August 15, 2011

Bad Apples

If you've worked in any professional setting in America (corporate, education, government, non-profit), you've seen and taken a personality test.  There are the Jung and Briggs Meyers tests that attempt to tap into the consciousness.  There's the A B C personality typing, and the colors personality typing. I have always been intrigued by this type of occupational psychology.  The deep flaw in all of the tests; however, is the margin of error imbedded in the tests based on the "performativity" of the test-taker.  To what degree does the test-taker simply give answers based on his or her knowledge of the desired outcome?  In other words, people say what they believe the tester wants to hear.  People become who they know they are supposed to be.

At one time or another, we have all had the misfortune of watching employees behave very badly.  Most data attributes employee bad behavior to the stressors of the weak economy:  generally employees who are overworked and underpaid.  What about employees who are paid well?  What causes privileged workers to act out?

I think I have a few answers.

Incorporating some of the personality traits we already know from Briggs Meyers, Jung, and the like, I have created some additional more reductive types.

Enter The Producer.  The producer is, as the name implies, the task master.  She gets the job done or better yet gets many jobs done at once.  This employee is any employer's dream.  She is highly productive, deadline oriented, and self-motivated.

Enter The Slacker.  The slacker is a true sloth.  He wants to get paid for nothing.  This is the employee who is content to play on the internet all day or catch a nap when no one is watching.  He is exactly the opposite of the Producer.  The Slacker waits until the very last possible minute to complete any deadline.  In fact, he often misses deadlines.

Enter The Brown Noser.  The Brown Noser may double as a slacker, but most of all, the Brown Noser finds out whose ass to kiss and does so ad nauseam.  

Enter The Havoc Wreaker.  The Havoc Wreaker is bad news.  He finds a weak spot in any team of workers and monopolizes on that weakness.  This employee is dangerous to the employer and the other employees.  The Havoc Wreaker deplores rules simply because they exist.  He is a rebel without a cause.  He undermines and sabotages all authority figures a soon as they ask him to do something he doesn't like or want to do.  He is argumentative and never wrong.  The Havoc Wreaker is a master manipulator and will easily win over Slackers and Brown Nosers.  Slackers like the Havoc Wreaker because he likes to break rules - hence avoid work he deems pointless.  And we know slackers hate work.  Brown Nosers like the Havoc Wreaker because they see him as the next potential ass to kiss.

Inevitably Producers bump heads with Havoc Wreakers and Slackers.  This conflict could end in confrontation, workplace violence, termination, and even jail time.  And, indeed, it already has.  

I am quite sure that no employer thinks they have hired the Slacker, the Brown Noser, or worst yet, the Havoc Wreaker.  I am learning, however, that these employees seem to be in great supply.

Do interview performances hide these serious flaws, or are there early indicators of bad behavior?  And better yet, why do well-educated adults act out in such egregious ways?