It Turns Out Honesty Actually is the Best Policy: What it Means for the Workplace

The old adage, ‘Honesty is the best policy’, seems like an obvious and hackneyed platitude; of course honesty is better than dishonesty! Telling the truth is better than telling lies and anyone with a moral compass would agree. But it turns out that this is not merely a pithy aphorism from elementary moral philosophy. It’s actually backed up by the science. That’s right, there is scientific research all but proving the importance of employing honesty in the workplace.

Why is honesty important in the workplace?

          When it comes to human behavior in the workplace, there is a phenomenon known as counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). If it is not obvious from the name, a CWB is any purposeful behavior intended to harm the organization or people in the organization. It can include anything from stealing to purposely withholding effort to intentionally sabotaging a work project to outright violence, and everything in between. Clearly, these aren’t behaviors that we like to see, but the reality is that CWBs cost organizations billions of dollars annually. And aside from the monetary cost, they also create an unsafe working environment for employees and damage employee morale. They are a big problem.

On the surface, it is not difficult to imagine why honesty would prevent people from engaging in these destructive behaviors. An honest person would be extremely uncomfortable stealing because stealing is a dishonest thing to do! An honest person would be extremely uncomfortable withholding effort because that involves dishonestly putting forth a level of competence that is incongruent with reality. Without even diving into the minutiae of scientific research, we can already draw a very clear line between honesty and, well, not engaging in CWBs.

There is scientific research all but proving the importance of employing honesty in the workplace.

Of course, there are other reasons people engage in CWBs and we would never claim that dishonesty is the only one. Situational factors are also important! For example, employees may lash out in response to high stress situations, employees may seek ill-advised vengeance in response to social injustice, and employees may simply be adhering to cultural norms of the workplace that do not discourage CWBs. However, one thing that should be obvious is that when you add dishonesty to the equations of any of the aforementioned situations, CWBs become even more likely!

What is Honesty-Humility?

Within the last twenty years, a new personality model has gained substantial traction in the psychological community. Two Canadian scholars were able to uncover a six-dimensional personality structure, called the HEXACO model of personality structure. This model expands upon the widely supported Big 5 model (which we covered in a previous post) of personality to include a brand new trait called “Honesty-Humility”.

 Much of what makes up Honesty-Humility is right there in its name! High scorers on this trait are honest and they are humble. To get a better sense of what this trait actually looks like, it is broken down into four subcomponents: sincerity, fairness, greed avoidance, and modesty. Thus, high scorers are sincere and genuine in their interactions with others, they are lenient when evaluating others. They are not materialistic or driven by superficial achievement markers like social status, and they are modest, rather than arrogant.

All boxed together, we have a person who is uncomfortable taking advantage of and deceiving others and is most comfortable telling the truth and treating people with fairness. Is it any surprise that such a person is unlikely to steal from their office or purposely waste time at work?

What does the science actually say?

Recent research indicates that Honesty-Humility, is among the strongest psychological predictors of counterproductive work behaviors that we know of! Not just one, but fifteen studies have demonstrated a clear and strong negative relationship between Honesty-Humility and CWBs. That means that the more honest and humble you are, the less likely you are to engage in these harmful behaviors.

Taken a step further, this means that just by administering a specific personality assessment, we can obtain invaluable insights into the likelihood of any given prospective employee to commit CWBs. It is a very powerful finding.

The problem is that organizations are not doing this. The best way to implement this knowledge is to administer personality assessments during the selection process. It is true that organizations already do use personality assessments in this way, but the vast majority of them unfortunately use less valid personality assessments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This is unfortunate because the MBTI is a well-known work of pseudoscience that offers little more insight than astrology.

Fifteen studies have demonstrated a clear and strong negative relationship between Honesty-Humility and CWBs.

But this is not a Myers-Briggs hit piece. This is a call to action for organizations everywhere that value informed decision-making in their hiring processes to consider the utility of validated personality measures in said processes.

Why should Honesty-Humility matter to your business?

Sure, this is interesting to learn about, but what are we supposed to do about it? Well, if you ask me, or any industrial/organizational psychologist for that matter, we would say that we need to utilize this information to make better use of personality assessments in the hiring process.

Although our selection processes are extremely ‘experience’-oriented, employers are quickly moving towards the use of personality assessments in an attempt to glean vital information about an applicant’s candidacy and potential for success. Unfortunately, it is still rare for companies to use scientifically validated instruments to assess applicants’ personalities. Too often, organizations use inconsistent measures of personality such as Myers-Briggs quizzes. Inconsistent, or unreliable measurement of personality leads to inconsistent decisions regarding your hiring practices. Therefore, we highly recommend to any HR professional that they thoroughly vet and require their assessment provider to produce evidence of reliability and validity for their personality assessment.

Honesty in hiring photo
Some of the most important indicators of employee quality like Honesty-Humility aren’t listed on resumes.

Furthermore, with effective personality measurement, you can help guide your workforce towards reducing CWBs. Counterproductive work behaviors cost organizations billions of dollars every year. You can contribute to thwarting the far-reaching effects of this toxic phenomenon. All you have to do is hire honest employees.

If you want to prevent theft, hire honest employees. If you want to prevent workplace violence, hire honest employees. If you want to prevent intentional time-wasting, hire honest employees. If you want to prevent absenteeism, hire honest employees. Honesty, after all, is the best policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Common counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) include intentional time-wasting, purposefully withholding effort, theft, violence, and absenteeism.
  • CWBs cost organizations billions of dollars annually.
  • Honesty-Humility is the strongest personality predictor of CWBs modern psychology has to offer.
  • Honesty-Humility can be measured with a simple personality assessment.
  • If you want to save money, create a safer work environment, and overall prevent CWBs, hire honest employees.

Article by

-Pasquale Tosto, Talent Analyst Research Intern, Workforce Lifecycle Analytics

Task Conflict and Team Performance: The Role of Team Composition and Personality

Bradley, B. H., Klotz, A. C., Postlethwaite, B. E., & Brown, K. G. (2013). Ready to rumble: How team personality composition and task conflict interact to improve performance. Journal of Applied Psychology98(2), 385.

Every Team has Conflict

As groups and teams have become a vital part of almost every business, we are understanding more clearly the benefits and challenges of individual contributors coming together to reach a goal or complete a task. This application of systems thinking is striving to prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, a team has more potential impact than the value of all the constituent individual contributors combined. 

However, all is not perfect when these contributors form a team. Disagreements and challenges are going to happen and task conflict will occur. Task conflict refers to the differences in opinions, viewpoints, or decisions of group members who are collectively working to complete a task.       

Rather than focusing on eliminating the task conflict within a team, it is possible to focus on using conflict to increase team success.

How to Leverage Conflict into Successful Performance

Since we know that task conflict is inevitable on any team, we can work to leverage conflict into successful performance. Many researchers have examined different team variables to improve team success. Scientists have studied characteristics of the conflict, task, and team to better understand teams, conflict, and performance.

One group of researchers, lead by Bradley and Klotz, studied how team members’ personality traits affected task conflict and team performance. Their findings laid the groundwork for business leaders to unlock the full potential of work teams.

Bradley & Klotz Summary

In 2013, Bradley, Klotz, Postlethwaite and Brown published their findings on how team members’ personality traits affected task conflict and team performance. These researchers examined how the Big Five characteristics of personality play a contingency role in the relationship between task conflict and team performance. They focused their research on two of these characteristics; (1) openness to experience, and (2) emotional stability. 

Openness to Experience

Openness to experience is hypothesized to play a part because open team members (characterized by the tendency to be open-minded, imaginative, and curious) are more likely to use successful conflict resolution strategies such as collaboration and compromise. Open members are typically flexible as well which allows for teams to avoid deadlocks where nothing is accomplished. Finally, open members help facilitate discussion during conflict which allows the team to utilize all members’ experience and knowledge. For these reasons, the researchers hypothesized that when team openness is high, task conflict will positively impact team performance. However, when team openness is low, task conflict will negatively impact team performance.

Emotional Stability

Similarly, emotional stability is hypothesized to play a part in the relationship between task conflict and team performance for three reasons. 

  1. Emotionally stable team members tend to use successful conflict resolution strategies that allow the team to reach successful outcomes. 
  2. Emotionally stable people are also less likely to experience anxiety, depression, and hostility. These attributes can lead to improper handling of conflict and lessen performance. 
  3. Lastly, emotionally stable members tend to have a positive view of others and themselves. This makes it more likely that they won’t confuse task conflict for personal conflict. 

The researchers hypothesized that when team emotional stability is high, task conflict and team performance will be positively related. They conversely hypothesized that when team emotional stability is low, task conflict and team performance will be negatively related.


The researchers found both hypotheses to be correct. As team averages of openness to experience and emotional stability increased, the teams were more likely to leverage task conflict for positive team performance.

people having task conflict while working
Photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels.com

Practical Implication

These findings provide any business leader or manager the information to leverage task conflict into team performance. You can capitalize on conflict and maximize performance on any team. Here are 4 practical ways to utilize this research in your business.

  1. Hire people for positions that work exclusively or predominately on teams that are higher in trait openness and emotional stability. Hiring people that are open (open-minded, imaginative, and curious) and stable (composed, steady, and self-assured) can lead to leveraging task conflict to improve team performance. 
  1. Regularly evaluate team composition within your business. Ensure that teams have a proper mix of people with adequate levels of openness and emotional stability.
  1. Prioritize these traits on teams who perform non-routine tasks as these tasks have a higher likelihood of creating task conflict. A team who will have more task conflict will see greater benefit from a higher team average in these traits.
  1. When looking to improve a struggling team, consider replacing a team member with low levels of openness or emotional stability with a new team member that has higher levels of openness or emotional stability. This simple corrective action could have profound effects by raising the team level of openness and emotional stability.
  1. Consider assessing your team personality and giving individual and team composite feedback. Identify if there are any potential performance issues or conflict the team might experience given their levels of openness and emotional stability. 


In conclusion, team members are going to experience task conflict. It is a part of individuals with different opinions coming together to achieve a common goal. Instead of attempting to eliminate conflict from teams, learn to leverage the team personality composition for better performance. The researchers here studied how team personality characteristics impact the relationship between task conflict and team performance. They found with high team levels of openness to experience and emotional stability are positively related to task conflict and team performance. With this information, business leaders and managers can capitalize on the occurring conflict and maximize performance on any team. 

Authors: Jonathon Holsberry & Brandon Jordan

What Kind of Employee Survey Cadence is Best for Me?

Assessing Employee Engagement and Survey Cadence

Employee engagement often leads to more workplace happiness, productivity, and business success. Yet, it can be challenging to understand what drives employee engagement and what can be done to help workers find or rediscover passion in their jobs. 

Because of this, listening to employee opinions is essential in order to discover what is needed to give them a better work experience, whether that be more resources or some other aspect of the employee experience to boost their engagement. In-depth surveys are among the best tools to thoroughly examine the perspectives and ideas of your workforce and use them to guide action planning. Surveys help ensure employees feel heard, increase job satisfaction, promote organizational improvement, and improve the feedback loop. This feedback is invaluable to leaders as they navigate strategic organizational changes. 

There is, however, a challenge to address. How often should employee surveys be sent out? 

Before sending out employee surveys, the appropriate cadence, or frequency for doing so, should be identified. Determining the proper frequency for administering employee surveys may seem daunting, but it is important to take several things into consideration when picking the right survey cadence for your organization. 

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Employee Survey Cadence

The primary goal of administering employee surveys is to audit your business needs, employee performance, and workplace productivity through the lens of the employee experience to determine the best decision-making approach for your organization. Ensuring that surveys are sent out at the right pace lets workers know that their company cares about how they view their work environment.

Besides determining cadence, you should also consider survey delivery dates that will inherently have lower response rates than others. For instance, it is advisable to avoid survey delivery during the peak holiday seasons (e.g., in the U.S. between Christmas and New Year and the week that the 4th of July). SurveyMonkey researchers noticed lower data quality (e.g., faster responses and more missed attention checks) for a survey administered on Thanksgiving than for an identical survey that was administered a week prior to Thanksgiving.

It is a good idea to ask your workers how they are during key times of organizational transformation. During big new tech implementation, organizational restructures, and downsizings allows you to check in on them and how the employee experience is changing. Employees tend to report greater engagement during a layoff if they are surveyed than if they are not surveyed. Surveying employees during these periods lets them know that their input is valuable.

Additionally, consider sending out employee surveys during the slow periods in your company, because workers will have the time to focus on them and allow the questions to resonate with them. However, regardless of when the surveys are sent out, an atmosphere of trust should be developed beforehand to ensure workers are comfortable with completing the surveys. 

How quickly can your organization act on survey results once gathered? Organizational agility in acting on results is one of the most key considerations for how frequently you should survey your workforce. If nothing gets done when they give feedback the first time, they will lose trust in the leadership teams’ ability to act; and participation will lessen over time with trust. They will think, “if nothing is getting done, why should I even give feedback?”. 

Depending on the size, agility, and structure of the organization, recruiting employees to complete surveys, evaluating their feedback, and deciding on the appropriate action to take might take considerable time and effort, especially for small teams. 

man wearing brown suit jacket reviewing employee surveys
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The Consequence of Not Administering Employee Surveys

Imagine flying a plane without gauges. You continue operating the plane without any way to tell if you are moving at an efficient speed, traveling in the right direction, or going to run out of fuel. Flying without this information would almost guarantee disaster.

This scenario is similar to running an organization without proper employee feedback from across business units and levels. Surveys are necessary to create a feedback loop throughout the organization to help gauge significant factors like as morale, performance, turnover risk and efficiency. Organizations can unknowingly move in the wrong direction without collecting information on these operational factors. As organizations grow, and the leaders are further from the front lines, this feedback becomes critically important. The most prominent consequence of not utilizing employee surveys is not having the information to make calculated decisions about improving the organization. Strategic evaluation of and response to employee survey feedback directly impacts business outcomes. 

Essentially, tracking employee satisfaction and directly addressing problems will increase retention and productivity due to more employee engagement and less absenteeism. Highly engaged workers also contribute to a better work environment. Therefore, survey results are an excellent tool to provide leaders with the data to drive employee-focused organizational decisions. Such a tool is needed by organizations on a regular basis.

Conducting Surveys Isn’t Enough; You Must Act

Although surveys are essential for tapping into underlying workplace issues and employee sentiments, they are not enough. Think about the big picture and what you will do upon receiving the results. The results of employee surveys identify problems, but the greater benefit lies in addressing them and creating a better workplace for your employees. The most often cited reason for employee listening strategies and surveys failing is lack of follow through and commitment to action. 

Get leaders involved early. Get their feedback on what you need to measure on your survey and gain their trust and buy-in. Having leaders involved early will help to drive their ownership. The survey should be seen as an organizational initiative from the executive team, not an HR initiative. 

Think about what will be done with the results as soon as possible. How will you create accountability? Many organizations have been successful in creating cross functional steering committee to make the action planning recommendations to organizational leaders. This team of volunteer employee engagement champions can be a crucial element in holding the organizational accountable. 

Consider starting strategic conversations to dive deeper into key problems. Identify what common causes of concerns and negative opinions are. Avoid making a message all about the data and, instead, make it more conversational. Doing so sends a message that you intend to treat employee opinions and suggestions with respect, dignity, and understanding. Group discussions or focus groups could be organized to go over the finer details, but generally, only the most significant points should be addressed in your message. 

Clarify how you’ll turn the results into action. Take practical steps as soon as the opportunity presents itself and demonstrate to employees that their insights make a difference. Doing so will encourage them to continue participating in surveys and will help them understand their voice matters. 

Lastly, do not bite off more than you can chew. Too often organizations try to fix everything. It is best to limit action plans to 3-5 key areas to track action planning progress. Focusing on too much will slow progress and affect your cadence needs. 

man leaning on table discussing employee surveys
Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

7 Things to Consider When Deciding on the Employee Survey Cadence

  1. If you cannot act on the survey results don’t even measure.

Simply put, if your organization lacks the recourses or the inclination to rectify the issues that employee engagement surveys aim to identify, then it is not worth the time and cost of administering these to your employees. Moreover, if you are unable to act on engagement survey results in a timely manner, then those who completed it will likely lose trust in leadership’s ability to resolve problems.

  1. Acting on the survey results

Loop leadership into action planning to ensure that their voice and association with the engagement survey is salient during action rollout and that they are held accountable for delivering on feedback-guided action. Focus on humanizing your message when presenting data and feedback-driven findings to ensure that it conveys that employee needs were the paramount consideration in its development. Take action in a timely manner to establish engagement survey credibility. Lastly, be sure to follow through with your employees regularly to see if the actions you took have made a sustainable positive impact.

  1. Factoring in Technology

It is highly recommended to administer surveys using an online platform of some sort. Paper-and-pencil surveys can be much more cumbersome to distribute and evaluate than computer surveys. For instance, when administering online surveys, a survey hyperlink can be quickly mass-emailed out to employees of interest, whereas, distributing paper-and-pencil surveys and subsequently gathering completed ones involves considerably more coordination. Additionally, the process of data aggregation is much more straightforward when using online surveys. However, you must be cognizant of the fact that some employees may struggle with using technology to complete the online surveys. Because of this, you must address these barriers before sending out the online surveys.

  1. Survey delivery dates

Avoid sending out engagement surveys during the peak holiday seasons. Doing so has been shown to result in more purposeful respondents. Additionally, surveying your employees during times of organizational transformation can give leadership valuable insight on employee sentiments towards the change. Lastly, sending out engagement surveys during slow periods is opportune timing because your employees will have the time to thoroughly consider each question.

  1. Organizational agility

Consider the third-party stakeholders that are needed to approve actions of interest. Identify which of these stakeholders would be affected by survey results and loop them into action planning meetings. Also, determine which organizational levels you will need to buy-in from and identify any bureaucratic roadblocks or other challenges at each of these levels that would delay or prevent you from taking appropriate action and eliminate them prior to sending out the surveys.

  1. Company size

Survey delivery frequency is partially dependent on team size. Small teams are able to complete engagement surveys more quickly than larger teams. Because of this, less time can be allocated to members of smaller teams to complete surveys. However, action response time should be relatively swift if such a team is surveyed quickly. Essentially, use your team size to help guide you to dictate survey completion deadlines and action rollout timing. Do not under-administer surveys if your team has the capacity to respond to them quickly and not over-administer surveys if your team does not.

  1. Transparency

Survey content should be tailored to align with company transparency goals. If organizations wish to convey an in-depth message to their employees, then survey questions that probe for detailed responses should be used. Company transparency goals also affect survey cadence cycles. For example, if feedback-guided action consists of addressing a general finding, then less time can be set aside for action planning and rollout than if feedback-guided action involves addressing a variety of in-depth responses. 

Authors: Brandon Jordan & Michael Trease

Boosting Organizational Performance Through DEI Practices

Sabharwal, M. (2014). Is diversity management sufficient? Organizational inclusion to further performance. Public Personnel Management, 43(2), 197-217.

Incorporating Inclusion into Diversity Management

Many organizations are realizing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Laws are put into place to ensure that there is representation and equal opportunity for all individuals to advance professionally. Even with laws in place to guide organizations, the way that top management implements DEI within their organization may determine the effectiveness. DEI goes beyond having a visually diverse organization. Organizational leaders must help create an environment of inclusion, which recognizes their employee’s full potential.

DEI People of Multiple Colors

Researcher Meghna Sabharwal (2014), seeks to answer two questions, (1) do managing diversity efforts improve performance? And (2) what inclusive behaviors should organizations exhibit to enhance performance? Sabharwal collected data from a survey of Texas public managers for this study. Participants were senior level employees, supervisors, and lower managers. Performance was measured by perceptions of employee’s overall quality and skill level. There were 198 participants 39.4% were male, 70.4% were White, non-Hispanic, close to one-third of the participants were from underrepresented groups. Now, you may be thinking, if I have DEI policies in place then shouldn’t that make my employees feel included? This article would argue that DEI policies are not enough to create an inclusive environment and diversity management is not enough to truly enhance workplace performance.

Diversity Management

Ivancevich and Gilbert (2000), define diversity management as “the systematic and planned commitment by organizations to recruit, retain, reward, and promote a heterogeneous mix of employees”. Diversity management might include some of the following areas: mentoring programs, succession planning, family-friendly programs, alternative work arrangements, and so on. One of the issues that has come from some of these programs is the perception of preferential treatment or favoritism being shown towards those who utilize the resources. For example, some single mothers might be given work arrangements to balance their work to home life and because of that they are labeled as being on the “mommy-track” and therefore may be taken less seriously. The issue clearly is not the policy in place that gives working mothers the accommodations they need to have a job and raise a child, it is the organizational environment that is not inclusive of those who may require different arrangements. So, the first finding from the article is that diversity management is good but does not equal an inclusive organizational environment.

DEI People with Hands In Middle

Organizational Inclusion

What is organizational inclusion and what makes it different from diversity management? Gasorek (2000) described inclusion as the achievement of the following: “how employees and their ideas are valued and utilized; how people partner within and across departments; how current employees feel that they belong and how prospective employees are attracted to the organization; how people feel connected to each other and to the organization and its goals; and finally, how the organization continuously fosters flexibility, choice, and diversity”. This suggests that there needs to be a shift in focus from an overreliance on policies and structural changes to creating an environment that promotes inclusiveness.

One of the most important steps to take when creating an inclusive environment is having leadership that is committed and supportive of the differences among their employees whatever they may be. Hiring a diverse workforce and saying “look my organization is inclusive” is not going to give you the outcome you are looking for, in fact it could actually be counter-productive in some cases. Your employees have a lot to contribute and regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, background, sexual orientation, etc. organizations should seek to eliminate the barriers that are inhibiting their employees from reaching their full potential. For example, let’s say you go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk, but you pour out half because you only needed half a gallon. It’s a waste! Organizations could be wasting the valuable skills and unique experiences of their employees by not including their ideas and perspectives. Utilizing different perspectives could give your organization a competitive advantage and increase the quality of work output (Benedick et al., 2010; Miller, 1998).  The second finding of the article is that an inclusive organizational environment helps to boost employee performance.

With that finding comes the question, “how do I create an inclusive environment?” Sabharwal found that much of the current literature suggests that an inclusive environment that boosts employee performance can be created in a few ways…

  1. Willingness to engage in positive interaction
  2. Building a vision and active strategy for inclusion
  3. Information sharing
  4. Recognition of employee contribution
  5. Creating a sense of belongingness among employees
  6. Open communication 

Putting Findings into Action

From the research, Sabharwal found that organizational performance is the most efficient when 1.) diversity management is coupled with support from leaders and 2.) when employees are empowered in making decisions. Additionally, it is important to note that although having policies that recognize and support individual differences in the workplace is important, it does not always lead to an inclusive organizational environment.  To create the most productive workforce, diversity management and an inclusive environment should be present. The leaders of the organization should create an environment that empowers its employees to contribute to the organization beyond their day-to-day tasks, to voice their opinions, share their ideas, and reach their full potential. 

Ready to take action? Here are some starting points.  

  1. Dedicated leadership is a must. For policies to be implemented and organizational cultures to change, top management has to be dedicated to making it a part of the organization. Your organization’s leadership are the role models, and they should be setting the example that everyone else is to follow. 
  2. Inclusive behaviors should reach all levels of the organization.

Inclusive behaviors can be demonstrated by leadership, but it does not stop there. Leaders should empower employees at all levels to demonstrate inclusive behaviors. 

  1. Employees should be empowered to create an inclusive environment.

Employees should be empowered to contribute to the culture of inclusivity. Encourage them to share their ideas on how the organization could better reach the goal of being inclusive. 

  1. Individuals should be a part of the decision-making process.

When employees get to have a say in decisions that affect their work and the organization that they work in, they feel valued, they feel heard, they feel respected, and they feel included. 

Author: Cassidy Jordan

Old Wine in a New Bottle: Lessons on Quiet Quitting from Psychological Science

What is Quiet Quitting?

There is some confusion around this and really the term has a branding problem. What quiet quitting is really trying to get at is inequity in the employee-employer relationship. It means that if employees feel undervalued and overworked, they tend to disengage and reduce their productivity to reach an equilibrium. On one hand it is good that employees are drawing a line in the sand and asserting themselves to avoid burnout and being taken advantage of. On the other hand, the “quiet” part invokes feeling of insubordination and disrespect from leaders and managers. Employers need to recognize the issue within the organizational culture, subcultures, and the employee experience before employees feel this way in their thoughts and feeling leading them to behaviorally check out. 

Times are Changing

Many who perhaps grew up in a time where the psychological contract (the unwritten agreement between employee and employer that they would mutually take care of each other) was still prevalent and strong compared to present day feel a more traditional sense of duty to their organizations and leaders. Conversely, more recent generations, seem to feel more empowered and are staying in their jobs for shorter periods. Often having multiple branches in their careers. This has been exacerbated by the recent pandemic and shifting priorities across the workforce for a more dynamic employee experiences that values balance, wellbeing, flex/virtual/hybrid work, inclusivity, and a sense of purpose, more than it has in the past. 

But Quiet Quitting Isn’t THAT New

But in reality… quiet quitting is nothing new. Psychologically and behaviorally people tend to seek equilibrium in their social relationships. Whether that is a business exchange, with friends, family, or at the workplace. It seems that employees now just have more leverage than at any other time in history. The truth is that social, behavioral, and workplace scientist and organizational psychologists have been studying the theories, antecedents, consequences, behaviors, and outcomes associated with quiet quitting for over 70 years. Just under a different and perhaps more apt name… 

woman in red long sleeve shirt sitting on chair while leaning on laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Quiet Quitting Through the Years 

Social Exchange Theory

Let’s look at Social Exchange Theory as a possible parallel to quiet quitting. Social Exchange Theory asserts that there is an exchange or tradeoff in relationships, whether that is a social, romantic, or even workplace relationships. It is a cost-benefit analysis; if the amount of effort being put in is not being matched by one party, then the other might begin to reduce their input or even withdraw from the relationship altogether. Here is an example… an employee is feeling burnt out because their employer is overloading them with work and they are not getting recognized for their hard work, they may begin to withdraw their effort and attention at work to restore balance. There is the cost-benefit analysis. The inequity in the employee experience manifests in the cost of their mental/physical resources and job satisfaction needs not being met with the benefit of being valued, recognized, appreciated, or compensated appropriately for all the work they are putting in. Essentially, Social Exchange Theory and quiet quitting are describing the same phenomena. 

Quiet Quitting as Equity Theory

Another way to look at quiet quitting is through the Equity Theory. Equity Theory actually stems from Social Exchange Theory so you can see how these three phenomena are similar. Equity Theory focuses on the distribution of resources between relationships. This is determined by the same cost-benefit analysis we discussed with the Social Exchange Theory. If individuals feel that there is a lack of equity in the relationship (under-reward or over-reward) they will experience distress and seek to restore the equity by exerted more or less effort. In other words, relationships should have equitable distribution of resources. 

Quiet Quitting as Organizational Justice

The last step in our timeline is organizational justice. This theory of human behavior at work deals with employee perceptions of the practices and management of an organization. It applies the previous two theory of general human behavior to the workplace and provides some nuanced insight on how the employee perceptions play out. There are sub-components of organizational justice which are distributive justice, procedural justice, and interactional justice. The idea behind organizational justice is that employees make their judgements regarding fairness of organizational practices, if their judgement is negative then this may result in an attitude change, drop in productivity, quiet quitting, or actual turnover.  

Distributive Justice refers to the fairness of decisions and outcomes as well as the distribution of resources. The simplest example of this is pay. If an employee perceives that there is inequity between their level of productivity and how much their peers or other people at their level in the same industry are being paid, they may reduce their output, or quiet quit.  

Procedural Justice refers to the fairness of a process that led to certain organizational outcomes. This might be things such as promotions, hiring decisions, merit increases, or implementing a new training system for a certain job family. These are all examples of organizational decisions and within those decisions employees will evaluate the fairness of how they were implemented, the outcomes that followed, and how that compares to their own experience. The most clear example of this might be nepotism in hiring and promotion practices. Where employees that should have been hired or promorted based on performance or merit are passed in favor of employees with good relationships with leadership. Procedural justice is more about the process and transparent communication regarding a decision that was made, whereas distributive justice is more about the outcome. 

Interactional Justice refers to the interpersonal treatment that an individual receives as decisions are made and after. In other words, are employees who are being affected by a decision that was made treated with respect regarding these decisions. For example, employees may feel injustice if a supervisor decides to promote an employee and gives no rationale or feedback to any of the employees considered for the role. Treating the other candidate with respect and being transparent about the decision can build respect rather than sowing dissent. 

Informational Justice refers to the process of providing fair, accurate, timely information to all regarding decisions that are made and procedures that are in place. Informational justice is specifically about transparency. All of these justice perspectives are a way to look at quiet quitting. It involves an employee’s perception about processes within the organization, they evaluate it as either favorable or unfavorable and they act according to that evaluation. 

letter tiles in close up photography
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What Leads to Quiet Quitting? 

So, we have discussed all of the terms and theories that quiet quitting has been studied under in the past. What we are trying to convey here, is that quiet quitting is not new. So, since we now know that we have been studying this concept for years, what do we know about it? What leads to quiet quitting? Quiet quitting is basically just doing your job and not letting your job take over your life. It is almost like a rebellion against “hustle” culture. Some have regarded quiet quitting as doing the bare minimum, but this isn’t necessarily accurate. It is more accurate to say that has engaged in quiet quitting has just decided to not go above and beyond at work, especially when they are not seeing an equitable exchange for that additional work. If an employee is feeling burnt out or taken advantage of at work, they may decide to withdrawal resources or decrease the amount of effort they put in at work. It is the act of the employee drawing a hypothetical line in the sand to balance their inputs and outputs. At the ned of the day it is deficits in the employee overall employee experiences that lead to disengagement and quiet quitting. 

Why do employees engage in quiet quitting?

 We have already alluded to this a little bit, but it really comes down to the cost-benefit exchange. Employees bring valuable resources and information to organizations, think of these resources as “inputs” (i.e., what the employee brings to the table). In turn for these resources employees receive things in return, such as compensation, benefits, etc., think of these as “outputs” or what the organization gives the employee in exchange for their inputs. When there is a discrepancy between these inputs and outputs this would be the time employees might engage in quiet quitting. For example, let’s say a manager is deciding between two employees for a promotion. Employees 1 and 2 have similar education, they have both been with the company for the same amount of time and have about the same skill set. But employee 1 consistently goes above and beyond to train/mentor other employees even though that is not a part of their job description. Employee 1 is contributing to more input than employee 2, but employee 2 was still given the promotion. This decision might lead employee 1 to decrease the time and effort they put into training and mentoring because they were not rewarded for that extra effort. 

How to Help the Quiet Quitters

One of the main benefits we hope organizations will see by addressing issues related to quiet quitting is simply a more positive employee experience. The first important things to note is that top management has to take action to decrease and prevent the trend of quiet quitting. If the root cause of quiet quitting is cost-benefit imbalance, there is not a lot on the employee side that can be done other than to withdrawal resources – in comes leadership. If you don’t want your employees to retract valuable resources, then make sure that they are rewarded equitably for their work. It is more than just rewarding or compensating employees for their work, it is about supporting them in that work as well; what does this mean? Show your employees you care! Show them that you see their hard work, you appreciate their hard work, and you want to offer them support where you can. This might look like encouraging your employees to set work-life boundaries or giving more realistic and manageable workloads. It seems like we are offering very basic advice for a very complex problem and maybe it isn’t enough, but it is a start. One of the best ways is to begin with measuring employee experience and engagement to better understand how their employees feel about the work culture, the work load, leadership, etc. Hearing feedback from your employees about the state of your organization is the best way to diagnose the root cause of organizational issues, once you know the causes then you can move forward on finding the right way to address them. One of the main benefits we hope organizations will see by addressing issues related to quiet quitting is simply a more positive employee experience and we think it is a worthy and attainable goal to work towards. 

Authors: Brandon Jordan & Cassidy Jordan

Ability and Motivation on Employee Performance: Implications for Hiring

Van Iddekinge, C. H., Aguinis, H., Mackey, J. D., & DeOrtentiis, P. S. (2017). A meta-analysis of the interactive, additive, and relative effects of cognitive ability and motivation on performance. Journal of Management, 44(1), 249–279. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206317702220

Employee performance, the thing all organizations wish to maximize. But what are the key things that influence employee performance? Specifically, what attributes do individuals possess that determine their performance on the job? According to Organizational Psychologists and researchers Iddekinge et al., it was indicated that there are two things that interact together to influence performance: cognitive ability and motivation. 

Motivation is defined by researchers Diefendorff & Chandler as “an unobservable force the directs, energizes, and sustains behavior”. It is the central force that influences performance by directing an employee’s attention, resources, and energy towards a task; and it dictates the amount of effort they may expend in order to achieve that goal. Motivation is present in many aspects of our lives. The force that makes you want to go to the gym (or insert something you actually enjoy doing), is the same force that drives you to complete a long-term project at work.

Cognitive ability, defined by researchers Hunter & Schmidt as “the capacity to mentally process, understand, and learn information”, is another critical element to employee performance at work. Cognitive ability allows employees to acquire, process, and use knowledge specific to the job in order to effectively perform job tasks. For example, if an employee is asked to learn a new computer program for their organization, they must be able to read, research, train and understand how this new program works so they can use it appropriately and potentially train other employees to use it as well. In other words, cognitive ability is how good employees can learn fast, to become better and better at more and more. 


In a meta-analysis by workplace scientists Van Iddekinge et al. they tested the common belief that employee performance is a result of the interactive combination of cognitive ability and motivation. Meaning, that these two elements combined improve performance in a multiplicative way to impact employee performance more than they do by themselves independently.  Meta-analyses are an examination of several independent studies over the same subject, and it attempts to determine what the overall trend is amongst those studies. In this meta-analysis the authors collected research studies (published and unpublished) that included measures of cognitive ability, motivation, and performance. Once they collected all the data output, they also requested the original data from the authors. That data was then used to calculate the multiplicative effects of cognitive ability and motivation on performance for each of the studies used. 

The authors used 56 independent studies (in this case the samples are articles from previous studies looking at cognitive ability, motivation, and performance) to test the proposed relationships. Additionally, all the studies that were included were either conducted in field settings that reflected job or training performance or laboratory settings that were designed to simulate job or training performance. Only studies that used objective measures of cognitive ability (such as: quantitative, verbal, or spatial ability) were included. Finally, they used the meta-analysis to dive into explaining the differences in cognitive ability and motivation in what magnitude they influence performance. 

Cognitive ability and motivation are good predictors of performance, this is true, but what Van Iddekinge et al., highlights is that both do not necessarily have to be present for one to influence performance. It is like saying that two people have to be present to change a lightbulb. One person can effectively change a lightbulb, right? So, motivation can influence performance on its own and cognitive ability can influence performance on its own. To say it a different way, an individual who is highly motivated but didn’t perform well on a cognitive ability assessment is not necessarily going to be a lower performer than someone who did well on the cognitive ability assessment and is not very motivated. In short, cognitive ability and motivation are separate indicators of employee performance. Iddekinge et al., (2018) discusses this longstanding belief in detail. The authors wanted to test the relationship between cognitive ability and motivation to see if the variables exerted additive or multiplicative effects on performance. Those words have very specific meaning in the context of managerial science, so we broke them down a little more. 

Additive effects: the effects of cognitive ability and motivation on performance are independent of each other, both do not have to be present for one to influence performance. 

  • Cognitive ability 🡪 Performance
  • Motivation 🡪 Performance 

This relationship holds that cognitive ability and motivation can separately impact performance. Meaning, an individual can display lower levels of motivation but could still be a good performer if they display high levels of cognitive ability. The same goes for those lower in cognitive ability. Maybe an individual scores average on cognitive ability, but they display high levels of motivation, so they are still meeting organizational standards. This means that cognitive ability can influence performance on its own and motivation can influence performance on its own. 

Multiplicative: When one is low in cognitive ability, they will demonstrate low levels of performance regardless of the level of motivation and vice versa. Maybe this looks like a brilliant employee who is extremely lazy or a really motivated person who struggles to catch on to new tasks. It makes sense in either of these situations that performance might be lower.

  • Cognitive ability x Motivation 🡪 Performance

Basically, this hypothesis asserts that performance levels will likely be lower if an individual does not possess high levels of BOTH cognitive ability and motivation. Or that performance levels will be the best when individuals are both brilliant and very motivated. 


So, which is better, cognitive ability or motivation? The short answer is both are important, and one is not necessarily better than the other. They both influence performance in different ways. This is important because if one were to assume that an individual can only be a good performer if they are both highly intelligent and motivated then you may underestimate that extremely motivated and hardworking individual who isn’t a math genius or that leisurely, slow working individual who is an excel wizard. It might be possible, in some cases, that being high in one of these things can compensate for lower levels in another. 

If your organization wants to hire candidates who are likely to perform well, should you hire individuals who are highly motivated and perform well on cognitive ability assessments? Having both would definitely be a bonus but could also consider hiring an individual who may have scored low in cognitive ability but shows high levels of motivation. Now, let’s say that you hired a bunch of employees because they had high scores on a cognitive ability assessment, but they are still performing below your organization’s performance standards. This might mean you have a motivation problem. These are just a few examples of how the two might trade off in certain circumstances. 

To break it down further, think of it this way. 

  1. Being high in both cognitive ability and motivation is good. In fact, in some cases there is incremental validity, meaning there is a slight increase in your high performing employee who possess both high levels of cognitive ability and high level of motivation.
  2. Being high in one can still be good as they can compensate for each other (i.e. they predict performance independent of each other).
  3. Being low in both cognitive ability and motivation might present some problems.

You see the dilemma? We can’t begin to influence performance accurately unless we know the how and why behind the relationship of the things that we believe are predicting performance. Iddekinge et al., (2018) point out some other reasons why it is important to consider how motivation and cognitive ability are influencing performance. Here are some implications for talent management practices… 

  • Since the evidence in the study indicates cognitive ability and motivation are more additive in nature (and influencing performance independently) organizations should measure both to identify top performers. 
  • Evaluating both cognitive ability and motivation independently before hiring can inform if a candidate will be a good performer. They can potentially score lower in one domain and still be a good performer. 
  • Perhaps setting a minimum or average score cutoff across both of these dimensions to identify who may be a potential good hire. 
  • Ability is a better predictor of objective performance measures like sales output and productivity.
  • Motivation is a better predictor of supervisor rated performance. 
  • Interventions aimed at improving motivation, increasing employee engagement for example, should focus on employees of all ability levels.

Here’s the main take away, organizations might be missing out on valuable candidates by trying to hire those that are high in both of these areas. This research shows that while being high on both is better, these dimensions can compensate for each other. 

Employees high in motivation and low in cognitive ability may just need a little more training and time to learn while those employees that are very smart and not very motivated may need more encouragement or a more supportive environment to drive their performance. Keep both in mind when assessing performance and remember not to disregard applicants who may have lower levels of one (i.e., cognitive ability or motivation) compared to the other, they may still be a good performer!

Actionable Steps

If you read all that and you are wondering what to do if you encounter these problems, here are some suggestions. 

  1. Use both cognitive ability and personality measure of conscientiousness (detail orientation, dependability, need for achievement, etc.) when hiring new employees. 
  2. Evaluate your organization levels of motivation and employee engagement to help shape the organizational environment to support your employees with lower levels of motivation. 
  3. Make sure you are using a good cognitive ability measure. Consult and IO psychologist for help! Or do some google scholar searches and see what current research is supporting and go from there. 
  4. Know what your organization needs. Your current needs will determine if it is more important to focus on improving motivation or cognitive ability.  
  5. Know what your employees need. Those who have higher levels of cognitive ability may learn faster than those who score lower. Know what employees might need additional training. 
  6. Try a needs analysis. Evaluate employee performance and then create an intervention based on those findings. 

Authors: Cassidy Jordan, Thomas Ayres & Brandon Jordan

Role Breadth: Are Two Roles Better Than One?

Morgeson, F. P., Delaney-Klinger, K., & Hemingway, M. A. (2005). The importance of job autonomy, cognitive ability, and job-related skill for predicting role breadth and job performance. Journal of applied psychology, 90(2), 399.

What is role breadth?

When I was younger, I worked at a fast-food restaurant. I noticed that while most of my peer coworkers and I each held the job title of “restaurant team member”, we performed very different jobs and all had very different responsibilities. I mostly worked at the cash register and interacted with customers over the drive-thru intercom. Other employees were trusted with cooking, baking and preparing orders, and a couple of employees were trusted with being slotted into any sort of role. Often, this last group had been with the restaurant longer and had accumulated a variety of job-related skills during their tenure. These were the employees who were given priority for overtime shifts and were flagged for promotion into management positions at other store locations. In other words, the employees who performed the greatest variety of job tasks were also considered the “best” employees.

The term role breadth is used to describe how many different tasks or projects a person performs in their job.

Similar to my coworkers at the fast-food restaurant, it is often assumed that people with the same job will perform slightly different sets of tasks and different numbers of tasks. In other words, it is easy to notice that people with the same job within the same organization have differing amounts of role breadth. This is often apparent across job levels as responsibility increases. Organizations desire employees who are motivated to seek out more responsibilities and wish to broaden their roles and who are capable of doing so. Because of this, it is not a surprise that both practitioners and researchers are interested in finding out why some people are more likely to broaden their roles than others. More role breadth among employees certainly sounds like it is a positive thing for their organization, but what is a specific, tangible benefit to employees broadening their roles?

What leads to more role breadth and what is an associated benefit of it?

Organizational psychologists and researchers Morgeson, Delaney-Klinger, & Hemingway looked at the relationship between employee role breadth and several job and worker characteristics among a sample of over 800 administrative employees. One factor associated with someone broadening their role is having the freedom and discretion to choose how and when to complete various job tasks. Understandably, more job autonomy gives people more opportunities to expand their roles by attempting new tasks and exploring ways to perform familiar ones.

Additionally, having a high level of job-related skill will likely lead to role expansion because if someone performs well on the job tasks they are initially assigned, then their supervisors will be more likely to trust them in handling more job responsibilities.

On a similar note, those with high cognitive ability are more likely to broaden their roles on the job. The term “cognitive ability” gets thrown around frequently within the employee testing domain and it can sometimes be used vaguely and leave some confusion around what exactly it is. Educational psychologist Linda Gottfredson defined cognitive ability as a general mental capacity that among other things, involves the ability to reason, solve problems, and comprehend complex ideas. It reflects more of a broader and deeper capability for “making sense” of our surroundings rather than academic skill.” It makes sense that having a higher level of cognitive ability supports role expansion because being able to quickly “make sense” of one’s surroundings by effectively solving problems is conducive to performing most job tasks. Being able to handle most job tasks will lend to someone’s ability to quickly get a grasp of any task they are assigned and take on incorporating more things into his or her job sooner than an employee with lower levels of cognitive ability. Additionally, if a supervisor sees someone quickly get the hang of a job task, then they will likely expedite the role broadening process for that employee themselves. Essentially, employees with greater than average cognitive ability and job-related skill will be more likely to self-promote themselves into role expansion and receive promotion into role expansion from their supervisor.

What, then, is a specific benefit of role breadth? The sample of administrative employees provided evidence that those with more role breadth had better job performance. This finding suggests that employees can strive for better performance ratings and career advancement through role expansion by demonstrating their competency in tasks they are initially assigned so they can be trusted with handling more job tasks. Essentially, an employee who competently performs several job tasks will likely be seen as a more valuable employee than one who performs a fewer number of job tasks. 

What are some key takeaways and how can employees be given more opportunities to broaden their roles?

  • Give employees more discretion in how their work is performed
    • It is apparent that some jobs inherently give their incumbents more autonomy than others (Ex: web designers have more autonomy than fast-food workers or administrative employees). So, it is worth keeping in mind that simply giving workers more job autonomy may not be feasible or even desirable in a lot of cases. For example, if fast-food workers deviate from how a particular meal is made, whether that be the process of making it or its recipe, then it will be more likely that customers will be dissatisfied. That is, meal preparation might take too long if a fast-food worker deviates from the standardized process or a customer might be unpleasantly surprised if they receive a meal that differs from their expectation of what is standard. 
  • Employee development and stretch goals
    • Self-efficacy is often a component of increased role breadth. In other words, the more confidence someone has in their abilities, the more likely they will be to perform a job task well and take on additional tasks. Creating stretch goals and aligning employee develop is key for improving ability to take on more. 
  • Employee training and coaching
    • Low self-efficacy in a particular area could align with specific training needs. In other words, if employees lack confidence in their ability to perform a specific task, then they may need more or better training to do so. 
  • Employers can measure cognitive ability when hiring
    • As found in this study and others using a cognitive ability measurement tool for employee hiring is one of the best in terms of predicting employee performance. Especially at higher levels as inferred by the strong relationship between role breadth and cognitive ability. 
  • Self-generated feedback to build self-efficacy (rather than unsolicited advice/feedback)
    • Another route to take in boosting employee self-efficacy is encouraging the use of self-generated feedback. Self-generated feedback could be collected from employees by having them complete some sort of goal accomplishment report prompting them to describe how the work they completed differs from their assigned work. Essentially, having workers identify the gaps between the work they were assigned and work they completed will allow them to evaluate how well they have met work assignments. Researchers John Ivancevich and Timothy McMahon found that self-generated feedback was more effective at improving performance over time than feedback provided by a supervisor among a group of engineers. 

Authors: Michael Trease, Thomas Ayres, & Brandon Jordan

How to Maintain Employee Engagement Levels High Once Your Company Starts Growing

Employee engagement is the critical aspect of workplace happiness, regardless of internal and external circumstances. It’s not a fading trend or a buzzword; employee engagement is a critical part of a comprehensive business strategy.

High engagement levels indicate a great employee experience and result in profitability boost, increased productivity, higher customer satisfaction, and better retention. Because of that, business leaders and HR professionals should continuously strive to create an environment and employee experience that motivates workers to focus. To really immerse themselves in their assignments. 

This especially applies to startups and companies in industries that have been particularly affected by the economic downturn caused by Covid that are scaling up operations and hiring again. Yet, there is some evidence that a very low percentage of employees are engaged.

Fifteen percent are actively disengaged, an increase compared to June 2020. Companies that are rapidly growing must avoid turnover at all costs. They can’t scale up successfully without efficient and productive workers ready to help new coworkers integrate into the workplace. 

Here’s what you should know about how to maintain employee engagement levels high if you’re scaling up your company.

What challenges do companies encounter when rapidly growing?

Scaling up requires a thorough strategy and preparedness to react to unexpected circumstances fast. When a company undergoes fast growth, its structure typically changes.

That often means new control mechanisms and hierarchies, resulting in decreased flexibility and agility. Thus, introducing new departments, teams, employees, and stakeholders can cause reporting and chain of command to become messy and inefficient.

..employee engagement is a critical part of a comprehensive business strategy.

That tends to affect overall motivation and performance in the workplace. Because of that, it’s crucial to be mindful about scaling up and identify strategies to engage the staff and make them feel comfortable with the scope of ongoing changes.

But despite how much you plan, issues will inevitably happen. 

1. Recognition – A Low Risk High Reward Investment

People will probably be proud to work for a growing company because that also means additional possibilities for them. But with time, they may start showing dissatisfaction because they can’t keep up with the change, new coworkers disrupt the team dynamic, or they feel you forget their needs. 

Moreover, company culture will likely transform (adapting to business growth,) making it difficult for your longest-standing hires to fit in. 

2. You Might Recruit and Hire Too Fast

Budget approval for team expansion is exciting, but you should avoid rushing the process. You may hire new employees too fast. Instead of increasing in team size, ensure you’re recruiting and hiring the most compatible workers that fit the role. 

If you overlook details, you risk hiring people who aren’t the right culture fit or lack critical skills. As a result, team cohesion could suffer, affecting the overall productivity and engagement levels. 

3. Communication Could Become Messy

Companies are like children. They grow up too fast!

Before scaling up, your meetings likely meant that all departments and team members would sit together and discuss projects, plans, and announcements. But when a company grows, most units have their own meetings, creating data silos and affecting collaboration.

If employees are unaware of what the other departments are doing and have no access to information they need for their assignments, they could become demotivated and unproductive. 

5 Tips on How to Maintain Employee Engagement Levels High When Scaling Up

1. Set Clear Objectives and Expectations

It’s crucial to have a sense of direction while scaling and determine what has changed with business goals in the future. Be transparent about new expectations. Discuss how new departments, team members, and stakeholders will affect the job roles and responsibilities. 

Ensure that nobody feels confused about their position in the workplace and knows what to expect. Otherwise, your earliest employees could start losing motivation, questioning how much will the scope of their work change. Questioning if their jobs are becoming redundant. 

Because of that, you should track their daily needs and potential. Set SMART objectives for your staff as that helps them strive towards achievable results and understand their assignments. 

2. Provide Regular Feedback

Everyone likes to know that their effort contributes to something bigger and isn’t pointless. Because of that, employees need regular and constructive feedback. It gives them insights into how they can improve and how much they have accomplished. 

If that doesn’t happen, they will start doubting that their work is meaningless and that it makes no difference how much effort they put into their tasks. Feedback inspires employees to work harder because it reassures them that their input matters.

For example, 69 percent of workers say they would put in an extra effort if they felt their achievements get sufficient recognition. Thus, highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week

Know the signs to look for.

3. Ensure Continuous, Transparent, and Open Communication

Foster transparent communications across all departments and levels to ensure everyone has access to the information they need to perform their work well and collaborate. Discourage gatekeeping information because that prevents employees from completing their assignments and getting the necessary resources.

Regular meetings and data sharing are essential, especially in rapidly growing companies. For instance, 86 percent of employees cite a lack of collaboration and communication for workplace failures. 

Invest in stable collaborative platforms and ensure that your teams work efficiently regardless of their location. Establish the necessary tech infrastructure and encourage employees to share ideas with their team members and other departments.

4. Reinforce Company Culture and Values

In a growing business, it’s crucial to reinforce the company culture and remind your staff that there might be some changes, but the essence remains the same. That will reassure employees that the core workplace values, objectives, and conditions will stay the way they were from the beginning. 

Company culture was one of the principal reasons employees chose and stay with your organization. Because of that, you must nurture its identity and continue striving towards the original mission. 

..despite how much you plan (when scaling,) issues will inevitably happen. 

5. Gather Feedback on the Employee Experience and Employee Engagement

Finally, you should track and measure employee engagement levels, regardless of your company size and scaling up ambitions. Otherwise, you won’t know what you’re doing well and what requires tweaks. Making decisions about your strategy, policies, and practices without employee feedback is like a doctor trying to make some heart or lung diagnosis without a stethoscope.  

The first place to begin in creating an engaged workforce is to listen to your employees’ needs. Moreover, these insights allow you to engage workers using strategies that work best for your company and staff.

Implement the right metrics and KPIs to track how you are improving the employee experience through your organization development efforts based on this needs analysis. Use engagement, entry, and exit surveys to identify what drives engagement and retention in your workplace and how you can enhance your efforts. 

Key Takeaways

Employee Engagement is of paramount importance for high-performing workplaces with happy employees who feel an intrinsic motivation to go the extra mile. Because of that, business leaders and HR professionals should continuously create initiatives and motivate their staff.

However, it’s also necessary to track and measure the efficacy of your strategies. That requires data-driven approach and relevant analytics that tap into employee engagement. 

Article by

-Brandon Jordan, Workforce Lifecycle Analytics

Closing the Scientist-Practitioner Gap: Can Personality Defeat a Pandemic?

Yi-Feng Chen, N., Crant, J. M., Wang, N., Kou, Y., Qin, Y., Yu, J., & Sun, R. (2021). When there is a will there is a way: The role of proactive personality in combating COVID-19. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(2), 199-213.

Synopsis By: Caroline Deal & Brandon Jordan

Introduction on Personality

Personality clearly plays a substantial role in our lives. It impacts everything, such as how an individual interacts with new people, chooses a partner, organizes their living space, and fulfills their job responsibilities.

In light of the pandemic, research by Chen et al. delves into what role a proactive personality may play in combating crises – specifically COVID-19. Their study sampled healthcare professionals in Wuhan, China shortly after the crisis began and found evidence that having a proactive personality can have advantages that significantly increase an individual’s ability to persevere and thrive in challenging times. These advantages are relevant to other obstacles in different spheres of work as well.

First, some important definitions:

  • Proactive Personality – the dispositional tendency to create environmental change; proactive people scan for and create opportunities, demonstrate initiative, and persevere when facing obstacles.
  • Strengths – personal characteristics and abilities that enable greater performance and higher energy levels.
  • Strengths Use – the ability to make use of one’s personal strengths in a way that energizes the individual and empowers them to achieve peak performance.
  • Well-being – this refers to the state of one’s physical and mental health. It was measured in terms of resilience (can recover and bounce back from difficulties) and the ability to thrive (can prosper and succeed).
  • Routine Disruption – this refers to an individual’s schedule changing from a typical schedule to an unpredictable one as a result of an event.
  • Perceived Organizational Support – the extent to which an employee feels that the company they work for supports and cares for them.

“having a proactive personality can have advantages.. to persevere and thrive in challenging times.”

The researchers hypothesized that proactive personality would play a role in improving job performance and well-being in times of crisis. These benefits have applicability in any workplace and help to uncover the roles of several factors that affect routine disruption, perceived organizational support, and physical exposure to the virus.

Key Findings

  1. People with higher levels of proactive personality were more likely to engage in behaviors that utilized their strengths
  2. When employees utilized their strengths, job performance increased
  3. Resilience and thriving, the two components of well-being, were both benefitted when employees utilized strengths
  4. When employees felt supported by their organization, they were still able to utilize their strengths even in the face of routine disruptions
  5. Physical exposure to the virus impacted the relationship between strengths use and job performance such that higher exposure was linked to a greater performance bonus, meaning when employees were exposed to the virus, utilizing their strengths was more important for effective performance
A flowchart illustrating how personality affects resiliance.

To break down these findings a bit, this essentially means that proactive personalities lead to the creation of more opportunities to utilize one’s strengths. These individuals draw on their own unique characteristics in a way that contributes to getting work done better than before. By expressing their strengths, they re-energize themselves and can capitalize on what they are good at to tailor an experience to their values. Naturally, this leads to greater performance in the workplace as these individuals are more invested in what they are doing and can adapt and change their environment to overcome new obstacles successfully.

To give an example of this in action, consider a nurse treating patients in a rapidly filling hospital. Perhaps she is exceptionally skilled at consoling patients who are about to undergo treatment. When COVID hits, she sees it as an opportunity to use her ability to console others during a time when little was known about the effects of COVID or the method of spreading it. She then capitalizes on her ability to help people feel less stressed and may even use it to help her coworkers become more effective by consoling their worries about this new virus.

By using her ability to ease patients’ fears and comfort coworkers during an unexpected crisis, patients feel less stressed and are more likely to go through necessary procedures without hesitation, and coworkers are less likely to make errors as a result of feeling stressed. Therefore, she has altered the environment in a way that increases the rate at which patients are in and out of the hospital and has improved the performance of coworkers.

The ability to shape an environment in a way that allows individuals to better meet their needs by using their abilities contributes to increased resilience and ability to thrive. These two measures of well-being are especially important in overcoming crises such as an unexpected pandemic, the death of a staff member, or even tensions created by war.

By expressing their strengths, they re-energize themselves and can capitalize on what they are good at..”

Proactive individuals shine especially in times of stress and uncertainty, as shown by the positive relationship between proactive personality and strengths use during times of routine disruption. High levels of perceived organizational support are an important ingredient in this combination, meaning that if a proactive individual believes their company cares for and supports them, they will be able to better capitalize on their proactive personality and the benefits it brings in times of chaos.

Recognizing Proactive Individuals

Proactive individuals play a crucial role in the workplace during times of crisis. So, the question arises: How do you recognize an individual with a proactive personality? Here are some characteristics that proactive individuals typically possess:

  • High levels of initiative
  • Ability to bounce back after a setback
  • Energized by opportunities to utilize their abilities
  • Unafraid of change
  • Seeks out opportunities for growth
  • Able to motivate themselves
  • Always looking for new and better ways of doing work

Both are relatively equal in terms of consistency and linking to the desired outcomes, so it all depends on what you want to assess your applicants for!


An active approach to work ultimately results in higher levels of job performance and well-being during times of crisis. By using their strengths to alter the workplace environment in a way that improves how work is done, proactive individuals create opportunities to bring out the best of their abilities. Through doing this, they align their work with their values and become more invested in it, leading to greater performance.

They excel especially in times of chaos and disruption and are more equipped to handle the mental toll if they feel that their organization supports them. They strive to make the process of doing work better and are constantly searching for ways to improve. To them, obstacles are chances to become more efficient and improve the process of work.

Workforce Lifecycle Analytics specializes in identifying personality traits. Our assessments are scientifically driven and specially developed to recognize characteristics in employees – because proactive individuals just might make the difference between success and failure, especially during times of crisis.

Improving Diversity Through the Hiring Process

Finding diverse talent has never been easier, but how do you set new hires up for success? It starts with fair and objective recruitment and selection. Hiring candidates without an inclusive and valid selection process is like grocery shopping for a new recipe without looking at the ingredient list. Unfortunately, you’ll most likely forget some ingredients and the entire flavor of your dish may be a little off. Hiring, much like cooking, requires a diversity of different parts. Employee screening can take multiple forms, such as structured interviews, cognitive ability, and personality assessments. In this post, you will learn more about improving the hiring process through pre-hire assessments and adverse impact analyses.

When should you use a pre-hire assessment?

Hiring teams must first carefully identify and consider the problem before purchasing or building an assessment. HR practitioners in coordination with hiring managers must first isolate (through job analysis and competency modeling) which skills, knowledge, and observable abilities and other characteristics new hires must have on Day 1 and which are the most important for success. Hiring teams may go even further to define requirements as related to the organization’s values and purpose.

After defining and reviewing requirements, carefully consider the outcomes that are in need of improvement. Many teams do not give enough critical thought to why they want to assess candidates. Is the assessment used to help drive better employee performance? Is the objective to reduce turnover? Perhaps to increase the sales revenue new representatives generate within the first 6 months of joining? Assessments alone do not improve diversity; however, they can help teams target improvements around a specified objective. Personality assessments are indeed one of the most unbiased tools with regard to diversity. There are dozens of assessments on the market and each assessment has its strength for improving certain outcomes. So, focus on defining those outcomes first before looking into assessments.

Hiring candidates without an inclusive and valid selection process is like grocery shopping for a new recipe without looking at the ingredient list.

What makes a hiring assessment fair?

Fairness is largely related to a candidate’s perception of the assessment. Perceptions aside, if you’re using assessments for hiring/selection, they should be job-related (valid) and reliably predict job performance. Generally, an assessment is considered valid if it truly measures what it is intended (a proxy for desired behavior on the job) and scores on the assessment are correlated with the job-related outcomes you wish to improve. Test vendors will usually provide and technical manual or validation studies to show validity and job relatedness. They’ll also describe any sort of lie detection or impression management measures included in the assessment. The more validity evidence a vendor can produce and the larger the number of individuals included in the studies, the more confidence you can have in that assessment.

people riding carousel in park
Not the type of “fair” we’re talking about.

At the same time, pre-hire tests vendors should be able to show they have internal consistency and test-retest reliability. Internal consistency and reliability means the items are intercorrelated and are measuring the same general intended construct. To check test-retest reliability, scores on the assessment should be fairly consistent if given to the same person each time they are assessed.

Validity and reliability are the very basic things to consider when developing or selecting an assessment, however there are several other factors to consider as well.

What is adverse impact and why should you measure it?

Adverse impact is the unintended negative effect a biased selection procedure/assessment/tool has on a protected class. When protected groups are discriminated against unknowingly during a selection process, like a hiring or promotion decision, it creates adverse impact. In the US, protected classes include race, national origin, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation) age (40 and over), religion, disability status, and veteran status.

It is important to investigate and document if your selection tools and processes show any evidence of unfair treatment. If you have a biased process or assessment in place, you can be open to legal risk. Employers in the public and private sectors, employment agencies, unions and joint labor-management committees controlling apprentice programs are subject to nondiscrimination laws. Conversely, government contractors and subcontractors are subject to non-discrimination executive orders. Measuring and mitigating adverse impact ensures compliance with applicable laws and executive orders. But most importantly, it broadens the pool of applicants and is just plain good business.

It is important to investigate and document if your selection tools and processes show any evidence of unfair treatment. If you have a biased process or assessment in place, you can be open to legal risk.

Measuring Adverse Impact

In hiring, adverse impact can be measured across the entire hiring process (percent of applicants who are ultimately hired) or segmented by each step that screens out candidates (resume screen, pre-hire assessment, interview). The SHRM recommends first finding if adverse impact exists for the overall selection process for each job.

If the overall selection process has an adverse impact, the adverse impact of the individual steps should be analyzed. In its most basic form, measuring adverse impact involves checking the ratio of hires to applicants for each protected class. Then, you must look for differences within each of these classes to see if one subgroup is disproportionately screened out. This is known as the Four Fifths Rule.

 Other methods of affirming adverse impact such as the z-test and Fisher’s Exact test (which measures the impact seen as statistically significant along with a check of ratios) are standard procedures. They’re great methods used to find adverse impact. Organizations should utilize these as part of their evaluation of hiring procedures.

asian lawyer working with laptop near scales of justice
H should lead to interviews in the office, not in here!

What is the relevant legislation affecting diversity in hiring methods?

            In regards to diversity, there are several decades of case law surrounding employment decisions. Case in point, all criteria used in decisions must be valid (job related) whether it is objective or subjective via Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977 (1988). This is a build on the Albermarle Paper Company v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405 (1975) case where the job-relatedness concept was highly reinforced. The Supreme Court found that even though the employer had employed a professional psychologist to demonstrate a correlation between the job performance rating and test scores, correlations were only illustrated in 3 out of 8 job groupings where the assessment was applied. In this instance, the employer did not conduct any job analysis.


First, define your objectives when screening out applicants. Next, use appropriate pre-hire screening steps combined with impact analysis. If you do this successfully, you’ll have a winning recipe which results in the reduction of bias in hiring. Diversity is built into the culture and hires are prepared for the job when you have a processes guided by clear objectives tracked over time. Finally, if you have any questions feel free to reach out to the experts at Workforce Lifecycle Analytics. Happy hiring!

Other relevant hiring diversity resources:

Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic right now. But how can your business ensure that hiring the best people coincides with building a diverse office?

Disclaimer: This post does not replace legal counsel.

Article by

Brandon Jordan
Brandon Jordan

As founder of WLA, Brandon leverages his experience in talent and organizational development to help businesses grow. Prior to WLA, Brandon worked for Willis Towers Watson, IBM, Kenexa, and Batrus Hollweg Intl. Brandon has a BA in Psychology from the University of North Texas and an MA in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from the University of Tulsa.