To What Degree Does the Job Make the Person?

Summing Up: Jobs shape us as much as we shape our jobs, Jim Heskett's readers suggest.
by James Heskett

Summing Up

Jobs shape us in many ways, according to respondents to this month's column.

For example, Sue Stewart said that "…we become our jobs." Charlie Cullinane went further, saying that "Not only do we become our jobs while doing them but we keep many of these traits even when retired." This led Illysa to comment, "One more reason we must choose not only our careers but our work places carefully: who do we want to become?" Heidi Olson wondered "if the change in hormones when gaining power is responsible for some of the overly confident and unbelievably nervy things some CEOs and dictators do once in power."

Others were more nuanced in their conclusions. For example, Ajay Kumar Gupta wondered whether the research linking jobs to changes in hormonal balance relates only to those who "fit in" as opposed to "standing out" in a new job. In other words, is there a self-selection bias in studies of the effects of job on a person's chemical makeup? As Stephanie Smith put it, "Perhaps it's a case of … either the hormones and natural adaptability of the person come into play and they change to fit the job, or they cannot and (people who experience no hormonal change and cannot adapt) leave or are forced out."

While ignoring the question of chemical change, dependencies that were posed by several respondents may suggest opportunities for future research. For example, Bill Milnor opined that the "extent … (to which) the job makes the person … (might be related) to the degree of alignment in values between the person and the organizational culture." Dinesh Kaushal suggested that "relative position also changes the way people behave" toward one another. Paul Nicholas commented that we are "shaped" by many things—colleagues and friends, homes, climate, culture, and even our machines and gadgets—as well as our jobs. As he put it, "We are the product of a set of genes and their interaction with a myriad of external influences." The suggestion was that there are many things to control for in the ongoing exploration of changes in our chemical makeup on the job.

Comments by others raised the question of whether our hormonal makeup might actually change on and off the job. Joe Waser said, "I have come across several situations where a person was one character at work and a totally different personality in his/her private environment."

Yedendra Chouksey pointed out that "what is beyond doubt is that the job and the job holder are interdependent … the job provides the opening for power but the canvas of operations is determined by the power perception of the job incumbent." As Phil Clark put it, "This is similar to the 'chicken or the egg' type of discussion." Don Robertson reminded us that "it is clear that many factors come into play when you start to analyze human behavior." How do our jobs shape our chemistry and behavior? What do you think?

Original Article

We've supposed for a long time that certain behaviors foster relationships that can determine success or failure. Now improved technologies (such as brain imaging) combined with imaginative research are producing new insights into how people perceive and influence one another. It is leading to advice and training designed to change behaviors that influence perceptions and possibly even increase job opportunities and on-the-job success.

The work of Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist on the HBS faculty, and her colleagues has produced some of the most intriguing results. This research concludes that by far the strongest influences that we have on one another result from a person's perceived warmth and competence. These two dimensions help us understand how we think about and act toward others.

Some conclusions are that:

  • When assessing someone else, warmth plays a more important role than competence.

  • When assessing ourselves, we believe that competence (the capability of someone to carry out intentions) is more important.

  • Without knowing, we often assume that there is a "trade off" between warmth and competence in a person. These two dimensions help us understand how we think about and act toward others. We admire warm/competent people, envy (and sometimes scapegoat) those who are cold and competent, pity those who are perceived as warm and incompetent, and have contempt for the cold and incompetent.

In work described in a September HBS Working Knowledge column, Cuddy and her fellow researchers also analyzed the effects of behaviors—expressions, body language, postures, the degree of assertiveness, etc.—on perceptions of competence and warmth. Expansive postures ("power posing") and confident behaviors, for example, convey perceptions of competence. This work can provide the basis for coaching people in how to behave.

Meanwhile Joshua Ackerman and his coresearchers are concentrating on the effects of touch (with origins in the womb) and surroundings on behaviors. For example, they conclude that, among other things, a person's comfort affects negotiating behaviors. If you want to drive a hard bargain, sit on a hard chair, while making your counterpart very comfortable. In short, control your surroundings and behaviors.

But perhaps most interesting of all, Cuddy's team has found evidence that the act of assuming power affects hormones. It raises levels of testosterone (associated with power and dominance) and reduces levels of cortisol (denoting stress) in ways that resemble people already in positions of power. In short, it raises the possibility that behaviors can be influenced through a change in jobs that changes body chemistry. Presumably, the effect varies with individuals.

If this research continues to produce such insights, is it more than a short step to conclude that we can give people tests that predict the degree to which an individual's behaviors may be affected by a job change? To what extent does the job make the person rather than vice-versa? Can it be predicted? If so, what does this mean for management recruiting and development in the future? What do you think?


Joshua M. Ackerman, Christopher C. Nocera, and John A. Bargh, "Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgements and Decisions," Science, 2010.

Amy Cuddy, "Just Because I'm Nice, Don't Assume I'm Dumb," Harvard Business Review, February, 2009, p. __.

Amy J. C. Cuddy, Susan T. Fiske, and Peter Glick, "Warmth and Competence as Universal Dimensions of Social Perception: The Stereotype Content Model and the BIAS Map," Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 40 ( 2008), pp. 61- 149.

Julia Hanna, "Power Posing: Fake It Until You Make It," HBS Working Knowledge, September 20, 2010.

Craig Lambert, "The Psyche on Automatic," Harvard Magazine, November- December, 2010, pp. 48-52.

    • CJ Cullinane
    After a long business career and now working in academia I have to say that by observation we do become our "jobs". Be it good or bad we all seem to take on the mantle of our professions. Not only do we become our jobs while doing them but we keep many of these traits even when retired.

    I have seen daughters and sons of business owners begin their careers with distinct personalities and gradually change into "Marketing People", "The CEO" and even "The Owner"! Their talk, way of dressing, and even demeanor changes over time. It could be the maturing process but I think it is more than that, they become the job and live up to it's expectations.

    Can we predict this? I do not believe we can do so accurately but traits like aggressiveness, persistence, creativityy may be strong indicators.

    • Ajay Kumar Gupta
    • Doctoral Researcher and Faculty(ITM), Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
    I think job influences behaviour. Different functions require different skills and tactics. For example, for marketing job, we need people who can talk much, deceive much (Perception), lie much (unwritten but often desired) etc. These attributes are considered survival strategy to be successful in marketing jobs. It means marketing job usually need extrovert people. Similarly, in finance job, we need people who can believe number and can measure everything in numerical terms. Here, emotion and empathy take back sit. Therefore it looks obvious that job matched with individual personality affects, influences and changes people behaviour. Whereas, job mismatched with individual personality may not affect, influence and change people behaviour.
    The other component that either affects job or affected by job is Character that is core of any human beings and does not change easily. I strongly believe that person is known by his character and values. Weak values lead to weak character and strong values make strong character. Now, the question whether job can make or break person depends upon the person values. If person values are weak, then job can and will affect the person behaviour and eventually job make the person. On the other hand, when person values are stronger than job requirement, then job cannot change or affect the person. Though, it is possible that in short term, person behaviour may be influenced, but job cannot change the person.
    Influence of job on person behaviour is also dependent upon person belief, whether he tries to "fit in" or "stand out". If he tries to "fit in", job will make him, On the other hand, if he tries to "Stand-out", job may not make him. In this situation, the degree of making depends upon the person position. If he is in non decision making position, job may have little role to make him. But if he is in decision making position, he will make the job. Now, making or breaking the job depends upon his values. Stronger the values make the job better and weaker values make the job worse. I strongly believe that job makes the person because in either case whether job makes the person or person makes the job, the outcome is learning and experience. Usually exposure to multiple jobs provides more learning because person learns because he is exposed to many customs, beliefs and attitude of the people. And these exposures are catalyst to make good pe
    Therefore, individual values, belief and character play crucial role in making the job or affected by the job. Position and job are not greater than strong values and characters.
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    Right from our childhood,we start moulding our personality in tune with our working/living environment. Indian scriptures divide individuals in four main groups: Brahmins, whose duty is to acquire and then disseminate knowledge; Kshatriyas, who are the warrior class and engage in roles such as members of armed forces; Kshatriyas, the business class; Shudras,those who serve the other three via menial and similar jobs. This division of labour used to be passed on from generation to generation so that a Brahmin's proginy would generally take up the family traditional role, and similarly for others. in such situation, the job (work) would make the person even from young age.
    Professionally, a job plays a vital role in grooming a personality. People shape themselves according to their jobs and acquire the traits normally connected therewith. For success this is important too.
    Management recruiting would be helped by advance knowledge of the atmosphere from which a candidate has emerged so as to perceive his suitability for the job.A kshatriya may not be suitable for accounts&finance, for instance.
    Though it could be so, the present times are very different as people diversify to entirely different work areas (and successfully also) even at late stages of their lives. Hence each person needs to be analyzed on indivisual basis and no trend setting can be expected.
    • Dan Erwin, PhD
    • Principal Consultant, Erwin Group
    Great question. I'm familiar with much of the research mentioned, especially the systematic work on competency and warmth. However, I pay a lot of attention to the so-called fundamental attribution error--the notion that a person's fundamental disposition is primary. (I question dispositionalism.) I don't think it's either/or, but I tend to believe that the organizational, functional or cultural context has more power than personal talent or disposition. The work culture (narrowly, the silo) defines the vocabulary, behaviors, attitudes, objectives and sets the parameters for its members. I believe that the culture has more power, long term, than personal psych. Obviously, I'm generalizing, but when coaching clients and especially Gen-Yers or youngers, I emphasize context over personality.

    I'm indebted to Karl Weick as well as my own rhetorical background, both suggesting that our identities are limited and even created and recreated by the interpretative situations in which we've found ourselves. That intersubjective notion argues for the primacy of culture, not the individual. In my own personal history I've walked out of two vocations, not because of distaste for them, but for what I found the culture doing to me and my family.

    Culture can be both powerful, good--and spooky. Gladwell commits to a similar position in "Outliers."
    • Illysa
    One more reason we must choose not only our careers but our work places carefully: who do we want to become?
    • Sue Stewart
    • Freelance trainer, The Unity Group
    Do we become our jobs? I would undoubtedly say yes - and to add to my learned fellow contributors' comments, we need only to look at Zimbardo's Stanford Prison experiment to see how we adopt the behaviours associated with the role or job.
    • Joe A. Waser
    So far the majority answers the question in the affirmative with some extensions to influence by environment and/or inheritance.
    I have come across several situations where a person was one character at work and a totally different personality in his/her private environment. On the one hand I admired this ability but then it also encompassed for me some threat of schizophrenics.
    Would be interesting to hear what HBS research could tell us about this angle of the subject matter.
    • Dan Hoch
    • Elementary Principal
    On the whole, I would agree with the notion the job makes the person, particularly as it relates to school administrators. However, I don't think the influence of co-workers in that job setting can necessarily or easily be teased apart from job influence. Again, this can be a good thing or not. More specifically, in a teaching context, good colleagues can have a positive impact, and vice versa. As well, I have had firsthand experience of individuals for whom the job and the positive impact of coworkers has had little beneficial impact on an individual, to the point where many years later they are forced from their positions. Did they become their jobs? Perhaps, but if some measure of competence is applied, then decidedly not.
    • Tom Dolembo
    • Founder, NewNorth Institute
    Many find themselves finding their jobs morphed from traditional hierarchical in structure to highly interactive with far more expected from them in entirely new areas. Competence under the original job can change very quickly to incompetence under heightened stress and significantly scaled up demands. Surviving the transition can build a valuable new skill set or wreck a career path. I have encountered quite a few new, thoughtful, highly competent organic farmers among those in refuge from this economic meat grinder we are prideful of. At some point, testosterone is a systemic poison as palpable as malathion. Perhaps we are what our hormones determine we are, in what has become a very predatory employment environment. Meaner people, though, don't seem to be growing arugula. We are becoming organically better, as a business class, we're just not in business any more.
    • Bill Milnor
    • Director of Business Processes, Mental Health Center of Denver
    Very thought provoking! I read this as elevating the importance of awareness and intention along with an alignment of values. I prefer to think the power in is in the awareness to which our "identities" intersect with our environments and how much attention we pay to how we want to be in the world and which pieces of the environment either support that or detract from that. The work environment certainly can be a compelling force in this given the amount of time one spends at work. The culture of the work environment has many components and can greatly influence those participating in it. It can influence us unconsciously and reactively or we can be aware and actively filtering and determining our response. Strong work environments intentionally influence the behaviors, thoughts and feelings of those within it. Employers and organizations who intentionally vision and create a positive and wellness oriented environme
    nt reap many benefits among those being healthier, happier and more productively engaged employees. So, to what extent does the job make the person rather than vice- versa? I think it might be to the degree of alignment in values between the person and the organizational culture.
    • Heidi Olson
    Very interesting, and the warmth part reminds me of the coffee study where the person given a warm beverage to hold was more generous in helping someone who had dropped their books. So next time I interview or go on a date, I'll have to slyly get them to hold a warm beverage so they feel warm towards me and then will hire me, or ask for a second date.
    I wonder if the change in hormones when gaining power is responsible for some of the overly confident and unbelievably nervy things some CEOs and dictators do once in power.
    • Anonymous
    A personal mantra of mine is that "you are not determined by anything external to yourself." However, and you knew the however was coming, however, the fact of the matter is that people are determined by "things" external to themselves. Their job is only one of them.

    I suppose that it is little wonder this is the case. The character of individuals coming into positions of power and responsibility requires a certain "look" to be considered authentic. That is to say, the actor behind the mask, character, must fit the generally accepted appearance of the position or quite frankly, the position will go to someone who fits the shape of the mold. Believing this, people necessarily change.

    This is not to say that masks are a requirement of positions. There are those who are comfortable in their own skin and function very well in promotions without multiple personality disorder :-) My personal experience, and observation of others, generally supports the notion that in many cases of taking on new roles of responsibility, who we are and who we present to be are seldom the same person, especially in the beginning. And, those in this category are easily identified by their need for little things like 5 o'clock and weekends when they can remove the mask of the position and become themselves again. With time, this need diminishes.

    Good thing, bad thing, I have no idea. For some this cycle of events works very well; for others, not so. For some, the "pain" of being one person at work and another at home increases, leading to fewer smiles and fewer happy moments (at work and at home).

    With this predication, to answer the question, "to what extent does the job make the person rather than vice versa" I would have to ask, make the person what; make them happier, make them someone they really are not, make them someone they really are? Whatever the answer, I am convinced the "extent" is greater than lesser. I say this because, overtime, we become what we practice right, wrong, good, bad, or otherwise. That is to say, our fundamental identity is conjoined with our job to an extent the line of who is who disappears. And, as Cuddy points out, the antecedent was the position.
    • Narendar Singh
    • Professor, Free lancer
    Job has direct impact on the behaviour of an individual. Job exist in an environment, and there are interactions involved. Every interaction has either a positive or negative fellings generated. These feeling affect the behaviour and response of an individual. Competence creates respect but it is warmth that brings response. The warmth also depends how secure an individual feels in his job. Ther are studies to substantiate these.
    • Mohammad Khan
    • Associate Manager, Mega & Forbes Group
    Guess our Jobs influence us in one way or another .One of the great characteristic of human mind is adaptability to its surrounding environment . Certainly position , power & influence does make noticeable impact on individuals behavior. For Organizations recruiting a new employee should consider its old guns rather than hiring new one while Old Lot still do the job this creates a sense of anarchy within employees . One of the best example i have witnessed is i have seen a recruitment program of a Company where they have not hired a Expensive just because they know its would hinder performance of existing employees .
    • Sanjeev Vaid
    Does our job make us or do we select, may be unconsciously, the job that is extension of our personality and values? Or, are we seeing a resurgence of the age old caste system from Indian culture in 21st century?
    • Stephanie Smith
    How much of this study looked at the failures - those who did not become their jobs, and eventually left them in search of something more appropriate?
    Perhaps it's a case of "either you become the job or you're out" (or a permanent misfit). Either the hormones and natural adaptability of the person come into play and they change to fit the job, or they cannot and leave or are forced out.
    There have been a number of studies on the effect of clothing on people. Wear a power suit and - for women - heels, and you will feel more powerful. Also posture and facial expression - smile, and keep smiling, and you will feel happy.
    So I do believe that many people can grow into a job and become it. But not everyone can become any job, there are limits to how much a person can change.
    • Charles H. Green
    • Founder/CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates
    As with most complex, provocative questions, this one--"does the job make the person or vice versa?"-- is probably best answered by "it depends."

    I'm a little surprised at the strong tendency of commenters so far to say "the job makes the person." It would seem to me that many strong psychological tendencies are developmentally in place well before someone enters the workplace. What isn't natured greatly nurtured well before our teens, much less by job time.

    If jobs make the person, wouldn't we expect to see changes in MBTI scores when someone joins an organization? Yet I believe we don't. If the job makes the person, wouldn't we expect to see changes in political affiliation once someone ? In religious disposition? In musical preferences? Yet I believe we don't.

    A person who plays the comic in one company is likely to do the same in another. A person who majored in engineering is likely to behave like an engineer, whether they work for Cisco Systems or American Ballet Theater. A person who is suspicious and untrusting by nature is likely to bring that attitude to a job.

    To be sure, workplace environments have enormous influences over human behavior, emotions, etc. Yet at the same time, we bring certain things to the party. There is also a great deal of self-selection going on in hiring--not just the hiring organization, but the employee him- or herself is making decisions about whether their personality is going to be a fit, or not, with the company.

    In all these issues, it's useful to distinguish between what the things that change and the things that don't, rather than focus on the net balance between the two.
    • shivanthi Weerasinghe
    Yes the individual becomes the 'job' over a period of time. This is specially with the responsibilities that comes with the firstly job and then the position. This is familiar with job promotions. However, as Joe Waser says, there are several situations where a person is one character at work and a totally different personality in his/her private environment. Just like Joe I like too like that kind of change within a personlity. For instance, at work, with the responsibilities and the organizational culture one may have to be on guard or command over oneself to have some kind of order in the work processes. But that guard may be dropped off once one steps out of the work role and be the different person with good friends, old friends/relatives, class mates etc., to be less stressfull and fit into the simple social life, habits, passions etc., Definitely there should be a balance between warmth and competence, as both are required.
    • Gaurav Goel
    • DGM, RCom
    I get to play different roles in my job. There are days when I am with sales team trying to convince a customer to buy a product or working with the assurance team to douse off a support issue or working with a vendor to understand their value proposition. I can feel the difference in my general attitude depending on "what" I am doing at work on that particular day. I think that there is a definite connection in our role at work and our personalities. I would even say that the changes may be noticed on hourly basis.
    • Ravindra Edirisooriya
    • Senior Accounting and Finance Major, Missouri Southern State University
    "To What Degree Does the Job Make the Person?" asks Professor Heskett. He connotes that "certain behaviors that can determine success or failure." It is assumed that we operate within the free market economic principles, which defines success and failure. Also, it is not moral or humanistic success or failure. Can these definitions align? Of course the definitions can align, but unlikely.

    We model every phenomenon known to humankind, but can our serious models (environment for example) afford to fail even a measly one time? Is it inevitable that one our serious models are going to fail at some point in the future not essentially because we were not reasonable (given what we know) but because we could not comprehend the unknown? It is a natural truth that every system shall decay and disintegrate to its basic components. We have a MTBF for everything we manufacture, no exceptions. Is there an inevitable "Dooms Day" for the humankind in store not known to us? We try to incorporate reliability and redundancy into to every critical system we build. Is there one for humankind? As it reflects in our world stock market gyrations due to the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan, what would be the value of our stocks, bonds and commodities in an insurmountable crisis? Is the free market model a failsafe model? When it is said it is commonsense (Law of Gravitation, Archimedes' Principle, and Solar System were not commonsense before Newton, Archimedes and Copernicus respectively), what is meant is that somebody thought about (focused on) the object until it became commonsense.

    In the free market frame of success and failure, if a job seeker brings the top marks for warmth (what is warmth? Is it caring, compassionate, empathetic, likable, nicety, body movements, posture or something else? Do we have a good measure of warmth? Can warmth be learned or faked?) and competency, it may not guarantee success on the job. It takes more to do the right thing. It takes even more to admit mistakes, and reverse course, which happens since we are not all knowing. Is the contender a problem solver or problem deflector? Is the contender a conformist or open minded? Is the contender committed or uncommitted? Is the contender a decision maker on raw information (is it possible?) or self filtered information? Is the contender capable of adopting reasonable assumptions to build a model leading to a solution? It is very likely and should be expected that a contender will grow competency on the job and hence it is unlikely beyond basic competence being the factor that predicts success on the job. If we delve into the moral and humanistic frames of success and failure then we may consider fairness and honesty in addition to other predictors of success on the job.

    A job could not be as complex as the human doing it or could it be? The job can "make" the person by self exposing the weaknesses of the contender and giving a chance for making him or her the whole person.
    • Anonymous
    A person is made, to a degree, by their job. And the points about warmth and competence are interesting.

    I'm led to ask a question about perceptions that are driven by behaviors, and how norms work into it? If the competent person is taught the skills of warm behavior, they may be perceived better by others, as per the information in the article. However, this is based on the fundamental assumption that the person in question is competent. How is one to deal with the situation in which the norm is for people to use these behavioral manners, when they are in fact incompetent? And additionally, consider that the norm values behavior excessively to the point that competence becomes distantly secondary. In such a case, we have people liking (as in their perception of another) those who are in fact not considered competent, but have drawn the admiration of others for the behavioral manners they utilize.

    Although a successful organization, as per what that would be according to the article, will not value the behavioral aspect of performance over competence (aka: results, if I may make the distinction), how does it handle the informal development of workplace norms which prefer behavioral manners over competence?

    I don't mean to dispute the points of the article, but it must be said that unless the competence is there, nothing of value, which is desired, will come from hoping the job will make the person, and that behavior will improve the performance of a person, even though they are liked by others.
    • Yedendra Chouksey
    • Professor, International School of Business & Media, India
    A job is as good as the person who holds it and not vice-versa. Every job that has a power characteristic, no doubt, affects the performer's behavior but the extent to which the former dictates the latter is mediated not only by the power characteristic of the individual but also by the constraints and opportunities he visualizes in the job. These variables are controlled by the person and not by his job. Those overwhelmed by perceived constraints reduce the scope of use of power and succumb to failure. Those buoyed by possible opportunity enrich the inherent power of the job with their own and make the job look more powerful than it was envisaged.
    The power-behavior dynamics, thus, rests with the person instead of his job. The job provides the opening for power but the canvas of operations is determined by the power perception of the job incumbent.
    For proof one may compare how the same job with the same constraints, opportunities and environment is performed differently by successive incumbents. No two presidents, prime ministers or the CEOs show the same power or behavior in the same manner in the same position.
    Lastly, what is beyond doubt is that the job and the job holder are interdependent. So, the answer to the other questions should be in the affirmative. What will distinguish the tools of prediction of behavior or management recruitment and development will be chosen depending on which element has the upper hand--job or its performer. In my view, the latter.
    • Stephen Basikoti
    The acts and attitudes of individuals and groups making a social network in which any job is done have great impact on the jobholder. After all, the job's social network is a significant component of any person's environment and environments shape character and personality, albeit doing so in unpredictable ways. For instance, two individuals can be impacted in opposing way. For example, even though a lax environment is likely to produce unconcerned persons, it may as well make one or two persons very strict. Therefore, the value of information on how jobs affect people will be in helping us understand what we see as we prod a person to the ideal rather than in predicting how a particular person will turn out. With such information we will be able to make informed fine-tuning to programs for cultivating able leaders.
    • Phil Clark
    • Clark & Associates
    This is similar to the "chicken or the egg" type of discussion. Jobs influence behavior in many ways...but I am not sure they change the basic person. What is in each of us simply becomes emphasized or repressed. If I am a dishonest person...strict security at a job my repress that trait but it does not eliminate it. If I am basically a generous person...I likely will be generous at work even when working for a company that isn't.

    We tend as humans to want to "fit in". If having what I want means I will "fit into" a company, job, or behavioral expectation...then likely that is what I will do. If I am in a position that I do not particularly like...I may not make the effort to "fit in" to other's expectations.

    Notice that last statement..."others expectations". Meeting others expectations in order to fit in may actually be more of an influence than any other factor. As Sopory (#3) mentioned above, in many societies even the expectations of others starts people off in life with the expectation of fitting into a role. So the bottom line is my life determined by what I want, what others want, or what society allows????? I am afraid there will be know easy answer for this.
    • Kathryn Aiken
    Early in my career I was told to 'act as if' I were a leader, and soon a leader I would become. Step up, take charge, and lead. You will quickly be given more responsibilities. There is a leadership drought in companies all over the world. In terms of management recruiting and development implications, try this- recruit the people right in front of you for bigger roles. Develop them by putting them into jobs sooner than they are ready for, and let them "learn by doing". Take a risk and most will rise to the occasion. People want to be valued for their contributions. I say let them contribute.
    • Dinesh Kaushal
    • Software Developer
    another example of old wisdom being validated with scientific study.

    my father had pointed out that people often behave differently depending on to whom they are talking. He had observed that a person who appears forceful in front of his / her subordinates also appears somewhat docile to his / her senior.

    so relative position also changes the way people behave.
    • Bonnie
    • DB Schenker
    Jobs definately affect the behaviour pattern of an individual and as rightly pointed out by an individual, in case there si a mismatch of Job Profile with an individual's personal character, it can be a disaster. I am a firm believer of MBTI mapping to the roles and tus a psychometric match can always indicate if a person is getting into a right role. If yes, then the body language, confidence etc can be changed for positive. These right people in right places can do wonders for their organisation and vice versa,
    • David Z.
    1. If this research continues to produce such insights, is it more than a short step to conclude that we can give people tests that predict the degree to which an individual's behaviors may be affected by a job change?

    I think it's a short step for lower level jobs, perhaps a bit more for really senior positions. Think of how this would affect succession planning in the C-Suite.

    2. To what extent does the job make the person rather than vice-versa?

    As Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." Or in many cases, the firm and the culture shapes the job and then the job shapes us. The difference is different people may be have uniquely different results. I'm always curious to watch colleagues who move either up or down the organization and see how their personalities change as a result. It tells a lot about the person.

    3. Can it be predicted? Don't know, however we know people will try just like they do with the Meyers Briggs tests.

    4. If so, what does this mean for management recruiting and development in the future?

    This is big because if I can hire someone at one level and immediately know how they may react at a higher level, it would definitely affect my decision. It's what we can't know about candidates today when we're hiring for potential.
    • Anonymous
    I've seen how personalities can be transformed via a promotion to a higher level position. Overt changes to behavior where qualities shown were not necessarily exhibited prior to change in the role. In most cases, these tranformations were not for the better; new behaviors - like arrogance, intolerance, deception were introduced. Not sure if the person assumed the new personality / style thinking it was needed for the new role - or it was kept well hidden while they pursued a higher ground.
    • Govind
    • Professional Freelancer, Gadiyar
    Do we need research for this?

    Just watch a new person coming on news channel and
    see her transformed in front of your eyes in two quarters time.

    Commonsense!!!! and observation is enough...
    • Don Robertson
    • Co-Dir. Leadership Development Institute, Center for Business and Industry, Northampton Community College
    This kind of research is always both interesting and thought-provoking. It certainly reminds us of the many factors that will influence success and frustration, whether it be in defining a behavioral response or a career. My only concern is to not forget how incredibly complex a human is and that predicting anything is a crap shoot. In reading both the summary of the research and the comments from many learned people it is clear that many factors come into play when you start to analyze human behavior. It is impossible to take into consideration all those influencers and be able to conclude anything that will be "factual". I realize that is not the intent, but too many readers begin to read into such insightful research "facts" not conclusions. The complexity of an individual (who he or she is), will always be the unknown and determining factor that will define the facts; but even than, only for that singl
    e individual. It is what makes the study of human behavior so challenging.
    • Paul Nicholas
    • Director, Soul-Chaplain Consultancy
    Of course we are shaped by and "become" our jobs, just as we are shaped by and become our colleagues and friends, our homes and environments, our climate and our culture. Marshall McLuhan said "We shape our tools, and then they shape us". So to a degree we become our cars, phones, laptops, microwave ovens and household gadgets. We are the product of a set of genes and their interaction with a myriad of external influences. Perhaps it's time we began to accept that what we refer to as "I" is the product of everything that has happened to us. In a conventional sense "I" does not exist!
    • David Shindler
    • Director, Dash Coaching Ltd
    In my experience, it's not so much the job that shapes the person but the organisational culture. Same within education in the UK. As the cliche goes, learning is taught rather than caught. Too many young people come out of school held back by the institution and conformity is prized, rather than uniqueness, creativity and innovation. No wonder that affects so many people's career paths. More self-awareness and talent liberation needed.
    • Kamal Gupta
    • CEO, Edseva Software
    I speak from personal experience.

    Job changes behavior. Absolutely. I have seen my own films. I was lucky to get a job as head of a small company when only 28. My body language & talk was confident, even the language in my letters reflected this.

    I was promoted within the same group to a much larger company, but then my position was no.3 in the hierarchy. And all the poise and confidence vanished.

    Many years later I became CEO of one of India's top 5 corporates, and I looked and talked and acted the part.

    Not only the job, the location also matters. When I was living in the US, my carriage became more American, with a hint of swagger. Within India, it evolved as I changed locations, from the quiet & serious in the southern parts of the country to louder & warmer in the northern parts.

    As a child, my Dad (who was always a businessman and lived in the same city all his life) used to coach me to recognize a person's status in life and even profession by his body language, but then I realized that this too changes from location to location.
    • Sachin Joshi
    • Manager, Washington Technical Resources
    There are number of ways to approach this problem.
    1. You could ask a set of similar questions
    - To What Degree Does the Religion Make the Person
    - To What Degree Does the Marriage Make the Person
    - To What Degree Does the Money Make the Person
    - To What Degree Does the Friends and Peers Make the Person
    and so on
    In all these cases the answer is "it depends" and it depends upon the personality. People have talked about personality types for ages from Aristotle to Enneagram to MBTI to whatever is the latest. Not everyone gives same importance to job in their life. Everyone's aims and expectations are different. Consequently their centre of "personality" might be, they might have different loci of control, they might have different hierarchy of motivation. It really depends on the person and the job. And there are just too many variables.
    It is one of those questions like "what makes a person fall in love with other person". There are any number of answers.

    2. Everyone has different side in different context. I don't
    believe there is one Person that can be affected by a job.
    A successful "tough/ skillful negotiator" may be seen as pushy or selfish in family setting often loosing crucial co-operation and trust from people who matter. (You need to show compassion and self-less caring with your immediate family. Person is sum total of roles that person plays.
    Being multi faceted is not a crime.) You can and should be able play different roles. Each job requires multiple roles to be played. There are multiple interactions horizontal, up, down, outside. You were multiple hats.
    On the top of it there are thousands of jobs. Being a police officer doesn't necessarily make you bad teacher. You can't say a fashion designer can't be a great home inspector. Things are possible but unlikely. So again answer "To What Degree Does the Job Make the Person" depends on what job specifically and which side of person especially.

    3. We can question the purpose of the question itself. Why is answer important and in what context? Do we want job to make person? (or other way around?) People might be "invested" in a job, but how invested depends upon the personal ethics and conviction in own value system and importantly "other opportunity out their". Rewards, punishments, cognitive dissonance all that is irrelevant bullshit when people can say "not worth it" or "you're obviously wrong" or "certainly inconsistent with my beliefs". People choose jobs, people choose to stay, people choose to leave. Who chooses and what they choose depends on the person and situational factors. On the other side of coin we certainly don't want to hire people whose personal prejudices and/or antiques are detrimental to smooth running of business.

    4. Finally we must assume that when person and job requirements are best fit for each other, people work better and more productively and also have a more satisfying experience on the job. They are more likely to not play politics or be passive aggressors or outright trouble makers. We do want that kind of "positive spiral" as our goal.
    • shadreck saili
    • UCT
    To a greater extent and certainly so, our careers and jobs mold our character perpetually . Once an accountant, civil engineer, medical doctor, lawyer, journalist,security personnel, politician, agriculturist you name it, your perpetual perspective to situations is inclined to your life time experiences gained in your career and that describes you as a person of that sort.
    • Manish
    • Senior Marketing Executive, HiMedia Laboratories Pvt. Ltd.
    This is a interesting discussion; and i can certainly agree with lot of people hear; certainly job influences a person's behaviour but there are lot of variables; it can vary from personality to personality.
    • Mark O'Connor
    There is much research that proves, as Charles Green eludes-to @17, that certain preferences are formed by the late teens and do not change much throughout life.

    So, introverts do not become extroverts; managers that are more inclined to trust their instincts, even before all the statistical data has been developed on a subject, are not likely to make a dramatic shift to rely exclusively on traditional wisdom and empirical evidence before making decisions; leaders that tend to reach conclusions based on logic and not on how that decision would make them or others "feel," will not likely become suddenly concerned with how the correct decision will hurt someone's feelings; and people that are predisposed to making choices decisively will not suddenly become challenged because choosing one alternative forecloses so many other options.

    Extreme behaviors do moderate in life, but the underlying preferences do not change. One of the examples cited in the research discusses warmth, and its affect on perception. I tend to agree with @21. While I don't disagree with the finding that this may be the case, we need to be careful to insulate ourselves from it, especially the warm incompetents and corporate criminals! I would also add that there is a strong correlation between a person's sex and being predisposed toward the "warmth" described. I would like to see the study results broken out by gender, to see if the results of this research also suggests that.

    As I recall, Harvard Business School came down on the side of leaders being born and not made as well. I distinctly remember my HBS application asking questions about birth order that was clearly trying to identify people predisposed toward leadership simply by their position in their family, presumably with the oldest male and oldest female most often selected because they have been trained to be leaders from birth.

    So, with all this said, it seems clear that the job does not make the person, since most of our preferences and predispositions have been developed and are largely-fixed long before the jobs you are referring-to are accepted.

    As individuals, however, we certainly are affected in profound ways by our jobs. We may be stuck in jobs that don't take advantage of our capabilities. We may be thrust into positions for which we have great competence but little interest other than the pay check.

    I suspect, measures of testosterone and other hormones would be directly correlated to changes in position, and being in the right or wrong job as it relates to our personal preferences and predispositions. But I question the assertion that there is a causal link.
    • Brent Fangmann and James Scott
    • Graduate Students, Bethel Grad School
    How can a leader build a great company with great people?

    Does the development of a strong vision create an atmosphere where the pendulum swings from the job creating the person to the person creating the job?

    Is it the vision of the company that defines the ethos of the workers, or does the deeply held values of personnel ultimately define the organization?

    We believe there is a strong alignment between the values of the individual and that of the vision they seek to adopt.

    If this alignment of values can happen in the hiring process, the greatest potential for energized workers and organizational success is created.
    • Caroline
    • Student, Bethel University
    Question: Are good communicators born or made?
    Hypothesis: Communication champions can be taught.

    Conduct research: Test for personality types - Myers-Briggs.
    Teach communication skills.
    1) Make yourself approachable.
    2) Engage in strategic conversations.
    3) Listen with discernment.
    4) Ask meaningful questions.
    5) Participate in active dialogue.
    6) Be observant.

    Make claim: Anyone can be a good communicator. If a person is open to strengthening their communication skills, they can become a communication champion.
    • Ana Duran and Susan Carlson
    • Graduate Students, MAOL, Bethel University
    Does a job empower the employee? This article implies that those who are empowered will take on the qualities of someone who is competent. They will have physiological reactions that can affect their performance on the job, negatively or positively.

    In the case of those working on teams, how individuals interact based on their personality types and behaviors plays a large role in how the team and each individual on the team functions. It is important for the members of a team to come together around their common purpose and values. When people agree on shared values, they are more likely to have quality relationships.

    Leaders have to know how to combine personalities that complement one another and build a positive environment, and know how to provide support, coach , and handle conflicts that will arise. Team members have to learn about one another's working styles, allow room for mistakes, and be respectful of one another's strengths.

    By being strategic and pro-active in designing healthy teams, helping them build consensus, and manage conflict, leaders can better predict positive outcomes for teams. Ideally, leadership involves leader and followers working together to develop one another's skills and achieve a common goal.