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Understanding Employee Performance (Yet Again) – How Much Does Personality Count?

You have an employee, you know he is a top expert in his field with both declarative and procedural knowledge, stays late in the office, provides outputs, but somehow, when his performance appraisal hits your desk, the things don’t look that pretty. The figures can’t be wrong, or can they? The thing is, measuring employee performance goes way beyond KPIs, job analysis or colleagues’ feedback. It is often closely related to employee personal traits, or more precisely, what seems to make one employee flourish, it might make the other look lost and under-performing. In the era where we all heavily rely on algorithms to help us fight overwhelming amount of data we face every day, we simply forget to see a human face behind the performance measurement sheet and consider that extremely complex, and yet so simple, indicator as well – personality.

Back to the poorly performing expert from the beginning of our story – we can also use 360 degree feedback to catch the behavioral part of performance measurement, but what if our expert has a hard time bonding with colleagues or doesn’t care much being involved in interactions with others at the workplace?  The pressure to be more open might undermine his self-esteem as well. Is it too much to ask someone to alter his personality to be more aligned with our performance measurement system? Even if his work results are satisfying? Are we getting lost bit by bit while trying to simplify and quantify the human nature?

We could send our expert to some training, course or retreat where he’d improve his communication skills and learn how to be more involved, but does this essentially change his work performance? Or we better respect his introvert personality and use this money to reward him for providing the expected work results? And I’m sure we used one of those personality tests during the recruitment process, and based on his replies, he appeared to be a true people-person…

At the end of the day, it is sometimes very hard to see how is personality related to job performance and can we truly predict someone’s behavior at work by simply giving him self-assessment personality test? I mean, not all accountants are reserved, traditional or conformists by default. It might be that job-related responsibilities and duties make an accountant to behave in a certain way for his performance to be evaluated as successful. But that doesn’t change or reflect his true personality, he might be spending his weekends skydiving, for all we know.

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