Personality clash is involuntary push factor for early career turnover

Personality attributes including your social ability to build, sustain and manage relationships at work really matter! Not getting on with your direct line manager and/or colleagues was found by UK recruiter, Spring Personnel, to be one reason that new employees on probationary periods do not have their employment continued past that probationary period.

This adds to the stress felt by new recruits who experience job insecurity during the probationary period (knowing that their employment may not continue), who work hard to impress their employer in order to get the potential permanent position (recall the German intern who died after working 72 hours straight last year and who now, it seems, must succumb to becoming an ‘organisation man’-type (Whyte, 1956) in order to not rock the boat or cause conflict.

Personality clashes have been cited as push factors for employee turnover in organisations, where employees resign due to interpersonal relationship issues at work, oftentimes with their line managers. However, this study shows that early careerists or interns or anyone on a probationary period may well have their career hopes in an organisation jeopardised by not getting along with their managers.

What are the implications of this? If new recruits feel intimidated into not speaking out or contradicting their ‘powerful’ employing manager during the probationary period (because he/she ultimately decides if the recruit will be kept on after the probationary period), what happens when these values and actions become embedded in the organisation and the culture of ‘my way or the highway’? What are the implications for innovation, creativity and intrapreneurship within organisations if the same values, belief systems and ways of doing things are replicated and when the more vulnerable employees (new recruits, those on insecure employment contracts) are covertly (and overtly) intimidated into cloning themselves in the image of their managers so as to enhance the likelihood of their permanency? This is even more acute in our current loose labour market, where employers are able to buy labour from many seeking employment opportunities.

I am not saying that managers or departments should suffer a non team player/contributor, but there should be a line drawn between employees who may have personality clashes with managers but who may offer the organisation more in terms of productivity, performance and potential, and employees that reduce morale and suck the motivation out of others (who should, I agree, be pushed from the organisation as early as possible).

In other words, just because someone is different or you don’t get along with them as well as you do with others, should not be allowed to become the deciding factor in determining that person’s career future in an organisation where he/she may be dealing with others who do not have the same difficulty or personality clash. While networking and sponsorship from senior management are important career progression aspects in the workplace, forcing employees to get along with a superior with whom they clash on fundamental values and/or philosophies is risky for organisations in that it may deter creative thinking. It also underlines the perpetual nature of power relations where the weak are obligated to succumb to the powerful, or face the consequences.

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About Marian Crowley-Henry

Dr Marian Crowley-Henry is a lecturer in human resource management, international management and organisational behaviour/theory in the Department of Management at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. She is the programme director of the MSc HRM/HRD. Marian’s current research interests are in international human resource management, self initiated expatriation, migration, careers and identity, and supervises PhD research students in those areas.