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How nature and nurture shape bad workplace behaviours

by | Jul 6, 2023

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The influence of nature vs nurture on bad workplace behaviours

The relationship between nature and nurture in CWBs

How significant is genetics in shaping workplace behaviours, and what role do environment, values, skills, and experience play?

Certain hereditary traits, such as intelligence and personality, increase the likelihood of negative behaviours at work.

However, individuals also acquire attitudes and skills throughout life that impact their actions in the workplace.

Appreciating the relationship between these factors is essential for successful recruitment strategies, to thoroughly understand candidates and avoid hiring psychopaths.

Nature vs Nurture: Which one is more important?

Watch the video to understand whether nature (genetics) is more important than nurture when it comes to counterproductive workplace behaviours.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 3 – The dark triad of destructive workplace personalities

And watch the previous video here:

Part 1 – Have you hired a psychopath lately? Counterproductive work behaviours

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

Video Transcript

Nature vs nurture in bad behaviours at work

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number two in our eight-video sequence on “Have you hired any psychopaths lately?” This is all about the science of what we call counterproductive work behaviours, bad behaviours at work.

And in this one we’ll be talking about nature and nurture and bad behaviours.

And then in the very next one, we go on to talk about the dark triad, psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism.

Here’s a slide which talks about nature and nurture and a whole bunch of outcomes in life and at work that are really important for people’s wellbeing and productivity.

Now, the term nature nurture, in fact came from a guy called Francis Galton who was the half nephew of Charles Darwin.

So, kind of we would imagine that there’s a kind of an evolutionary feel to all of this.

And certainly one of the things that we know is that contributing to people’s likelihoods of doing bad things at work or in life generally, there certainly is a genetic streak.

Nature factors (genetics) and intelligence

If you look at the left hand side of this diagram, you’ll see we start off on the nature equation by talking about intelligence.

And you’ll see we mentioned verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning as measures of cognitive ability.

Now, what do we mean by cognitive ability?

There was a time when it was called IQ, it can be called aptitudes.

It can be described in a range of different ways but there are significant differences between individuals in terms of how their cognitive ability expresses itself.

Some people are frankly smarter than others.

Now, what causes this?

Well, there’s strong research evidence that there are neurological differences and key to the neurological differences is really that the proportion of the brain’s capacity that’s devoted to a thing called working memory, that’s the shortest of short-term memory.

So, when people have a lot of their brain, using the shortest of short-term memory, what it means is that they’re able to deal with many information points at once.

It’s almost like they have a biggest chip inside their head.

So, this is something that varies enormously widely from human to human and it does correlate with good and bad behaviours.

So, there is a positive correlation, between high IQ and low counterproductive work behaviours.

Now, in the previous video we explained that counterproductive work behaviours come in two flavours.

Interpersonal, which means against other people, and organisational which means doing bad things to the organisation.

So, the smarter the workforce, frankly the less likely it is that you get negative behaviours.


The second component, you see this term here, integrity.

Now, I don’t particularly like that term, because integrity testing is what it’s called in the research, but it’s really assessing counterproductive work behaviours.

And I mentioned this in video number one, but integrity tests are pretty good estimates of how likely it is that people do bad stuff at work.

Now, it might surprise you but integrity has a strong genetic component to it.

In the case of cognitive ability, let’s say 70 to 80% genetically determined, twin studies show this, but bad behaviours seem to also correlate quite heavily in identical twins who’ve never met each other.

So, there is a component of genes that, let’s say about 50%, although people argue about this.


And then finally, personality is a driver of negative behaviours.

So, this is a thing called the six-factor personality model, integrity, modesty, emotionality, extroversion, absence of anger, conscientiousness and openness to experience.

And so your personality will determine how likely it is that you are to do bad stuff.

Now, personality also appears to be majority driven by genetic inheritance.

And again, the percentage argument will vary.

I think it’s probably, about two thirds genetically determined.

Others would say as low as 50%, but almost no one in the research world would say it’s less than that.

So, there is a cognitive and personality and integrity driver of negative behaviours and positive behaviours as well.

Nurture factors (environment)

On the nurture side of things; skills, experience, knowledge, qualifications and attitudes and values.

And so in subsequent videos we’re going to be drilling a little bit more deeply down to each of these topics to show you the genetic components and how they can be picked out in recruitment practises but also then some of the nurture components, some of the things like values which are in fact largely developed in the course of life.

What you can do to recruit people who have that value set that makes it less likely that they are going to do bad things at work.

Now, the next topic that we are going to deal with is the dark triad.

This is in video number three of this sequence and we’ll be talking about psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism.

Now, no one’s watching.

So all psychopaths, please raise your hand.

Thanks for your honesty and we’ll see you in the next video.

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 3 – The dark triad of destructive workplace personalities

And watch the previous video here:

Part 1 – Have you hired a psychopath lately? Counterproductive work behaviours

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.

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