Register now for our free virtual workshops  |  SACS Consulting Clients: Login to the Portal

Narrow search results to:
Products & services
Blog articles
Knowledge Hub
Events
Videos
Presentations
Publications
Whitepapers
Templates
Sample reports
Read time8 mins

Can intelligence predict negative workplace behaviours?

Save this item for later:
Save
Your saved content:
Favourites
Our brain and our intelligence affect negative work behaviours.

The role of “smarts” in counterproductive work behaviours

How significant is intelligence in influencing negative workplace behaviours?

Studies reveal a strong inverse correlation between IQ and the frequency of bullying, theft, lying, and other harmful actions at work.

Intelligence encompasses numerical, verbal, and abstract reasoning, termed “general capability.” Lower intelligence levels often align with more frequent misconduct.

Cognitive ability has a substantial genetic component, established early in life, but it can also be influenced by engagement.

Smarter individuals are less prone to workplace misbehaviour, so it’s important to measure intelligence to avoid hiring psychopaths.

Cognitive ability and negative behaviours

Watch the video to better understand the relationship between intelligence and counterproductive work behaviours.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 5 – Key personality traits associated with bad behaviours at work

And watch the previous video here:

Part 3 – The dark triad of destructive workplace personalities

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Cognitive ability and bad behaviours

Hi, Andrew from SACS, and welcome to video number four in our eight video sequence on, “Have you hired any psychopaths lately?” And in this video we’ll be talking about the relationship between cognitive ability and bad behaviours.

Cognitive ability and bad behaviours is a demonstrated relationship.

The Prisoner study

Couple of things we know, prisoners with lower IQ in jail perpetrate far more violence than people with higher IQ.

So that’s a work of Bree Diamond who did this piece of research as part of her PhD, where she looked at violence rates of prisons where people had been psych tested.

And she discovered that cell blocks that had people with higher IQ had much lower levels of violence than cell blocks with people with lower IQ.

For random distribution reasons, some cell blocks had ended up with higher IQ, and some with lower IQ, but basically she found a strong relationship there.

A strong correlation

In general work populations counterproductive work behaviours correlate 0.35 with IQ.

How big a deal is 0.35? 0.35 is around about the accuracy of most interviews.

So cognitive ability can predict bad behaviours.

And from earlier videos, you’ll know that they’re two forms – interpersonal, bad deeds against people, and organisational bad deeds against the organisation.

0.35 correlation is worth knowing.

IQ and salary

So if you have work populations that have lower IQ, and the best indicator of this enlarged groups is dollars, because just Google the relationship between cognitive ability and salary, and you’ll see that there’s a strong linear relationship.

The higher people are paid, the less likely it is that they have low IQ.

And so, and of course by that I don’t mean that that’s a universal rule at an individual level, because I’m sure that you have people not, I’m sure we know that you have people who are paid very little but are geniuses.

And you have some people who are paid a lot who aren’t so smart.

Perhaps you could think of some specific examples of that.

But in large populations, let’s say thousands, hundreds, we know that the less people are paid, the more likely it is that they have low IQ.

And in a sense, what are the things that you are paying for when you pay salaries is cognitive ability.

In large populations, which are lowly paid, you tend to get more bad behaviours therefore, more bullying, more harassment, more theft.

And certainly people who employ large lowly-paid populations of employees comment on that and they reflect that finding.

In a nutshell

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that higher IQs, less bad behaviours, lower IQs more bad behaviours.

Verbal, numerical, and abstract, and we mentioned the Flynn Effect.

Firstly, verbal, numerical, and abstract, these are three forms of cognitive ability which tend to matter for a lot of jobs at work.

Verbal means I’m good at words, numerical means I’m good at numbers.

And an abstract means I’m good at seeing the way things link together.

So people with high abstract reasoning are able to see if I do this, then this might result.

Now, as you know, people who don’t see the relationship between their behaviours and consequences, either for them or for others, are more likely to do bad stuff.

So there is a relationship between abstract reasoning, verbal reasoning, and numerical reasoning to negative behaviours.

And if you combine those three, it represents what psychologists call general capability.

And so those three together, if you average them, that’s a measure of general capability.

The higher, the less likely it is that people do bad things, the lower, the more likely it is that people do bad things.

Are people getting dumber?

Now, I also mentioned the Flynn Effect.

The Flynn Effect is a characteristic which has been shown for decades in populations across the world which is that cognitive ability rates have been rising.

And I guess the logic of that is that as the world has become more complex, you’ve needed to use computers more, you’ve needed to engage in a knowledge management environment.

I mean, less people are digging ditches these days, and more people are sitting at computers.

What that’s done is it’s given rise to a genetic shift, where people’s cognitive ability has risen.

And It’s called the Flynn Effect, because a fellow by the name of Flynn discovered it.

About two or three years ago, it was observed that the Flynn Effect had plateaued, and in fact now seems to be declining somewhat.

Now this is kind of an interesting trend, and it’s not declining very markedly yet, but I suppose the first question is why?

And most people believe it’s because we are now outsourcing our cognitive tasks to computers, increasingly.

And so for instance, if you wanted to navigate previously, you used to have to get a thing called the map.

And if you’re going to go across the city, you actually had to plan step by step how you were going to get there.

A cognitively demanding task.

Now we sit in our car, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin, tell us where to go.

Turn by turn, turn left here, turn right there.

Much less cognitively demanding task.

Use it or lose it

Now, if you don’t use your cognitive ability like every part of your brain, it will atrophy.

It becomes less active.

And this is giving rise to a thing called the Reverse Flynn Effect.

Now, the interesting thing about this is research has indicated that as cognitive ability has risen across the world, it’s also been related to a decrease in violence.

Yes, I know that the news tells you that we are in more violent times than at the other time in history, but in fact, that’s not true.

The rates of violence now are way below what they were even 30 or 40 years ago.

Are cognitive ability rates declining?

Well, if they are, then this could have significant implications.

Stephen Pinker in his wonderful book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” which really kind of tracks the history of violence in the world, he demonstrates that as cognitive ability has risen, rates of violence have declined.

So it raises the question that if cognitive ability starts to decline, will we see more violence again?

It’s not declining very rapidly.

Intelligence in recruitment

So that’s the good news, but it’s something to watch in future.

But the key point I want to make is that if you are recruiting people, it’s better to recruit people who are higher in cognitive ability than lower, because that will protect you from, and your workforce from negative behaviours to a certain extent.

The next video in the sequence will deal with the question of personality and bad behaviours.

Like cognitive ability, personality is quite heavily genetically determined, tends not to change much over the course of life.

So join me to see how personality can affect the behaviours of the people that you end up hiring.

Click on the link near this video to join us.

Learn more about counterproductive workplace behaviours

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about dealing with psychopaths at work:

Part 5 – Key personality traits associated with bad behaviours at work

And watch the previous video here:

Part 3 – The dark triad of destructive workplace personalities

And if you’d like some help with reducing the chances that your next hire will be a psychopath, contact us about our Psychometric Testing tools.

Helpful resources

Did you find this content helpful?

Please rate our content.

Average rating 0 / 5. Votes: 0

Please share any suggestions on how we could make it better. Thank you!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Ready to optimise your workforce? Contact us now.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.