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Personality Assessment and Crisis Management: A Brief Literature Review

01 Sep 2012

As part of a proposal to obtain business with a large European security organization, Hogan Assessment Systems (HAS) conducted a review of the existing literature on the relationship between personality and effective crisis management. We summarize these findings in reference to the Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), a seven-scale assessment of normal personality characteristics (Hogan & Hogan, 2007) and the Hogan Development Survey (HDS), an eleven-scale inventory of derailing personality characteristics (Hogan & Hogan, 1997).

We define crisis management as the ability to contend with dynamic negative events. These events occur when human life is under the threat of a current or impending emergency. In times of crisis, it is important that respondents are trained or experienced and possess inherent characteristics suited to handle such situations. Despite its importance, published research on the effective prediction of crisis management is sparse. What research does exist demonstrates the value of using personality instruments to select individuals who are likely to perform well in times of crisis.

Elizabeth Jordan (1997) conducted a job analysis on multiple occupations within specific fields of emergency response. The sample consisted of 13 marine fire fighting trainees, 14 industrial fire fighting trainees, 34 hazardous materials response trainees, and 36 land based fire fighters undergoing marine fire fighting training. Across all emergency responders, the ability to be decisive under pressure (HDS Cautious), remain calm (high HPI Adjustment), and not be thrown by a traumatic situation (high HPI Adjustment) were deemed important for success. Overall, Jordan summarizes the agreement trends she found by stating, “all respondents essentially agreed on the importance of characteristics associated with teamwork, personal responsibility, and problem solving” (p. 1; HPI Sociability, Prudence, and Learning Approach, and HDS Bold).

Rhona Flin and Georgina Slaven (1996) found similar results when investigating the performance of offshore petroleum installation managers (OIM). OIMs are responsible for coordinating the efforts of offshore employees during emergency situations. Flin and Slaven’s research indicated that successful OIMs take command and control of situations (high HPI Ambition), remain calm during crisis situations (high HPI Adjustment and low HDS Excitable), and are viewed by others as fun loving, sociable and humorous (high HPI Interpersonal Sensitivity, high HPI Sociability, and high HDS Colorful). An ability to make decisions quickly (low HDS Cautious) also predicted successful OIM performance.

Bjorn Lau and colleagues (2006) investigated the personality characteristics and coping strategies of Norwegian police officers. Crisis management is critical for successful police officer performance. Once again, research found that stress tolerance threshold (high HPI Adjustment) was a principal marker of success. Johnson (2005) found similar results when investigating relationships between stress tolerance (high HPI Adjustment) and job performance across multiple high crisis environments, concluding that individuals working in the same occupation will experience different degrees of stress due to factors such as personality and other resources available to them. Johnson stated that, “it is not possible therefore, to say that all people working in a certain occupation will experience the same amount of stress. It is however, reasonable to state that employees working in high-risk occupations will have an increased likelihood of experiencing negative stress outcomes” (p. 180). In summary, this research demonstrates the importance of personality in predicting effective performance during times of crisis Specifically, high performing individuals (a) tend to be stress tolerant, calm under pressure, and confident (high HPI Adjustment); (b)take initiative and are leader-like (high HPI Ambition); (c) and are outgoing and effective communicators (high HPI Interpersonal Sensitivity and high HPI Sociability). Furthermore, potential derailers include (a) an inability to be decisive when it matters most (high HDS Cautious) and (b) difficulty keeping one’s emotions under control (high HDS Excitable).

Instruments such as the HPI and HDS, which measure the personality characteristics that predict successful crisis management, can help organizations both select and train individuals to deal with emergencies effectively and at minimal costs to an organization.

References

  • Flin, R., & Slaven, G. (1996). Personality and emergency demand. Disaster Prevention and Management, 5, 40-46.
  • Hogan, R., & Hogan, J. (2007). Hogan Personality Inventory manual (3rd ed.). Tulsa, OK: Hogan Assessment Systems.
  • Hogan, R., & Hogan, J. (1997). Hogan Development Survey manual. Tulsa, OK: Hogan Assessment Systems.
  • Johnson, S. (2005). The experience of work related stress across occupations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20(2), 178-187.
  • Jordan, E. (1997). A study of frameworks held by emergency response personnel. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago Ill, March 24 -28, 1997.
  • Lau, B., Hem, E., Berg, A. M., Ekberg, O., & Torgersen, S. (2006). Personality types, coping, and stress in the Norwegian police service. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(5), 1-12.
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