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Key personality traits associated with bad behaviours at work

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A woman in a business suit showing key personality traits that predict negative work behaviours.

The role of personality in shaping negative behaviours

In evaluating personality and counterproductive work behaviours, we employ the HEXACO six-factor personality model.

The key predictor of negative workplace behaviours is integrity-modesty, also known as honesty-humility.

Emotionality, indicating emotional stability, along with agreeableness (lack of anger), and conscientiousness (diligence and responsibility) also influence the likelihood of counterproductive work behaviours.

Sociability plays a crucial role too; individuals who enjoy social interactions are less inclined to harm others or create conflicts with colleagues.

Personality traits are primarily genetically determined, indicating that these traits are unlikely to undergo significant changes over time.

Personality's effect on negative workplace behaviours

Watch the video to understand the importance of key personality traits, including honesty-humility, emotionality, agreeableness conscientiousness and sociability, in the frequency of negative behaviours at work.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 6 – How personal values influence employees behaving badly

And watch the previous video here:

Part 4 – Can intelligence predict negative workplace behaviours?

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

Video Transcript

Personality and bad behaviours at work

Hi, Andrew from SACS, and welcome to video number five in our eight-video sequence on “Have you hired any psychopaths lately?” which is really a scientific investigation of the question of what we call counterproductive work behaviours, people doing bad stuff, either to colleagues or to the organisation.

And in this one, we’ll be talking about personality and bad behaviours.

We’ve talked about cognitive ability.

And in the next one, we’ll be talking about values and bad behaviours.

And really the purpose of this video sequence is to help you to understand, particularly when you’re recruiting, what the signatures are, the signs of these characteristics, particularly as they relate to psychometric assessment.

Six key personality traits

The work of Kibeom Lee and Mike Ashton showed us that there are six dominant personality factors in human beings.

Previously, there were thought to be only five but Kibeom and Mike demonstrated that there are six.

Now, there has been a stack of research which has taken place since that discovery.

And what we are doing here is showing you how that research relates to the work world.

Now, SACS, in partnership with Deakin University, built a thing called the SACS 6, which is a work-worded version of the HEXACO model of personality.

What we’re talking about here is that these six characteristics, integrity-modesty.

Integrity-modesty or honesty-humility

Integrity-modesty is really about being honest and truthful and not arrogant.

And if you’re going to predict negative behaviours, this is the most significant predictor.

This correlates very heavily with what Kibeom and Mike called honesty-humility.

And subsequent research linking honesty-humility scores back to things in the real world shows, for instance, that people who are low in this characteristic tend to go to jail far more often than people who are high in it.

People who are high in it tend to have better relationships, are more successful in business, are more trusted.

Now, it’s also been demonstrated that low honesty-humility scores tend to correlate quite heavily with things like bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, those kinds of things.

And in our own research, we’ve demonstrated that there’s a strong link between other negative behaviours like theft and so forth if you are low in honesty-humility.

So try to recruit people who are high in honesty-humility.

The role of emotionality

Emotionality, and emotionality is the degree to which a person is emotionally stable or unstable.

Low emotionality is a good thing generally because it means that a person tends to be more resilient.

Now, people who are high in emotionality don’t always do evil stuff.

I mean, they may, in fact, simply be involved in things like absenteeism, but high emotionality says that the person is likely to struggle to cope if they’re exposed to high pressure, for instance.

The absence of anger

The third characteristic that we want to talk about in terms of avoiding negative behaviours is absence of anger.

Now, in the HEXACO, they called this agreeableness and in fact, I thought that term was a little misleading because agreeableness is really a characteristic in the big five of sort of being easy to get along with.

But in the HEXACO, agreeableness, low agreeableness means anger.

So we called it absence of anger.

And all the questions in this instrument are worded to the work world.

So there are no general questions about parties and those sorts of things that you tend to find in general personality assessments.

But what we do know is that when people are low in absence of anger, that’s a characteristic called trait anger and trait anger is a predictor of negative behaviours.

We know, for instance, that in service or caring environments where people are angry, they tend to do bad stuff, particularly interpersonal bad stuff more often.

Are you conscientious?

The next characteristic that we’re looking at is conscientiousness.

And so people who are highly conscientious tend to do less bad things, particularly to the organisation than people who are low in conscientiousness.

So they tend to persist in trying to achieve their goals.

They tend to take their responsibilities seriously.

They tend to obey the rules when appropriate.

And so high conscientiousness is a good thing.

By the way, high conscientiousness is also correlated with productivity at work.

So obviously, that’s a good thing in its own right.

Why sociability matters

And finally, there’s this extroversion characteristic called likes to be in company.

Now, likes to be in company is really where the person likes to work with other people, likes colleagues, has a positive view of other human beings.

And this has been shown to be a predictor of positive behaviours and a predictor of negative behaviours.

Psychopaths typically are low in this characteristic, this integrity-modesty or honesty-humility characteristic, tend to be low in conscientiousness.

And I expressed in an earlier video, this is why so few people at higher echelons of organisations are psychopaths because they tend to be too disorganised to get there.

And finally, likes to be in company is the degree to which a person likes other people.

So low honesty-humility, or integrity-modesty, low conscientiousness, likes to be in company.

That’s a scary combination and can indicate psychopathy.

Now, if you’re psych testing people, I wouldn’t suggest you accuse them of being psychopaths but if they have that characteristic, I mean even one or two of those things may well be a knockout factor.

Would you really want to recruit people who are low in honesty, would you really want to recruit people who aren’t prepared to try?

Would you really want to recruit people who just don’t care about other people?

So individually, these matter, but in combination, they may be an indicator of what we call the dark triad.

So things like psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism.

How important are values?

People place an enormous amount of trust in the question of values in predicting bad behaviours.

They think that that’s the most important thing.

In fact, it’s nowhere near as important as cognitive ability.

How smart people are is a way better predictor of whether they’re likely to do bad stuff.

Smarter people do less bad stuff.

Personality is a massively more important predictor of whether people are likely to do bad stuff.

These are largely genetic, and genes will out.

And I guess Heraclitus or Heraclitus, depending on which school you went to back in ancient Greece, said, “Character is destiny.” Personality is character, and that will tend to drive behaviours much more significantly than values.

But values do have an influence and values are largely taught.

So it creates this confidence that we can improve negative behaviours through teaching good values.

Join me for the next video, video number six in this sequence where we’ll talk about values and bad behaviours.

Learn more about counterproductive workplace behaviours

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

Part 6 – How personal values influence employees behaving badly

And watch the previous video here:

Part 4 – Can intelligence predict negative workplace 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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