Diversity and the Dark Side


Diversity in the workplace remains a top concern for HR professionals and hiring managers. Changing the hiring process is a necessary step in preventing discrimination and keeping ahead of the competition —  a recent study from the Center for Talent Innovation found workplaces that ensure diversity enjoy more success and attract more innovative employees than workplaces that don’t.

However, any institutional change will fail if leaders and hiring managers aren’t driven to build a climate that encourages diversity. It’s not always easy to spot those who will let their biases negatively impact those around them, but early research suggests those with high Bold and Excitable scales might not foster inclusive environments.

Hogan’s in-house research team is always looking to find new applications for our assessments. With that in mind, Brandon Ferrell and Steve Nichols conducted a meta-analysis of results from four Hogan Development Survey (HDS) studies to measure which personality scales hinder leaders’ ability to leverage diversity.

To search for these diversity-derailing characteristics, our researchers examined four studies with HDS data from 443 managers and executives. They compared this information with subjective ratings of the Leveraging Diversity competency from the Hogan Competency Model.

Of the 11 scales in the HDS, Ferrell and Nichols found only those who scored highly on the Bold and Excitable scales were less likely to “leverage diversity.” Although concrete explanations for this negative relationship are somewhat speculative, one suggestion from Ferrell and Nichols is that leaders scoring high on Bold may hold excessive self-worth and view individuals in other categories as less attractive in order to build their ego.

As for the Excitable scale, the authors suggest that leaders with high Excitable scores (who generally are more sensitive to criticism) may more easily perceive a person’s behavior as critical or antagonistic when that person is dissimilar demographically from the leader. This tendency, if acted upon, might give people with high Excitable scores a reputation for being poor promoters of diversity.

This line of research is just a start, as four studies and 443 participants aren’t enough to start widely generalizing. As the report concludes, future research could start to examine just how over-confidence or emotional volatility work against workplace diversity. The full report, which was presented during the 2018 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology annual conference, is available to read here.