Q&A with Dr. Hogan | The Role Personality Plays at Work


Dr. Robert Hogan spent his career working to prove that personality predicts workplace performance and helps businesses dramatically reduce turnover and increase productivity by hiring the right people, developing key talent, and evaluating leadership potential. Here, he discusses what role personality plays at work.

What role does personality play in an employee’s performance at work?

An overwhelming amount of data support the claim that WELL VALIDATED personality measures predict job performance better than any other known evaluation method, including interviews and IQ tests.  But unlike interviews and IQ tests, well validated personality measures do not discriminate against women, minorities, or older people.   In addition, an overwhelming amount of data support the claim that, when employers use well validated personality measures to hire employees, they make more money because they hire more productive employees, reduce turnover, absenteeism, and shrinkage, and increase productivity and customer satisfaction.

How much of a factor should personality be when an employer is considering who to hire, fire and/or promote?

Using well validated personality measures to hire, fire, and promote employees has two advantages.  First, the decisions will be objective—often they are politically biased.  Second, the decisions will be based on data and not personal intuition.  Persuading business to make personnel decisions based on empirically defensible methods is, curiously, a hard sell.  To answer your question directly, personality should be the major single factor used to make personnel decisions—if you believe in data.

Are there any specific personality types that employers should avoid hiring?

Employers should avoid hiring “team killers”—highly talented people who also destroy morale, by quarreling with subordinates, complaining, testing the limits, and performing erratically.  Such people are hired because they are smart and attractive, and seem to have a lot of potential.  Employers give them a lot of slack because they are so obviously talented, but over time, their negative impact on the rest of the team cripples the performance of the entire group.  This is a well-known phenomena in athletics, hence the term “team killer”.

Are there any specific personality types that are more likely to earn a promotion?

People who are more  likely to earn promotions are called high potentials in contemporary HR parlance.  Vast amounts of empirical data support the view that high potentials are characterized by three personality attributes.  First, they are pleasant, charming, and rewarding to deal with; clients, colleagues, and bosses all like them.  Second, they are smart enough to learn the job quickly.  And third, they are willing to do the job—the come to work regularly and work hard while there.  We call this the “RAW model”, where RAW stands for:  (1) Rewarding (to deal with); (2) Able (to learn the job); and (3) Willing (to do the job).