Working in the health insurance industry has given me the opportunity to meet hundreds of interesting people from all walks of life – customer service, doctors, patients, teachers, motivational speakers – you name it and they all have individual differences. Individual differences include personality, motivation, intelligence, and biodata (PSU, 2019). In any setting, it is always tricky to learn someone’s personalities and adapt to them. Over the years I have become more self-aware of parts of my own personality that may be difficult for others to deal with around the time when I moved from New York out west while I was in high school. My priorities, sense of humor, and interests were different than those around me in this new small town and I needed to do a lot of self-reflection to realize not everyone was like my friends back home. I think the experience of me moving around a lot has allowed me to become not only aware of my own image but also other people’s personalities. This brings me to one person in particular and my ongoing experiences with her. Since personalities can play a key role in how a work environment is perceived and run, they should be reviewed and monitored to see if adjustment is needed.
I have had the “pleasure” of working with a supervisor in particular that I will call Lucy. Lucy has been in the insurance industry for approximately 15 years and while does have a large amount of knowledge and background in the field, I feel as if her personality can sometimes get in her way. The Five-Factor Model of Personality reviews five traits of personality including conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion. The first thing that comes to mind is her neuroticism. Lucy can get pretty hostile when she doesn’t agree with someone and will impulsively send out disrespectful emails.
During one my employee’s first few months dealing with Lucy, they disagreed on how the business should a certain matter. She thoroughly explained my stance, provided supporting documentation, consulted with their peers, and covered all the bases. Lucy was overheard saying that she couldn’t believe someone so new to the position (not the company) would question her and was cursing under her breath. She fired back an email to my employee, copying my up-line and hers, belittling their opinion, experience, and the research on the topic. I was shocked! I had been warned this may happen but didn’t think this would even warrant such behavior. Differing opinions can allow for learning and innovation for any organization, however, that’s not what happened here. Eventually, the employee’s stance was heard and later adapted by the organization.
Lucy went on to tell other leaders about this employee’s poor work ethic and bring up this situation over the next few months during random times. Lucy also would include any other professional disagreements and personal opinions about their style. I can’t say for certain if this kept them from getting promotions but I’m sure it didn’t help. Eventually this feedback got back to me and I knew I had to have it addressed. Her abusive behavior to the employee was unethical because it was creating a hostile work environment and harming them. It seemed as though she was was using her power as a supervisor to try and scare them into agreeing, but also punish them if they did not.
I would also say the Lucy would fall low on the agreeableness and openness scales. Agreeableness is defined as being able to trust others, be accepting, and having the ability to conform (Northouse, 2016). Lucy did not show these personality traits in this example and the countless others that happened after it. Lucy failed to accept anyone else’s ideas and adapt to change. While my employee would be more described as having the openness trait, Lucy also would not have this. Openness to experience is a way learn, grow, and adapt, however, Lucy refused to do any of these. Lucy was stuck in the way the company did this 15 years ago and did not want to even talk about the possibility of changing how it handled a certain situation. Counterproductive workplace behaviors correlate higher with those who are less agreeable and are more neurotic (Joy, 2018).
While Lucy is not a psychologist, I still rated her behavior against the APA Code of Ethics. Principe A Beneficence and Nonmaleficence comes into play here because of the harm she was doing to another employee, damaging their reputation, and overall badmouthing them just for disagreeing with her when it was done it a completely professional way. This lead her to misuse her influence as a member of management. Principe E was also violated as it says, “respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination” (APA, 2010). Lucy would have been considered as breaking code 3.04 Avoiding Harm and 2.03 Maintaining Competence. I thought Maintaining Competence was an interesting one to apply here because of how Lucy failed to see the situation from another side that was more relevant to the times and was stuck in an old policy that had been outdated. The employee’s policy, in the end, ended up implemented and if Lucy had been open to the new ideas, she could have been park of that success.
Lucy’s inability to overcome her negative personality traits led her to make decisions that were unethical, including creating an unhealthy work environment for her fellow co-worker. Her impulsiveness, inability to be open, and her lack of agreeableness ended up making her an example of what a team player doesn’t look like, resulting in her being put on steps for her behavior. Her need to be right should have been outweighed by her desire to remain open and learn. Thankfully, Lucy is no longer in a position of power and has since transferred to a separate department. In the workplace, it is crucial that one tries to work as a group or a team to create success for the company.
American Psychological Association. (2010, June 1). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments.
(Links to an external site.) Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/
Joy, D. C. (2018). Exploring the relationships among leader personality, leader social intelligence, and follower distress (Order No. AAI10684844). Available from PsycINFO. (2020527129; 2018-09131-106). Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/2020527129?accountid=13158
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
PSU. (2019) PSY Unit 04: L08 Individual Differences and Personality. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/u04-overview?module_item_id=25808466