aspect helps to take the necessary measures that prevent further development. This way, conflicts that threaten performance in the workplace are mitigated (Neale, Spencer-Arnell, & Wilson, 2011).

Recommendations

When managers are faced with a personality problem, most of them confront the troublesome employee, thus escalating the hostility or ignore him or her, which leads to unresolved problems. None of this approach is an effective solution for the manager. It is recommended that instead of being rigid and dismissing the issue, the manager should use good communication skills to channel the energies of the troublesome employees in ways that benefit themselves, their workmates, and the company.

Managers should take a frontline in eliminating the perception problem from the practice of their employees. If the staff members that associate a problem to other employees’ perceptions come to the manager, the manager should be straightforward. As a leader and a mentor to the staff members, the manager should advise such persons on how to be highly effective in evaluating other employees in a bid to eliminate potential grievances. If the individual is of the same or higher rank, the situation becomes complicated. The manager should employ some diplomatic skills to break the perception problem. As noted earlier, “Emotional Intelligence is a skill that requires managers to recognize, understand, and manage their emotions as well as emotions of other employees in the organization” (Goleman, 2009, p. 132). When the situation is tense, the manager may be tempted to respond to any part of the conversation, which should not be the case. The manager should remain calm and allow the conversation to proceed. This way, the manager can gather relevant information without even asking a question.

Conclusion

Individuals display unique personalities. The five major personality traits are represented by the acronym OCEAN (open, conscientious, extravert, agreeable, and neurotic). Personality influences the work attitude strongly. However, human resources managers should understand their employees’ personalities and place them where their personalities will function optimally. Perception underscores how employees see their environment when responding to an environmental stimulus. The employees’ perception is subject to their needs, values, and emotions. In perceiving the environment, staff members and managers tend to draw personal conclusions by extrapolating the provided information. In the workplace, the existence of stereotypes influences workers’ behavior. Human resources managers should appreciate the perception process because it helps them in understanding employees’ behavior. Besides, managers should not ignore or bottle up their emotions because this aspect leads to stress. Besides, this tendency may cause petty conflict issues in the workplace, which may run out of control at times. Emotional intelligence helps managers to recognize when the employees are stressed. This awareness results in taking proactive steps to control or manage stressors in the workplace.

References

Barrick, R., & Ryan, A. (2003). Personality and work: Reconsidering the role of personality in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bratton, J. (2015). Introduction to work and organizational behavior. London, UK: Palgrave.

Dykes, A., & Monroe, F. (2010). Performance evaluations: A synopsis of fire service use and employee perception. Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Goleman, D. (2009). Working with emotional intelligence. London, UK: Bantam Books.

Kite, N., & Kay, F. (2012). Understanding emotional intelligence: Strategies for boosting your EQ and using it in the workplace. London, UK: Kogan Page.

Kusluvan, S. (2003). Managing employee attitudes and behaviors in the tourism and hospitality industry. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

LePine, A. (2003). Team adaptation and post-change performance: Effects of team composition in terms of members’ cognitive ability and personality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(1), 27–39.

Maloa, F. (2001). Employee perception of a performance management system. Durban, SA: University of South Africa.

Neale, S., Spencer-Arnell, L., & Wilson, L. (2011). Emotional intelligence coaching: Improving performance for leaders, coaches, and the individual. London, UK: Kogan Page.

Roberts, W., Walton, E., & Viechtbauer, W. (2006). Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132(1), 1–25.

Williams, R. (2001). Managing employee performance: Design and implementation in organizations. London, UK: Thomson Learning.

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