Management and the Personality Issue

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

Let's review some of the ways in which personalities can affect work-relations and performance, and, subsequently, why it is important for every manager or leader to know at least the basics of the characters of the people that work directly with them.

First of all it may be good to stress that in every organization you will find 2 basic types of behavior: the organization's behavior, and the personal behaviors of the workers. And for each of them it is important to mention that they are mainly based on 2 main points: values (the ingrained way things are perceived), and attitudes (the way things are dealt with).

The reason why it is so important to know workers' values and attitudes is because it can help you a lot in determining how to increase their levels of job satisfaction. And keeping workers' job satisfaction up to par is ultimately a cost-, time- and reputation-saver for the company. After all, no organization will want to continue investing in hiring new people all the time. It is not only an expensive and time-consuming activity, but it paints a bad picture of the organizational climate: If people keep leaving your company or department, it usually indicates that something is wrong there. As a manager you should be able to pick up on that and correct it. Oftentimes you will already get an idea when people start staying away from work very often (high absenteeism). Usually that is a primary sign of dissatisfaction, and if they are not involved in severe personal of family problems, it can only mean one thing: they are looking for another job. In those cases you, as the manager should not hesitate to have a good talk with your worker(s) in order to find out what is wrong and how it can be changed.

You should also know that people differ from one another: you have self-initiators who hardly need direction, and you have those who need constant handholding. Your management style should be adapted toward these personality types: You cannot micro-manage a person who perfectly performs independently, and you cannot be negligent toward a person who needs constant supervision.

Other significant issues with regards to management and personality issues are stereotyping and attributing. As a manager you want to be cautious with these issues: although you, too, are a human being with human flaws, you should try avoiding to paint one general picture for a group of people based on one negative experience with a member of that group, just as well as you should try avoiding to label one person based on the general ideas about the group he or she comes out of. Furthermore, you should be cautious of instantly attributing people's behaviors to their characters: everybody has downtimes in which they perform less. Try to detect patterns before jumping to conclusions: if someone is displaying a certain behavior under similar circumstances all the time, you can go ahead and assign that to his or her character. In any other case: remain observant.

The last important point I would like to stress here is that you should attempt, as a manager, to maintain an appropriate stress-level in your workplace. What I mean by this is, that stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Only when it's driven to a point where people get disheartened by the pressure should you intervene. You can do this in various ways: if there are temporary peak times in your business you could hire temps, and if the production increases on a lasting bases, you could consider upgrading the skills of your current workers through additional training, hiring additional employees, or outsourcing some activities. It all depends.

The main point made here is that, as a manager, you have to engage in the art of humaneness. Managing entail much more than just ensuring that production targets are met. It means even more: keeping people content in the work environment, so that progresses can be made by each and everyone involved, and, ultimately, by the entire organization.