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Posts Tagged ‘human behavior’

Retaining Key Personnel: Understanding The Risk of Boredom

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Keeping your top performers, those key employees that really help keep your organization moving, is an item that is always near the top of any executive’s priority list. Yet the workplace is always subject to change and sometimes yesterday’s motivated MVP can become today’s flight risk.

Shifting circumstances in the work environment can force changes in the default DISC behaviors of your people. This can lead the employee to experience one or more of these four states:

1) Frustration – the individual feels thwarted by the change, unable to act in a preferred manner or feeling that the opportunity to be successful has been sabotaged.

2) Elevated energy expenditure – the shift in the work environment has pushed the individual to adapt away from her natural DISC behavioral style to a new profile of behavior, this requires energy to sustain and can be draining if required for an extended duration.

3) Stress – change brings uncertainty, disruption of the status quo, this can provoke a stressed emotional state that can be expressed in multiple ways such as anger, fear, agitation, impatience, withdrawal, etc.

4) Boredom – change can shift an individual into a state of weariness and restlessness due to lack of interest.

Of the four, the last one, boredom, is the one to watch. It may sound relatively innocuous – certainly stress gets more attention than boredom due to the linkage of stress and health issues – however, it is boredom that is in fact the least tolerable state of the four. It can be a greater indicator that an employee is about to quit or otherwise change their situation than the other three change reactions mentioned above.

Consider for a moment, how well do you personally tolerate boredom? How would you react if confronted on a daily basis with lengthy periods of tedium? Most dynamic leaders squirm at the mere thought of enduring a boring meeting, let alone an extended work session. Many leaders, although not all, have a high score in the D column of a DISC profile indicating a behavioral bias towards action. They feel boredom is a harbinger of wasted time, inefficiency and a lack of productivity and they will do anything to personally avoid it. When boredom seems inescapable the individual will take action to shift the situation, that action is all too often announced with the phrase “I quit!”

Every day talented individuals quit tasks, projects, teams, and, yes, even their jobs because of boredom. The turnover and loss of knowledge and experience is incredibly costly for organizations and much of it could be avoided with timely intervention. But how do you know when someone is bored? It is easy for you to know when you, yourself, are bored, but it isn’t always easy to outwardly observe when someone else is bored. This is an area where DISC profiles can be a valuable tool not just during the hiring process, but in the ongoing development and retention of your staff. Using DISC assessments as part of a routine employee development process allows DISC styles to be tracked over time. When anomalous shifts in behavior profiles occur they will be recognized and may provide the critical insight needed to rescue an employee who is sliding down the funnel of boredom toward the door marked exit.

In the DISC vocabulary S stands for steadiness – If in our tracking we see a strong increase in an individual’s score in the S column it is often an indicator of entrenched boredom. They may shift from a low S dynamic style to a non-demonstrative high S style indicating that the individual may not have enough to do, or may require more variety of tasks. The individual may have grown in skills and is no longer sufficiently challenged by the current activity or they may have been moved into a role that runs contrary to their behavioral profile. For example take the DISC style of a high D person who is used to driving activity in pioneering ways and putting them in a role where they have large amounts of tedious “busy work” and no options to change things or delegate the activity – we’ll see the unchanging grind lead to boredom that is expressed as an elevation in the S column. It is in this state when they feel boredom is inescapable within the situation that they start directing energy toward getting out of the situation.

Without regularly administering DISC behavioral assessments, the bored amongst your key personnel can remain a hidden, yet “at risk”, population in the work force. I’ve compared my observations from teaching in management and leadership development classes, with those of other faculty in management programs; we concur that boredom is a prime motivation for a large number of the participants enrolled in such courses. We estimate that 45 – 60% of those paying for additional education around their current working situation are doing so because they are bored in their current position and are intending to use the educational opportunity to change their current situation. Doing whatever it takes to make a change.

In summary, to keep your top performers keep them interested. To keep them interested recognize when they’re bored. DISC assessments, if used properly, can provide the objective data to help you identify when your best employee is about to yawn their way out the door.

Merry Motivators – Holiday Shopping Edition

Monday, December 13th, 2010

While most of our posts here are focused on DISC profiles, DISC alone doesn’t give a complete picture. DISC tells us HOW a person will behave, but values and motivators are essential to understanding WHY they behave they way they do.

In the spirit of our World According to DISC series, let’s take a look at the spectrum of motivators and how they might influence holiday gift giving choices:

The high Theoretical values truth and knowledge, don’t be surprised if their kids find a junior science lab under the tree this year. Got a high Theoretical on your shopping list this year? Delight her with a statuette of Thoth, the Ibis-headed Egyptian god of knowledge or maybe the complete Oxford English Dictionary.

High Utilitarian/Economic people value money and time, things that are useful and practical. Be certain that they will be shopping for the best possible deal and the most efficient use of time. The high Utilitarian grandmother is giving all her grandchildren savings bonds this year getting the bulk of her holiday shopping done in one step. Are you shopping for a high Utilitarian? Consider getting him a membership to Costco or maybe just a nice thermos to carry coffee since he would never waste money at a place like Starbucks.

If you’re a high Aesthetic you are focused on form and harmony, beauty and inner vision. You might not know what you’ll be getting, but you can be sure that the gift from the high Aesthetic will be the most beautifully wrapped one in the bunch. If you’re looking for a great idea for a high Aesthetic consider a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or sign her up for a class in Feng Shui.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the high Social values people. Altruism, empathy and generosity are important to them. It wouldn’t be out of character for a high Social to make a charitable donation in your name. Want to make a high Social happy this season? Lend him a hand when he volunteers at the local soup kitchen’s holiday meal.

High Individualistic/Political types value power and often view others as a means to an end. The high Individualistic/Political might give his boss a new set of golf clubs and a lot of hints about being available for his next power foursome. Want to make a high Individualistic/Political happy? Give her a copy of Machiavelli’s “The Prince”.

Last, but not least we come to the high Traditional/Regulatory who values unity, order and structure. They are likely to be very fixed in their beliefs. Your high Traditional cousin will be going to midnight mass and after will fill his kids’ Christmas stockings with chocolates and candy canes just like he had when he was a kid. If you’re shopping for a high Traditional consider getting her a keepsake ornament for her tree, or, if appropriate for her religion, a finely printed and beautifully bound bible.

As we often do when discussing DISC profiles, we are here in these examples simplifying the motivational profiles to isolate on a single value category. In reality multiple values will be a factor and the lack of motivator in a specific category can also be highly indicative of a person’s priorities.

We hope this post gave you a little insight into the spectrum of values and motivators and maybe an idea or two as you finish up your holiday shopping.

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!

Data Dome Quick Tip: DISC or Motivator?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Understanding people is a subtle science. Even with great tools like DISC Profiles and Workplace Motivators at our disposal it is not uncommon for there to be confusion about what is a behavioral style versus what is driven by a motivator. Sometimes the symptoms can be very similar.

Let’s look at an example – Charlie and Margaret:

Both Charlie and Margaret appear to be fastidious about how they have arranged their offices – do they share the same DISC profile behavior? If something is moved out of place in either environment, it isn’t long before it is quickly put back exactly where it came from – are they operating with the same workplace motivator? Let’s examine further and see if we can find out: One day Charlie visits Margaret’s office. When he comes to the door she drops everything she’s currently doing to give him a friendly handshake, asks him to make himself comfortable and asks him about several people she knows from the floor where Charlie works. Despite Margaret’s friendly banter Charlie feels compelled to say to Margaret that she should move her desk so that her seat faces the door as it is proper procedure to first acknowledge a visitor at the door, then signal the person to enter and finally indicate which seat the visitor should take. Margaret takes the comment in stride and remarks how nice it was for him to stop by while he was on her floor.

On another day Margaret stops by Charlie’s office and finds him on the phone. He seems to be ignoring her until she knocks lightly on the open door. He then looks up, signals that he will be a moment, finishes his call, then asks her what business has brought her to his office today. Rather than focusing on his question she says that she thinks he should also rearrange his seating – his office has a beautiful view, but the way his desk is arranged his back is to the window and he can’t enjoy the vista.

What’s going on here? Because of the similar outcome regarding how carefully the offices are maintained, one might assume that both Charlie and Margaret share the same DISC style and the same motivator, but this is not the case. Charlie’s formality with his coworker is a clue that his DISC profile is that of a High C, he follows rules and procedures with rigidity and sees alternate arrangements of the office as breaking with decorum. Margaret, on the other hand, is a High I – her greeting is friendly, her conversational focus is on people and she is willing to drop everything she is doing to welcome Charlie when he arrives. Her reason for being fastidious about her office decor comes from responding to her dominant motivator, a High Aesthetic. She’s meticulously arranged her office in the way that most satisfies her artistic sensibility and responds to other environments accordingly. By contrast Charlie’s Aesthetic score is quite low, he has completely ignored the beautiful view in planning his office arrangement.

In this example opposing behavioral styles and motivations led to a similar expression. This is why gaining insights into both DISC behavior and Workplace Motivators is so valuable in bringing a greater clarity to interpersonal dynamics in the workplace. Often sources of friction and other detriments to productivity can be difficult to diagnose without looking at both behavior and motivations.

DISC Profiles and Stress: The Energy Crisis

Friday, October 15th, 2010

It was a little over a year ago that we discussed five ways leaders who understood DISC profiles could reduce stress amongst their employees. For many companies the climate is even more stress-inducing today: cutbacks have forced companies to ask for even higher levels of productivity from the employees that remain, workers are being asked to take on responsibilities of those who are no longer there – constantly adapting from their natural DISC behavioral style.

Occasionally stepping away from one’s natural DISC behavioral style is usually not a big deal, in fact it is commonplace to see some variance between a person’s natural and adapted DISC profiles. Taking on a new behavior once in a while might actually be a deliberate strategy or a welcome change of pace, but long-term sustained adaptions that push an individual away from their natural DISC style can be trouble.

Maintaining an exaggerated state of adapted behavior takes energy – the person is essentially stepping on the mental gas to keep themselves in a behavioral pattern that doesn’t come naturally. This constant depletion of energy can express itself in numerous ways: irritability, poor morale, aggressiveness, “shutting down”, even physical manifestations – headaches, susceptibility to illness, etc. Unfortunately even with these changes of mood and morale it can still be difficult for an untrained observer to pinpoint causes in manner that provides information for mitigating the stressed behaviors. In the case of high S’s this can be further exacerbated by their reluctance to make waves. The stresses can build and build if the high S provides them no outlet – the situation becomes a powder keg of pent up frustration waiting to explode.

DISC profiles are a great way to see beyond the surface and recognize when there are large gaps between adapted and natural DISC styles. The greater the gap the more energy the individual is expending to reach the adapted behavior. If all four DISC behavior categories are adapting above the line then the person may be feeling forced to be “all things to everybody” – a constant state of crisis. Understanding the DISC profiles gives you a tool to diagnose the situation and take steps tailored to the individual’s causes of stress as indicated by their behavioral profile.

For a quick understanding of what stresses out people with certain DISC profiles check out our previous observations in The World According to DISC: Stress Someone Out in Style and The World According to DISC: The Low Side of Stress Styles.

Complaining about DISC Profiles

Friday, October 8th, 2010

In a recent episode of Boaz Power TV recorded in Washington DC, Boaz Rauchwerger tells a story of a young Abraham Lincoln and how his harsh criticism of a local city official led to that official challenging Lincoln to a duel. Although the duel was averted at the last moment, Boaz uses the anecdote as an illustration of the downside and risk of criticizing and complaining and asks viewers to pledge to completely abstain from criticizing or complaining for an entire week.

But is criticizing always bad? Are there no situations where complaining might be useful?

Let’s take a quick look at the classic DISC behavioral styles and see if the “3 C’s Affirmation: I do not criticize, condemn, or complain. I look for the good.” is really a good or realistic idea for everybody to try to follow.

First let’s look at the high D DISC profile: Regardless of whether avoiding complaining is a good idea, the high D individual is very unlikely to stick to the pledge. He or She might say the words, but as soon as a situation is encountered that calls for corrective action (or at least appears to from the high D’s perspective) an on-the-spot critique is going to occur. The high D DISC profile rankles at things that put objectives at risk and he or she won’t brood about it – the complaint will be gotten off the chest right away and the criticism will be repeated unless or until adjustments to the situation are made.

The high I DISC profile is a completely different story. The behavioral bias of a high I DISC profile makes him or her very likely to embrace this pledge. It’s feel-good message aligns well with the high I’s habits of trying to please people and be thought of positively by those around him or her. However, the high I might actually be avoiding or procrastinating about delivering a needed complaint or critique out of a behavioral tendency to try to be too nice. For example a high I manager might not give a needed critique to an employee to avoid being perceived as a “bad guy”, but as a result a minor problem is overlooked when it may have been easily corrected and now it may fester into a larger issue because it wasn’t “nipped in the bud”.

High S individuals are very reluctant to buck the status quo. In an effort to avoid making waves he or she may bottle up complaints and critiques that are quite legitimate – they don’t need to take the pledge, they already have a natural tendency to avoid complaining, but by holding criticism inside they may be needlessly suffering abuse, or struggling with correctable situations. Their assumption is that time will smooth out the wrinkles and most problems will sort themselves out, however, this is not always the case. The person with a high S DISC profile should in fact be encouraged to critique and complain to make sure that a storm of trouble and resentment isn’t brewing beneath the laid-back surface.

Finally we come to the high C DISC profile, probably the best candidate for Boaz’s advice. High C’s are process and compliance oriented and have a habit of criticizing things and people that disrupt policy and procedure. An extreme high C is often perceived as being harsh because of a natural intolerance for anything that falls short of exacting standards. If the high C embraces the 3 C’s affirmation it may lead to more harmonious communication for him or her and those with whom he or she works. Unlike the high D, the high C may embrace the pledge if convinced, by hard data, of the value of adopting it as a policy or code of conduct against which compliance can be measured.

As you can see, different people’s DISC profiles indicate a diversity of behavioral tendencies. It is rare to find one-size-fits-all advice that actually makes sense across the full spectrum of DISC behavioral styles.

Not that I’m complaining… 😉

DISC and Motivators: Keys to Competence

Friday, September 24th, 2010

In a recent post by John G. Agno for Coaching Tip: The Leadership Blog some interesting, survey results are brought to light indicating that an alarming 33% of employees consider their managers to be incompetent. The article goes on to suggest that communication problems and recession-induced organizational changes may have much to do with the very high incompetence rating.

Agno seems to be on the right track. Communication is an essential managerial skill, but what is often overlooked are the DISC behavioral underpinnings that can make all the difference between a distrustful and unhealthy communication culture and one where information flows freely, encouraging trust and a sense of inclusion around the office.

Relationship dynamics within the workplace can be impacted by conflicting motivations and communication that isn’t adapted to the diversity of DISC behavioral styles amongst the staff. When a worker doesn’t understand a manager’s motivation or is expected to digest information that runs counter to the worker’s DISC style then the worker may come to a conclusion that the manager is in fact incompetent.

For example, let’s say the manager is a high C who is operating with strong Utilitarian/Economic motivators and the employee is a high D with strong Individualistic/Political motivators. The manager may announce a cutback based on a cut and dry procedural determination – profits are down, so cut costs – while the high D employee is focused on the goals set forth for the department and has a hard time seeing how they can be achieved with less staff. Without adapting communication that reconciles these points of view and behavioral biases it’s easy to see how a conflict could arise. The high C boss could take the high D employees natural resistance to the cutback as a disregard and disrespect of procedural authority and even a naivety in the face to the dollar and cents facts of the situation. The employee in turn could see the manager’s action as callous in difficult times and sabotaging of the ability to reach important objectives.

So how might this go differently? If the manager above were a more skillful communicator and was armed with the kind of knowledge that assessments can provide about employees she could have adapted her style to better communicate with her employee – putting the platinum rule in action. Tools like DISC assessments would have uncovered the manager and worker’s DISC styles and a tool like Motivation Insights could have revealed how each rated the six value categories in the spectrum of Workplace Motivators. The manager could have made the employee more involved in the decision and discussed how the best way to help most of the employees was by pursuing the overall goal of keeping the business alive – a goal which necessitated the cutback. The two could then move to a more productive conversation of how to adjust strategy and tactics under the changed circumstances. The improved communication changes the employee’s perception of the manager as an incompetent, uncaring, dictator who ignores business objectives into a new appraisal as a competent leader willing to make tough decisions for the overall good of the many.

We’ve discussed here how the same decision communicated differently could change the perception of competence. Adapting communication based on an understanding of workplace motivators, values, and DISC behavioral styles can go a long way toward improving office morale and trust within the company culture.

Understanding DISC Profiles: Productive or Procrastinating?

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Everyone procrastinates from time to time, but do all DISC profiles procrastinate the same way?

The person with a high D DISC profile is associated with adjectives like decisive, strong-willed, goal-oriented, and bold. Many things that others might allow to become subjects of procrastination, the high D won’t because of a behavioral bias toward decisive action. If something is not moving toward a goal it is likely to be dismissed, or delegated to another to accomplish. If it is moving a goal forward then it will probably be acted on immediately – the fear and doubt which may cause others to stall on a task isn’t usually a problem for the bold D. However, if a high D is avoiding something due to an emotional conflict or a misalignment with personal motivations, he or she is more likely to displace the task with other activities than to stall out and do nothing.

A person whose DISC profile indicates a high I is associated with words like flamboyant, gregarious, pleasing, political, enthusiastic and superficial. Distraction is often more the cause of lapses in productivity for this individual rather than procrastination, however, if a task requires working alone, in seclusion, or is something that is perceived of as not fun or popular, then it is far more likely to be avoided by the high I. When confronted with an undesirable activity the high I will often seek comfort through interaction with others, which can cause a losing track of time – a form of unintentional avoidance. The high I will almost always procrastinate when it comes to chores like giving people bad news or disciplining others – they avoid things that might cause the other person to have a negative reaction to them.

Words like persistent, patient, modest, predictable and resistant to change are associated with the high S DISC profile. That means an S is more likely to resist activities that disrupt familiar routines or threaten the balance of established relationships. The high S person can be very productive if the routine of activities aren’t prone to rapid change or disruption, she thrives on steadiness not chaos. Procrastination brought on by emotional stress or intimidation may not be outwardly obvious – the high S can have a relaxed, even phlegmatic demeanor – they are unlikely to rebel vocally against an undesirable task, so a manager may not realize they have given the high S an assignment that is distasteful. Of the four categories, the high S is the most susceptible to procrastination – slipping into the mindset of hoping that the situation will go away if ignored, or that “time will solve the problem.”

The high C DISC profile is associated with perfectionism, meticulousness, and being strict about rules and procedures. The high C is typically very disciplined and detail oriented – tasks that other DISC styles might avoid because they seem dry, procedural or tedious, may actually be well-suited to the high C. Additionally the high C may have a lower empathy for procrastination by others because it can threaten processes and carefully architected systems. When the high C falls off in productivity it is more likely to be because they have let perfectionism get in the way than because they are avoiding a step in the process. Unlike the high S, when faced with a task that breaks compliance with procedure, the high C is likely to express the displeasure.

Understanding the DISC behavioral tendencies of your team can be vital to balancing strengths and unlocking better communication so that procrastination is minimized and productivity is improved.

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