The importance of the business-focused personality: why self-awareness is key during COVID-19

BIP-6F co-author Richard Hossiep Jr spoke to us from home this week – about working from home – and how our work personalities are best suited (or not) to the task. After obtaining undergraduate degrees in both business administration and psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organisational Psychology from the University of Manchester, Hossiep Jr is now research assistant to the Chair of Organisation, Human Resource Management and Innovation, as well as being employed at the research training group Trust and Communication in a Digitised World. Hossiep Jr is an organisational consultant, specialising in the area of occupational assessment, and co-founder of a start-up in the digital assessment sphere.

1. You are the co-author of the BIP-6F personality assessment, which is focused on work-related personality traits. How could identifying these traits be useful, particularly now where people are altering their perceptions of work and ‘the workplace’?
First of all, if possible I do think it’s most useful to use work-related personality questionnaires – people might behave differently in their work life than in their private life. In psychology, there’s a concept of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ situations. In strong situations, people behave according to the situation and personality has relatively little impact – in ‘weak’ situations there are no clear rules – and we’re currently in a so-called ‘weak’ situation, where there is a lot of room for personality to play an important role. People are probably reacting very differently right now; coping differently. Some will be worrying about the world beyond them and what the economic sphere might look like, some will be focused on work, some will be concerned about community or friends and family. And some might be feeling like they can finally get work done – that the office distractions are gone, and they feel more productive. Personality in a ‘weak’ situation like the Covid-19 pandemic is more important and more telling than ever.

2. Can you break down the importance of some of the BIP-6F’s personality factors (Ambition, Cooperation, Discipline, Dominance, Stability and Social Competence) when it comes to working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic?
What I would clearly see is that Stability is one of the important factors in keeping your head up and not losing control – emotionally, and workwise, being sure you can cope with the work. It’s impossible to leave work at work; work is at home now, and separation from work-life integration is even more crucial now. Cooperation is, of course, another key factor, and this is something that the BIP-6F can measure very well. Naturally the other four factors will also come into play – Ambition with regards to motivation; Discipline when it comes to being able to keep to a schedule (and perhaps not revert to watching Netflix in the middle of the day); and Social Competence can be related to extraversion and reaching out.

3. What would you say are some of the key personality attributes relevant to the current work climate – for instance, around working from home and adapting to change? And how can it help to know these things about oneself?
I would really highlight the importance of cooperation – it’s one of the major things that comes out in the BIP-6F that is not as prevalent in other personality measures, such as the Five-Factor Model, and that can be key in a remote working situation. You still need to socially interact right now; very few people can perform their jobs without any contact with others. Self-awareness is also especially important in a time of change; seeing what others are seeing in you or seeing things about yourself you’ve never had to consider when working in an office. Knowing what areas or personality factors a person may need to consider about themselves can help them adapt to a big change.

4. Given what you know of personality as it relates to the professional landscape, what would you say are some of the most relevant or important traits when it comes to leading in a time of crisis?
Acknowledging and being open about the challenges is important right now, and leaders who can do this are probably going be more successful when motivating a team. Focusing on the positives while still being genuine. Ambition, discipline – these things still come into play of course, but social competence is going to be even more important, and making sure a team can stay connected – including the challenges each team member faces in terms of childcare, home office set-up, broadband connections, and how they’ve adapted themselves to working from home – is going to be very important in the current situation. Vision, strategy, social competence, cooperation – are all crucial.

5. In this current climate, with teams working more remotely than ever before and adapting to new circumstances, how can personality measures make a difference when looking at a team’s structure and development? How can they help with teambuilding?
There’s virtually no chance for ‘grapevine’ or any informal chat right now. When you’re part of a longstanding team this might be fine; you know each other’s quirks and how best to communicate in any situation – but especially in very new teams or with new projects, it will be important to find out how best to work as a team. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to share personality results within a team; but the first step is for each person to be aware of their own personal behavioural preference. There’s no easy way to get visual cues in terms of other team members right now, so understanding ourselves and how we tend to behave or interact with others can be even more crucial. There’s no small talk, no side conversations, no easy way to develop a working relationship right now – so it’s about finding new ways to develop meaningful working relationships; it’s about self-awareness.

About the BIP-6F

More than a short version of 200-item Business-focused Inventory of Personality (BIP), the BIP-6F is a self-rating questionnaire containing 42 items which – in contrast to the BIP – tap into six broad higher-order dimensions (Ambition, Discipline, Dominance, Stability, Cooperation and Social Competence). In contrast to many other assessments of personality, the BIP-6F has a clear and distinct professional focus. This is evident in two ways: firstly, only professionally relevant personality traits are included; secondly all of the statements in the questionnaire are business-focused: behaviour and personality outside of work are not covered. The BIP-6F can be used in selection, development and coaching.