Bob Hogan and Ryne Sherman: Briefing Socioanalytic Theory

Ident_Rep_Blog_HS_2Socioanalytic theory draws on key ideas of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and George Herbert Mead to explain why people act as they do. All three writers noted that humans evolved as group living animals; we also know that all groups contain status hierarchies and myths about their origins and purpose. This suggests that the big problems in life concern: (1) Getting along with other people; (2) Acquiring status and power; and (3) Finding one’s place in the group. In modern life, individual differences in the ability to solve these three problems translate into individual differences in career success. Successful people live longer, have healthier lives, and are better able to care for their dependents—and that is the definition of biological fitness. Thus, Socioanalytic theory is about fitness and career success.

Socioanalytic theory defines personality from two perspectives: (1) Identity; and (2) Reputation.  Identity concerns who you think you are; reputation concerns who we think you are. Research on identity has produced few useful generalizations; in contrast, research on reputation has been highly productive; e.g., the Five-Factor Model—a taxonomy of reputation—is a useful way to organize personality research findings. Past behavior predicts future behavior; reputation is a summary of past behavior; thus, reputation is the best possible data source for predicting future behavior.

Research in Socioanalytic theory focuses on four broad areas: (1) Personality and occupational performance; (2) Personality and leadership effectiveness; (3) Personality and managerial incompetence; and (4) Personality and effective team performance (team research historically ignored effectiveness). Occupational performance, leadership effectiveness, and managerial incompetence can be predicted with valid personality measures.  Team effectiveness depends on putting the right people (defined by personality) in the right positions (defined by team role).

Socioanalytic theory argues that social skill is the key to career success—because social skill translates identity into reputation. That is, people who are socially skilled are better able to earn reputations that are consistent with their identities (i.e., become in the eyes of others the persons they want to be). Socioanalytic theory also maintains that feedback from valid personality assessment can create “strategic self-awareness” (understanding how one impacts others). Strategic self-awareness allows ambitious people to maximize their career potential and minimize their own intra- and inter-personal shortcomings.  Thus, strategic self-awareness increases the likelihood of career success. Successful careers lead to better individual outcomes than unsuccessful careers.