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Work Personality vs Real Personality- An Assessment of the Continuum!

Work Personality vs Real Personality- An Assessment of the Continuum!

Date: 04/07/2019 | Posted by: Meghana Jitendra | Category: General


In psychology, personality refers to the unique and relatively permanent characteristic pattern of behaviours and traits that influence how a person interacts and responds to his/her environment. That would be the 'real' personality, as opposed to one's 'work personality', which, simply put, is the characteristic pattern of behaviours and traits that influence how a person interacts and responds to his/her work environment. Are these personalities different?
Not necessarily. Work personality and real personality can be seen as lying on a continuum of personality traits. These personalities may even be the different facets of a trait or a set of traits, as personality traits are expressed differently in different situations. For example, an extrovert may exhibit leadership behaviours at work, but be very agreeable (and not take the lead) in a peer group. While both are characteristics of sociability, these behaviours are different, but suitable to their respective contexts.
An individual’s response to the environment is not determined by their personality alone, but also the context. 'Work' has a different culture, and this culture influences how and what traits are manifested. Some kinds behaviours are encouraged in the workplace, such as competitiveness, and corresponding personality traits may become more manifest in such a cultural setting. Appropriateness of behaviours in the context is also why work personality differs from our real personality.
One's job role also influences the personality traits that are allowed to surface. For example, a finance executive, with high conscientiousness as well as extroversion, may express the former trait and corresponding behaviours more frequently in her job, but may not have the opportunity to express sociability, because the job role may not really require that trait to be expressed.
Work personality may also be molded by mirroring behaviours and vicarious (observational) learning. We see some behaviours of other people as achieving intended results and tend to learn and mirror those behaviours (both consciously and unconsciously), which reflects on how and which of our personality traits are expressed.
Moreover, aren't all of us trying to make good impression at work? We are clearly being evaluated for what we do and achieve, and with tangible consequences, which is not always the case in our lives outside work. We are careful about what personality traits we exhibit at work, how and to what degree.
So, can work personality be faked? Well, impression management does take place, but personality is 'relatively permanent', remember? Prolonged 'faking' of personality traits can lead to cognitive dissonance and emotional labour, and may eventually result in psychological distress. So, no, it's not ideal to fake one's work personality (and also not always possible!)
If work personality is indeed distinct from one's real personality, are personality tests for screening and selection even effective? Yes, they are. The utility of personality tests (standardized ones, not those Facebook or BuzzFeed quizzes) can't be stressed upon enough, because good personality tests bring out one's real personality traits and can map matching work behaviours.
Recruiters should seek to match candidates' real personality traits to the behavioural requirements of the job, especially in attempt to reduce dissonance, because, work engagement and mental health of an employee in the long run are as important as selecting the right candidate for that urgent job opening, aren't they? Matching only cognitive skills to the job role is not enough; personality goes a long way in getting the 'perfect match' between the person and the job. What good can an intelligent salesperson do if her introversion dissuades her from developing and maintaining good customer relationships?
That being said, understanding personality doesn't end with personality testing; it begins there. Personality and other behavioural test results should be taken in context, and interpretation and the resultant decisions should be supported by data from other sources such as interviews and past records of performance.
Because, "in god we trust; all others must show data", even 'work personalities'.