While we think of personality as a constant, we also know that significant events can impact character. Theoretically, assessments help predict how people will respond to the everyday stressors of business life. However, what happens when a person experiences stressors that go beyond the norm?
Those stressors may result in a temporary change in a person’s behavior. However, many people wonder if stressors can have a lasting impact on personality. Do stressful or other emotionally significant events lead to changes in how people perform on personality assessments? If so, can personality assessments reliably predict how people will respond to adversity?
What Is a Stressor?
When people think of stressors, they usually think of bad things. For most of us, the pandemic is one of the most significant stressors we will ever face. Deaths, divorces, and job losses are examples of other everyday stressors that people might face. However, positive events can also create stress. To evaluate whether an employee may be impacted by stress, it can be better to look at overall life changes and not focus solely on negative behaviors.
Can Stressors Impact Behavior?
Of course, they can! Everyone out there has experienced acting differently because they were under too much stress. It could be a compilation of daily stressors or dealing with a significant stressor. Even seemingly negligible factors like lack of sleep, being dehydrated, or being hungry can significantly impact your resiliency. So, stress can affect how you behave.
Can Stressors Impact Results on a Personality Assessment?
Absolutely. Stress impacts how you perceive events, and personality assessments depend on your perceptions. While personality assessments should be reasonably consistent, on average, when given repeatedly and over time, they also provide a snapshot of the person being tested at the time of testing. Someone’s personality assessment can be significantly impacted if they take the assessment during a time of high stress.
What Does This Mean for Employers or Managers?
Because people’s personality assessments can vary, how to manage them can change, as well. An employee who responds positively to one approach under normal conditions may struggle under that same approach under high-stress conditions. Retesting employees who have experienced individual stressors and seem to be struggling afterward or even retesting all employees after a large-scale stressor such as a natural disaster or a pandemic can help ensure that you continue to engage with employees in productive ways.