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Psychological Factors and Work Performance Essay

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Updated: Jul 18th, 2021

Introduction

One of the most notable aspects of post-industrial modernity is that organisations are now required to apply a continual effort into maintaining an adequate level of their operational efficiency (Bayraktar & Ndubisi, 2014). The described trend indeed makes a good logical sense because the ongoing progress in the field of information technologies, as well as the recent geopolitical developments in the world, substantially expand the scope of competitive challenges faced by organisations.

Because the quality of employees’ performance is the factor that has a strong effect on the overall measure of companies’ competitiveness, there is nothing surprising about the fact that one’s professional performance is now being commonly assessed in conjunction with what happened to be the nature of his or her psychological inclinations. After all, in light of the most recent discoveries in the field of psychology/neuroscience, there remains very little doubt that an individual’s value as a professional is indeed strongly linked to the biologically predetermined specifics of how his or her psyche perceives the surrounding social reality.

The author will aim to substantiate the validity of this suggestion at length while outlining the most popular approaches to understanding personality/intelligence and evaluating them with respect to the empirically obtained data of relevance.

Theoretical Background

The main feature of just about every psychological theory of personality is that it cannot be deemed axiomatically sound in the full sense of this word. The reason for this is that most of these theories are based on principally unverifiable assumptions. This explains both the sheer number of different psychological theories of personality/intelligence (often conflicting) and the fact that many contemporary biologists and neuroscientists refuse to consider psychology a fully legitimate science (Dymkowski, 2012). Nevertheless, it is still possible to identify five major paradigms of personality in psychology that continue to be deemed academically credible in the West: Psychoanalytical, Behaviourist (or Trait-based), Humanist, Social-cognitive and Biopsychological (Mayer & Allen, 2013).

Among the most well-known advocates of the Psychoanalytic conceptualization of what accounts for the formation of one’s personality can be named Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Erik Erikson. According to the theory’s adherents, one’s sense of self-identity comes into being as a result of the never-ending confrontation between the person’s unconscious anxieties, on the one hand, and his or her willingness to suppress them rationally, on the other (Miller, 2017). In order for people to be able to take full advantage of their existential potential, they must be taught how to let go of their unconscious fears in a socially appropriate manner.

The proponents of the Behaviourist paradigm of personality (such as Hans Eysenck and Raymond Cattell) believe that the notion is concerned with an individual’s uniqueness within the context of how he or she reacts to the externally induced stimuli (Boyle et al., 2016). In its turn, such uniqueness is considered to be the fully legitimate subject of a reductionist inquiry. Hence, the theory’s foremost axiomatic premise – personality is, in essence, the combination of a person’s psychological predispositions (or “traits”). Because it is possible to identify the presence of such traits in an individual, it is also possible to discuss the extent of his or her affiliation with a particular psychological phenotype, as defined by behaviourists.

The Humanist outlook on personality is reflective of the assumption that people are intrinsically virtuous, in the moral sense of this word, and specifically, these people’s exposure to the surrounding environment that defines the observable aspects of their behaviour (DeRobertis, 2016). Partially, this explains both the paradigm’s focus on “fulfilment” as the purpose of one’s existence and its affiliates’ tendency to discuss personality in phenomenological terms. Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow contributed the most towards popularizing the Humanist theory of personality.

The Social-cognitive model of personality closely relates to the earlier mentioned one, in the sense of emphasizing the importance of environmental factors of influence within the context of how people go about constructing their sense of existential identity. The model’s axiomatic premise is that while addressing life challenges, individuals strive to attain the maximum of self-efficacy, which in turn helps them to feel better about themselves (Connolly, 2017). The psychological paradigm in question is traditionally associated with the name of Albert Bandura.

The Biopsychological (or Sociobiological) theory of personality appears to be the most scientifically sound of them all because it takes into consideration the well-established intricacies of the human brain’s functioning. The most notable of them has to do with the fact that the brain is simultaneously “governed” by both its limbic system and the neocortex. This, in turn, causes one’s behaviour to be defined by the person’s desire to attain instant gratification, on the one hand, and his or her preoccupation with trying to do it in the safest (socially) way possible, on the other (Radke et al., 2016). Jeffrey Grey is commonly regarded as the theory’s founder.

All of the earlier outlined personality paradigms place a heavy emphasis on the development of a person’s intelligence as a pathway towards self-actualization. There is, however, much complexity to this process since there is no universally accepted definition as to what the notion of “intelligence” stands for. For example, according to the proponents of the General Intelligence theory, the concerned notion should be regarded as synonymous with the term “cognitive ability” (Rathore, 2015).

The founder of the Multiple Intelligences theory, Howard Gardner, would disagree. According to his theory, there are many qualitative dimensions to human intelligence, which means that the psychometric definition of the latter does not apply (Tirri, Nokelainen & Komulainen, 2013).

Partially, such a point of view is supported by Raymond Cattell – a psychologist who came up with the suggestion that instead of being viewed as something spatially fixed, intelligence should be discussed in terms of a process, with its foremost subtlety being “fluidity” (Brown, 2016). As of today, more and more psychologists come to realize that the positivist conceptualization of intelligence as something that can be objectively measured is no longer valid (Crowne, 2013). Moreover, many of them share a belief that, contrary to the provisions of the positivist model of cognition, intelligence does not represent the value of a “thing in itself”. Because of recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience, such a belief appears thoroughly substantiated.

Behaviour and Performance at Work

The conducted review of scholarly articles that discuss the relationship between the psychological traits of an employee and the quality of his or her professional performance allowed the author to gain a number of insights into the paper’s topic. For example, it can now be considered a well-established fact that there is a positive correlation between the extent of one’s affiliation with the psychological phenotype of an extrovert and his or her ability to derive pleasure from work while performing as a part of the team (Handa & Gulati, 2014).

Alternatively, the higher a particular worker scores on the “introversion scale”, the less likely will it be for him or her to withstand workplace pressures (Zimmerman et al., 2016). It is understood that this particular insight is consistent with specifically the Behaviourist outlook on the formation of self-identity in people.

At the same time, however, a number of the reviewed articles contain evidence in support of the Humanist and Social-cognitive models of personality. For example, according to Lee and Hidayat (2018), employees must be emotionally and cognitively comfortable with what serves them as the motivation to remain professionally committed. Moreover, the higher such a motivation is situated on Maslow’s “pyramid of needs”, the more likely will it be for employees to attain self-actualisation through work. This implies that many people indeed consider their employment to be the instrument of personal empowerment. Another discursive implication, in this regard, is that it does make much sense for organisations to consider the adoption of the so-called “person-centred” approach to hiring and managing workers.

Some of the reviewed materials can be seen as such that indirectly support the Psychoanalytical take on a personality. For example, according to Burke (2018), the reason why many employees exhibit a lack of professional commitment is that they could never overcome their fear of sexual harassment. Another idea that resurfaces in these articles on a continual basis is that the formation of one’s professional attitudes is ultimately affected by the person’s perception of “masculine” and “feminine” values (Jasielska, 2014).

Nevertheless, it is namely the Psychobiological (Sociobiological) theory of personality that appears to be the most plausible, in the discursive sense of this word. To illustrate the validity of this suggestion, one can mention the fact that as it is shown in a number of the reviewed articles, there is nothing fundamentally phenomenological about the particulars of one’s existential self-positioning, which affect the person’s value as an employee.

After all, people continue to evolve, which means that the main principle of their socio-cognitive functioning is the preservation of metabolic energy. The human brain (where one’s personality actually “resides”) is not designed to do abstract thinking per se. Rather, it is designed to help individuals to solve different problems within the context of how the former pursue their biological agenda (Braun, 2015).

This explains why many people seem to be capable of altering their professional attitudes with ease. If there is a possibility for an individual to benefit from being employed without having to apply too strong of an effort, he or she will be naturally tempted to indulge in absenteeism and act negligently while addressing its responsibilities in the workplace. Alternatively, if there is no such a possibility, the same person will feel genuinely interested in acting as the most professionally committed employee ever (Gilmeanu, 2015). As the above-stated implies, the importance of the factor of personality within the workplace settings is often exaggerated.

It would be equally inappropriate, however, to deny that psychological factors play a crucial role in determining the quality of one’s professional performance. Had it not been the case, employers would not be tempted to assume that job applicants must be psychologically comfortable with doing what is required of them (Ali et al., 2016). Evidently enough, an individual must be capable of deriving emotional pleasure from doing what he or she does the best as a professional.

Such a person’s capacity, however, only indirectly relates to the specifics of his or her conscious self-positioning/temperament. Rather, it has to do with the way in which this person’s neocortex is structured (Tabibnia & Radecki, 2018). This is the reason why in the civilian job market, there are no legally binding requirements for an individual to prove its endowment with one or another psychological phenotype in order to qualify for a particular job.

Conclusions

In light of the obtained analytical insights, it will be appropriate to reconfirm the soundness of the paper’s initial thesis. It is not only that the notions of “personality” and “work performance” are interrelated, but they also appear to derive from each other. Moreover, the deployed line of analytical reasoning presupposes that the subject matter in question is best discussed within the methodological framework of the Biopsychological theory of personality.

Consequentially, this implies the discursive outdatedness of the Humanist and Social-cognitive conceptualizations of self-identity. At the same time, however, there can be very little doubt that the specified psychological models of personality will continue to represent much practical value in the West: all due to being fully compatible with the discourse of neoliberalism. Therefore, it will also be logical to suggest that when it comes to motivating employees, managers must be capable of doing it in an intellectually flexible manner. For this, managers will need to grow emotionally comfortable with the idea that along with being strongly utilitarian, the value of just about every theory of personality/behaviour is essentially circumstantial.

References

Ali, A., Ryan, A., Lyons, B., Ehrhart, M., Morton, A. & Wessel, J. (2016). The long road to employment: Incivility experienced by job seekers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(3), 333-349.

Bayraktar, A., & Ndubisi, N. (2014). The role of organizational mindfulness in firms’ globalization and global market performance. Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, 16(1), 26-46.

Boyle, G., Stankov, L., Martin, N., Petrides, K., Eysenck, M., & Ortet, G. (2016). Hans J. Eysenck and Raymond B. Cattell on intelligence and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 103(10), 40-47.

Braun, C. (2015). Biological costs of the evolution of adaptive behavior and consciousness. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2(4), 377-403.

Brown, R. (2016). Hebb and Cattell: The genesis of the theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10(3), 11-17.

Burke, R. (2018). Reducing sexual harassment at workplace. Effective Executive, 21(2), 51-56.

Connolly, G. (2017). Applying social cognitive theory in coaching athletes: The power of positive role models. Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, 30(3), 23-29.

Crowne, K. (2013). An empirical analysis of three intelligences. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 45(2), 105-114.

DeRobertis, E. (2016). On framing the future of humanistic psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 44(1), 18-41.

Dymkowski, M. (2012). Psychological universals and nomothetic aspirations of social psychology. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 43(2), 93-100.

Gilmeanu, R. (2015). Theoretical considerations on motivation at the work place, job satisfaction and individual performance. Valahian Journal of Economic Studies, 6(3), 69-80.

Handa, M., & Gulati, A. (2014). Employee engagement: Does individual personality matter. Journal of Management Research, 14(1), 57-67.

Jasielska, A. (2014). Women’s career success in a man’s workplace: A cross-national study. Romanian Journal of Experimental Applied Psychology, 5(1), 23-32.

Lee, C., & Hidayat, N. (2018). The influence of transformational leadership and intrinsic motivation to employee performance. Advances in Management and Applied Economics, 8(2), 1-12.

Mayer, J., & Allen, J. (2013). A personality framework for the unification of psychology. Review of General Psychology, 17(2), 196-202.

Miller, J. (2017). Young or emerging adulthood: A psychoanalytic view. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 70(1), 8-21.

Radke, S., Seidel, E., Eickhoff, S., Gur, R., Schneider, F., Habel, U., & Derntl, B. (2016). When opportunity meets motivation: Neural engagement during social approach is linked to high approach motivation. NeuroImage, 127(5), 267-276.

Rathore, D. (2015). Role of factor analysis in the early conception of intelligence. International Journal of Education and Management Studies, 5(4), 381-384.

Tabibnia, G., & Radecki, D. (2018). Resilience training that can change the brain. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70(1), 59-88.

Tirri, K., Nokelainen, P., & Komulainen, E. (2013). Multiple intelligences: Can they be measured? Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, 55(4), 438-461.

Zimmerman, R., Swider, B., Woo, S., Barrymore, J., Chort, S., & Allen, D. (2016). Who withdraws? Psychological individual differences and employee withdrawal behaviours. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(4), 498-519.

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