Dossier Mindful matters: Deniz Ones anD stephan Dilchert lOOk at hOw stanDarDiseD evaluatiOns in the hiring phase can help Detect Deviant emplOyees. Personality tests in the workplace We make judgments and of thousands of individuals, shows that evaluations about others’ personalities personality tests relate strongly to every day – when we meet new performance on the job. the evidence acquaintances, when we catch up is very clear: organisations can identify with old friends, and even when we high performers even before they are interact with our spouses or partners. hired using standardised, off-the-shelf Personality is important – it describes personality tests. given the high costs the general tendencies of individuals associated with employee misbeha- to feel, think, act, and react in a variety viours, organisations are not only inter- of life situations. and our work lives, ested in identifying high potentials, but of course, are one of those domains also in identifying those who will cause where personality plays a primary role. harm to the organisation and its mem- Organisations have long tried to glean bers. a single deviant employee may information on individuals’ personalities often cause more damage than a few acts in a given situation. some agreeable engage in fewer aggressive for a variety of purposes, including honest employees who are simply not employees choose to be deviant by acts against other individuals. career counselling, employee develop- performing well. engaging in acts such as fraud and Organisations can harness the power ment and coaching, or candidate selec- theft, but also interpersonal deviance of standardised personality testing, tion. the method most commonly used Finding deviant workers such as violence, harassment, and especially integrity tests, to identify to try to learn more about someone’s there are some situational demands aggression on the job. Others, despite employees who will avoid deviance. “character” is the employment inter- that can push employees towards being presented with the same oppor- Personality tests are a good method view, and such interviews can be useful deviant behaviours (for example, an tunity, will choose to do the right thing, to pick up warning signs early, before when properly designed and applied employee who is strapped for cash and behave ethically. this, to a large an applicant becomes an employee (especially when they are standardised may be more likely to steal). However, extent, is determined by employees’ and is entrusted with responsibilities. to minimise the influence of human personality is a powerful factor that temperament, or personality. traits error and bias). determines who engages in deviant such as integrity, honesty, and Personality tests versus But the science of personality has conscientiousness play a key role in monitoring more powerful tools at its disposal. determining whether employees steal, many organisations attempt to monitor standardised personality tests (whether tools such as integrity embezzle, or otherwise harm their their employees to discourage and paper-and-pencil or computer-based) tests are also cost- organisations, co-workers, or clients. prevent deviant behaviours. From have a long tradition in occupational Research that we have conducted in surveys we know that in the us about settings, and have proven to be one effective because they this domain shows that personality is three-quarters of companies monitor of the most effective tools to predict are more reliable and a strong predictor of avoiding such internet connections, over 70 per cent a range of employee outcomes, from predictive of future counter-productivity. specifically, monitor email, and about 40 per cent high job performance to avoiding employees high on conscientiousness monitor phone calls of their employees. success PHOTOLIBRARY.COM deviant behaviours on the job. engage in fewer deviant acts against these measures are obviously targeted Large-scale empirical evidence from their organisations (such as theft, at problems such as time theft and to real world work settings, collected in unexcused absenteeism, or destruction correct poor-quality work, but also to thousands of studies of many hundreds of property). and employees who are curtail serious offences such as 54 I N T H E BL AC K O C T O B E R 2 0 0 9 Sample personality test questions • I work best when I am • I often act based on impulse. closely supervised. • If I gain an unexpected • I believe in “quid pro quo.” advantage over someone • It is more important to else, I sometimes feel guilty. follow rules that are • Once people get on my bad well justified than those side, I find it hard to be that seem haphazard. courteous to them. How would you fare on a psychological test? INTHEBLACK readers can evaluate themselves at http://work-psych.com/assessment/intheblack intellectual property theft. given the IntHeBLaCk readers. But, the advan- wide variety of counterproductive tage of standardised tests is that no behaviours employees can engage in matter what application, they are very during their organisational tenure (or efficient and low-priced compared to even a single day), monitoring methods other methods used to assess and are typically not very effective in select job candidates, such as assess- curtailing deviance especially in ment centres or pre-employment inter- complex jobs and changing work views. those methods sometimes are environments. not associated with direct costs such as licensing fees, but they almost Testing in action always end up being more expensive, HR systems need to be designed by even when just considering the amount experts who are knowledgeable and of person hours lost (e.g. for the hiring adhere to high professional and ethical manager to interview candidates, or for standards. Consulting industrial and the time it takes to discuss candidate organisational psychologists can design interview performance and provide systems and recommend the correct feedback). But more importantly, tools tests for use in pre-employment such as integrity tests are also cost- candidate assessment. Organisations effective because they are more relia- that rely on independent experts are ble and predictive of future success more likely to receive recommendations than most other methods of assessing that address their needs in the best job relevant characteristics. Hence, manner possible. not only does an organisation save standard, off-the-shelf personality money by using a cost-efficient tests can often be purchased for a method to select its employees, it relatively small fee per test-taker. the also actively makes more money as more elaborate and in-depth a test is a result, because it hires better the more expensive it will be, for exam- candidates than even the best ple those used for thoroughly evaluat- interviewers could identify. n ing high-level managers or screening personnel for security sensitive Deniz s. Ones is a professor of psychology positions. typically, personality tests are and the holder of the hellervik professorship made up of several dozens or even of industrial psychology at the university of minnesota. stephan Dilchert is an assistant hundreds of individual questions, such professor of management at the zicklin as those found in the box on this page school of Business (Baruch college), city and in the online example test for university of new york.
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