Outgoing Workers Can Be Trouble

July 1, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - That chatterbox in your office may be a nice guy, but that doesn't mean he's getting anything done - and he may be a future problem source, according to new research.

Generally, these so-called extroverts have been seen as energetic, assertive types who often excel at work, particularly in jobs requiring lots of interaction with others. But the combination of being highly outgoing – but less-than-conscientious – may make for the most counterproductive of employees, according to a study presented recently at a meeting of the American Psychological Society.

“We sometimes call them ‘high-maintenance,”‘ study author Alan Witt of the University of New Orleans in Louisiana told Reuters Health.

Stirring Up Trouble

Yet, perhaps in part due to their perception as “nice” or “friendly,” supervisors tend not to recognize the potential problem.  Witt found that while extroverted, conscientious employees were least likely to be rated counterproductive, those less-than-conscientious extroverts reportedly stirred up the most trouble at work.

These employees, while outgoing, can also be described as “immodest” and “reckless” and are likely to be irresponsible, ineffective, and “sure to let others know when there is a problem,” Witt pointed out.

According to Witt, pre-employment testing that has sought to predict job candidates’ performance has traditionally been somewhat simplistic–essentially asking whether employees will “do the core job well,” and not whether they’re likely to be counterproductive overall.

In his study, Witt considered 105 employees of a private company whose work was largely project-based. Employees completed questionnaires that yielded scores for extroversion and conscientiousness–the tendency, for instance, to think before acting or to follow workplace rules and norms.

On the other hand, conscientiousness had little to do with job-performance ratings among employees who tended to keep to themselves – the so-called introverts. According to Witt, counterproductive behavior among these employees may go unnoticed, or their tendency to not “make waves” may make managers less likely to view them as problem employees.

In general, he said, “introverts usually don’t get into too much trouble.”