Personality and Dynamics of the Millennials
Returning from a long hiatus, this marks the first of a series of post dealing with personality and its dynamics.
Why analyze personality? From an academic perspective, it is very interesting. And from a workplace perspective, more than relevant. The better we understand ourselves and other people, the more successful we’ll be in dealing with people and situations, and importantly, getting it right. Psychology could be termed an academic discipline, but understanding personality it is a much more practical subject, especially in a workplace. It is about using psychology to your advantage in everyday situations, to ‘get’ people, to influence, help and support, to get your point across, in a way that’s right for you, to better understand and shape decision-making, to motivate and manage people, and deal with conflict and most importantly to understand and manage our own impact on other people.
From a leadership perspective, it helps to understand if your team member is someone who tends to hold back initially and think things through, or ‘speak out loud?’. Do they exhibit a blunt directness or tactful diplomacy? Do they like to get the job done before chilling, or do they chill then get the job done? Communication and flexibility are important aspects of being a leader, and understanding the personalities of your employees can help you improve both. Knowing how your employees are likely to adapt in different situations will allow you to put them in positions where they are primed to succeed. Isn’t that the very definition of a leader? By doing so, not are you laying the foundation for your team be more successful, but you will also have a better grasp on when employees are reaching out of their comfort zones, which can help you determine what projects they care about. For example, if a typically introverted employee becomes more extraverted on a certain project, it may be a clue that she cares about the project enough to step outside of her comfort zone. This can start an important discussion about her/his priorities and preferences, and allow you to draw out her best work in the future. Understanding your co-workers’ and employees’ personalities is an indispensable part of being a good leader. Awareness of personality helps reduce stress in the environment, cultivate healthier working relationships and develop healthier lifestyles.
The test, test takers and data
An in-house test was developed by the resident Neuroscientist, Dr. Marcia Goddard. The test aims in deciphering and understanding the personality of the test taker (referred to as candidates going forward) in 38 facets shown below. (The tests and metrics are all in Dutch. English translation where possible are given. Mind you some of these Dutch terms do not have a direct English equivalent.)
|S. No||Personality Trait||English Translation|
|4||besluiten nemen||decision making|
|5||commercieel vermogen||commercial mindedness|
|6||contactvaardigheid||ability to make contact|
|11||doorzetten||not giving up|
|13||feedback geven||giving feedback|
|17||inleven in anderen||empathy|
|34||prestatiemotivatie||motivation to do well|
The test was taken by roughly 15000 (predominantly Dutch) candidates, of diverse background, ranging from young people (14 yo) to old (80 yo), with educations from middelbare school and all the way up to PhD graduates, with specialization from Engineering to Psychology.
While the preliminary analyses caters to all candidates, some simplifying assumptions were made to the final analyses to achieve better targeting:
- Restrict the data to only the millennial generation
- Simplify the education discipline to Technical (Engineering, Economics, etc.) and Non-technical (Psychology, Business studies, etc.)
- Remove all missing values
The data provides both an in-depth and broad research into personal qualities, and opens up perspectives to provide insight into development opportunities to suit the needs of the workplace.
The age distribution of the candidates look like a Weibull distribution, with the mean and median ages at around 24 and 23 respectively.
The gender distribution looks as below, with men totalling approximately 2/3rd of women.
The education level and discipline, and multi-lingual abilities are distributed as below.
This concludes the exploratory analysis. All the subsequent analyses will investigate the dynamics of personality traits with candidate attributes like gender, age, education level, education type, multi-lingual abilities. In this piece, we begin with gender. Given the sample is not random and confined to a particular geography and demographic, one may not generalize the results of the analyses to a wider audience. Do so at your own risk!
Gender and Personality: A quick statistical discourse
People perceive the differences between men and women to be large. The saying ‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ and countless other examples from popular culture reinforce this view of significant differences between the sexes – but is it accurate? Men and women have clearly different biological roles when it comes to propagation of the species. Understanding ‘how much’ they differ psychologically is a question that requires empirical research to answer adequately. This is the objective of this first analysis.
Personality is often conceptualized as the extent to which someone displays high or low levels of specific traits. Traits are the consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviors that a person exhibits across situations. That is, someone who scores high on a trait will exhibit psychological states related to that trait more often and to a greater extent than individuals who score low on that trait. In this study, gender differences in personality traits are characterized in terms of which gender has higher scores on that trait, on average, corrected for their sample sizes using appropriate techniques.
Before any analysis, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the structure in the data and visually examine trends, if any.
One might note the lack of vivid trends, but might observe the ‘islands’ dominated by each gender (denoted by blue and red). This indicated a reasonable level of ‘separation’ between the genders. Separation in this context implies differences in personalities. Its important to note that there is no evidence of statistical significance yet.
There are noticeable differences in the mean values as shown by the box plot, but again, there is no evidence to support (or disprove) their statistical significance.
Adding a simple binary classification model to the data reveal a similar picture.
The logit model shows that integrity, empathy and judgement are the 3 most important factors that are indicative of the genders. An incorrect way to interpret this would be a gender having absolute integrity while the other has none. A better way to state this would be that in the sample of candidates, there is a noticeable difference in the overall scores between the 2 genders. Same interpretation ought be extended to the other personality traits.
At this juncture, it is important to note that the male sample is roughly 2/3rd that of women. Thus the imbalance in the sample sizes need to be corrected with ‘effect size’. Cohen’s D is used to assess the effect sizes (though η2 is also used just to corroborate the Cohen’s D effect sizes. The 2 measures have good agreement).
|ability to make contact||6.03||6.15||0.08||small||0.002||small|
|not giving up||5.18||4.80||0.24||small||0.013||small|
|motivation to do well||4.59||4.57||0.01||small||0||small|
Though there are no large effects, the medium effects still signifies significant differences between the genders.
It is interesting to note that women have a higher scores in empathy, integrity, service mindedness and client oriented-ness, traits one might usually associate more with women. Men have scored higher in assertiveness, a trait one would usually associate men to be good at. Associating a gender doing better in decision making and judgement is not trivial, but among the millennials who took these tests, men seem to score better than their female counterparts.
The intent of this series of analyses is to break the gender stereotypes (especially in a work setting) and help kickstart a constructive and a progressive discussion on how to be sensitive towards the personality differences between the genders. After all, an imbalance within the genders isn’t the best way towards its Nash Equilibrium!
This concludes part 1 of the personality analysis. The subsequent analysis would investigate the effects of other attributes like age, education level and type and lingual ability.