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Martin Reed

Thomas International

CEO & Chairman

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The science behind a happy and productive workforce


Humans have been fascinated by their own behaviour for thousands of years. Understanding each other has been critical for survival – both as Neanderthals and in today’s corporate world. A successful employee will not only possess the right skills, but their working style often matches their role requirements. However, an individual’s working behaviour type isn’t always apparent on the CV, so how can you gain an additional understanding of whether they’re the right fit for your company?

The theory

William Moulton Marston’s theory of human consciousness in 1928 explained that an individual’s emotions influence their actions, which then determine how the individual interacts with their surrounding environment. This interaction ultimately takes four basic directions: tendencies to dominate, influence, submit and comply. It is from Marston’s theory that Dr Thomas Hendrickson developed the Thomas Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) in 1958. This self-report system for the workplace that Hendrickson created provided an extra insight for individuals into how they behave at work, helping them to become more aware of their own and others’ working styles.

The science

Hendrickson’s tool assessed an individual’s view of how they responded to workplace circumstances which they perceived to be favourable or hostile/challenging, and revealed whether their responses were active or passive. From this, it was possible to understand the individual’s behavioural preferences in terms of four key work behaviour types: dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance.

These types may display the following characteristics:

  • Dominance – these individuals tend to be competitive, driving and direct
  • Influence – these individuals tend to be friendly, communicative and influential
  • Steadiness – these individuals tend to be dependable, methodical and good listeners
  • Compliance – these individuals tend to be systematic and perfectionists.

These behavioural types are not mutually exclusive – individuals frequently possess a combination in varying levels, providing a three-dimensional picture of their preferred working style, their work behaviour ‘mask’ and their behaviour under pressure.

In the workplace

Knowing what motivates your staff helps to maintain a productive and happy workforce, making them more likely to stay on board. High dominance individuals tend to be motivated by power and authority and drive results, whilst those with high influence are more likely to be motivated by public praise and recognition. Those with high influence are usually more suited to careers that involve working with others in a talkative environment.

Individuals who display high steadiness behaviour are often motivated by security and bring value in service, support and specialist roles, whilst highly compliant individuals tend to be motivated by standard operating procedures, so are more likely to do best in technical and standards roles.

By understanding this information employers are better able to manage performance and boost motivation in their staff. Employers are equipped with the knowledge to appreciate that we all possess different working styles, but that each style brings its own unique value to an organisation.

In particular, if this information is available when an employee first joins the company, the foundations can be set for an employee to gain a better awareness of their own working behaviours, as well as those of their colleagues. This helps employees, especially managers, to understand how their own behaviour is perceived by others, so they are more aware of any areas of their behaviour they need to modify to work more cohesively with their team.

For employees already settled into their roles, understanding when they are ready for promotion and more responsibility is often difficult to gauge. Knowing an individual’s motivations and how settled they feel in their current situation gives employers added insight, which is of great use when reviewing whether an employee might be ready for the next level of responsibility.

Businesses have a prerogative to ensure that a candidate’s values match those of the company. When businesses understand their people better they are able to help reduce staff attrition, as they have an extra insight into any potentially underlying work or personal frustrations staff may have.

Ultimately, both employers and employees can be supported with information beyond the CV and deeper than an interview to aid both parties in their decisions on both recruitment and management.

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Martin Reed

CEO & Chairman

Read more from Martin Reed

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