An Integrative Typology of Personality Assessment for Aggression
Mark N. Bing, Susan M. Stewart, H. Kristl Davison, Philip D. Green, Michael D. McIntyre and Lawrence R. James conducted a study entitled An Integrative Typology of Personality Assessment for Aggression: Implications for Predicting Counterproductive Workplace Behavior. They developed a new integrative approach on the basis of self-reports and conditional reasoning with a view of distinguishing certain types of personalities who are prone to display aggression. Implicit and explicit aggression is associated with counterproductive behavioral patterns that may disrupt normal functioning of an organization or any team. Therefore, their study has significant implication in terms of its applicability to real-life situations, for instance, various organizations. The main idea of the study is that it helps reveal persons who are likely to behave aggressively both in implicit and explicit ways using the integrative typology for personality assessment. Such typology can bring positive results in terms of hiring screening processes, executive couching and team composition.
Prior to the study under consideration, researchers used to employ either self-report or conditional reasoning as main instruments. However, the authors supposed that using one of the instruments might be not enough to measure likelihood of aggression in any settings. Thus, they decided to combine self-reports with conditional reasoning along with application of peer assessment at the stage of field study, which resulted in the development of the integrative typology of personality assessment. Hence, self-reports were intended to reveal person’s self-assessment in terms of aggressiveness and prosocial behavior. Conditional reasoning was meant to reveal whether studied objects were likely to engage in implicit aggressive behavior and whether conscious self-images complied with the subconscious ones. In order to develop the Conditional Reasoning Test of Aggression, the authors used the theory of justification mechanisms that served to justify aggressive behavior, which included: “hostile attribution bias, potency bias, retribution bias, victimization by powerful others bias, derogation of target bias, and social discounting bias” (Bing et al. 723). Developed tests were offered in two versions: paper and visual-verbal.
Combination of two methodologies enabled the authors to suggest the integrative typology and distinguish four main types of personalities when combining both methodologies without account for several possible intertypes occurring across the continuum between aggression and prosocial behavior. They include latent aggressiveness, manifest aggressiveness, prosocials and overcompensating prosocials (Bing et al. 725). Manifest aggressiveness is among the most easily distinguishable types as they both perceive themselves as aggressive and display tendency towards explicit aggressiveness. Besides, such personalities apply reasoning and justification mechanisms to justify their aggressive behavior and explain it in a rational way. Another easily distinguishable type is prosocials as they perceive themselves and behave accordingly. They are friendly, supportive, reliable, non-aggressive and helpful. Moreover, they tend to think of others in the same way and do not try finding some hidden motives of human actions. Thus, they usually do not display any counterproductive behavior. Latent aggressiveness seems to be the most difficult type to distinguish, especially when using only self-reports. Such personalities perceive themselves as not aggressive when in fact they tend to display implicit and passive aggressiveness and engage in counterproductive behaviors. The main difference between manifest and latent aggressiveness is that the latter engages in counterproductive behavior that can be easily justified and may be deemed as a passive aggressive act, for instance, filing of complaints, silent treatment of colleagues, etc. Overcompensating prosocials are difficult to distinguish based on self-reports only as they perceive themselves as aggressive, but rarely engage in any counterproductive behavior. Such personalities possess rigid self-control and try to inhibit aggression, which often occurs at expense of their socialization due to their constant self-monitoring and rigidness. However, despite their self-perceptions, they rarely display any aggressiveness, either implicit or implicit, and refrain from any counterproductive acts, meaning that they are prosocial.
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The authors developed three hypotheses in order to prove effectiveness of their tests with a view of observing behavioral patterns of four integrative types of personalities. These hypotheses may be summed up as follows: “manifest aggressiveness will obtain the highest levels of active counterproductive behaviors. Alternatively, … overcompensating prosocials will obtain the lowest levels of active counterproductive behaviors”; “latent aggressiveness will obtain the highest levels of indirect counterproductive behavior. Alternatively,… prosocials will obtain the lowest levels of indirect counterproductive behaviors”; “prosocials will obtain the highest levels of prosocial behavior. Alternatively, … latent aggressiveness will obtain the lowest levels of prosocial behavior” (Bing et al. 726). The authors conducted three studies to test their hypotheses with one in a laboratory setting, one in a university setting and one in an organizational setting with the latter being of utmost significance in terms of applicability of the suggested theory in real-life situations. The study in the organizational setting was supplements with peer assessment of study subjects with a view of revealing passive aggressive behavioral patterns. All three hypotheses proved to be true, although findings slightly deviated between laboratory setting and field study with the former being more prominent and distinguished. The authors found out that manifest aggressiveness was more likely to be explicitly aggressive at workplace, while prosocials were likely to engage in prosocial behavior and assist their colleagues. Latent aggressiveness turned out to have a tendency towards passive aggressive behavior, which would be nearly impossible to detect only when using self-reports as such persons perceived themselves as prosocial. An interesting direction for future researches would be to study whether latent aggressiveness displays implicit aggressiveness consciously or subconsciously. Contrary to this third type, overcompensating prosocials perceived themselves as aggressive, yet they were the least likely type to engage either in active or passive counterproductive acts. The study proved that integrative typology might be a valuable instrument in the organizational setting, especially in terms of its ability to detect implicit aggressiveness that led to passive counterproductive behavior. It is so that “workplace complaints and grievances can have serious financial and wellness consequences for both employees and the company …and ‘workplace aggression … [can] prove extremely damaging to individuals and organizations’” (Bing et al. 739).
The authors determined three key practical applications of their integrative typology of aggression that could improve organizational settings. First application consists in the fact that outcomes of the study could be applied in the process of personnel selection with a view of screening out certain personality types based on needs and requirements of a company. The majority of organizations search for prosocials as they tend to be the most beneficial team members and rarely disrupt normal functioning of the workplace. However, some companies may need people with signs of manifest aggressiveness who would not be afraid to act in an aggressive and assertive manner for the benefit of the company. People with signs of latent aggressiveness seem to be the least required type in the organizational setting, but most hiring managers employ only self-reports in the personnel selection process, hence increasing chances of employing representatives of such type due to their positive self-perceptions. On the contrary, hiring managers may result in making false negative decisions when failing to hire overcompensating prosocials. It occurs due to the fact that they have negative self-perceptions and may be rigid in terms of their social skills, but at the same time they rarely act in a counterproductive manner and are prosocial in behavior. Second application relates to team composition as most organizations now use teams as basic organizational units and, thus, need credible instruments to find team members with certain character traits. Therefore, integrative typology of personality assessment for aggression is a useful instrument for selecting required team members in the process of team composition. Third application of the study outcomes concerns executive couching aimed at revealing and eliminating executive’s weaknesses and enhancing his/her strengths. Executive couches may benefit from using the study outcomes relating to provision of “feedback relevant to the integrative typology in a way that does not overly stigmatize or psychologically harm the executive and instead leads to an enhancement of self-knowledge with respect to the executive’s strengths, limitations, and potential for professional growth” (Bing et al. 741).
Although, self-reports, especially well-developed ones, are considered as a valid instrument for assessing personalities by various parameters, such instruments have certain limitations that may obscure or even distort findings. It, in turn, may result in making incorrect decisions relating to human resources management in the organizational setting. The study under consideration proves that the use of self-reports fails to adequately assess persons for aggression and does not provide sufficient information for credible distinction of personality types in terms of their likelihood to manifest implicit and explicit aggressiveness. Self-reports do not detect, for instance, latent aggressiveness in the prevailing majority of cases, since such persons perceive themselves as prosocials. Such omission may have negative consequences for the entire organization if people with latent aggressiveness start engaging in passive and covert counterproductive behavior that can rarely be deemed a reason for their termination due to its legitimate justification. Another limitation of self-reports is a risk that persons may provide inaccurate or intentionally false information to build better relationships with human resources managers. Sometimes, people lack sufficient self-perception skills and deceive themselves, which would result in inaccurate self-reports. Finally, “self-reports concentrate on measuring explicit or conscious cognitions, which include self-perceived characteristics, or self-attributed emotions, values, beliefs, and behaviors” and fail to assess subconscious or implicit cognitions that play a crucial role in shaping a personality (Bing et al. 722). Therefore, self-reports are a powerful and valid tool when it is used in combination with other methodologies like cognitive reasoning as it is the case with the study under consideration.
Having considered all above represented information, the authors offer a valid instrument with a wide scope of applicability. Integrative typology of personality assessment for aggression allows performing accurate evaluation of employees’ and executives’ strengths and weaknesses with a view of making optimal decisions in the organizational setting. The authors acknowledge certain limitations of their study, yet they prove all three hypotheses in laboratory and field settings. It means that the integrative typology of personality assessment may be successfully employed in the process of personnel selection, executive couching and team composition.