Last updated: April 22, 2019
Topic: BusinessCompany
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Managing Organizational Change and Personality Relative to Social Constructionism

 

Introduction

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Even the most confident of people can be nervous, anxiety at the prospect of attending a job interview because this action puts a person on display.  A job interview implies one’s personality will be revealed and analyzed by the organization.  This in itself creates an environment built around uncertainty, the catalyst of change and sometimes results in fear.  A job interview is the great unknown for any personality to conquer because caused by the vary concept of changing jobs.  Still how one reacts to the interview can tell management a lot about how he or she will deal with change in the future.

Examining one’s responses during an interview sets the stage for many issues and concepts; even relationships to be explored as a result of change and how one manages change.  It is the vary nature of psychology to examine how people interact and react within a social construct.  The interview experience sets the stage for future behavior.  Who are they and what is his or her relation to the environment of the modern business world? It will be defined that it is human nature to resist change and conflict because one does not always have the coping mechanisms or the means to process conflict.  The purpose of this paper is to discuss the job interview as an exciting event that is the pre-curser of change with regard to social constructionism and academic views by Vivian Burr and Kenneth Gergen.  This paper will touch on how a leadership personality can create an environment where resistance to change does have coping mechanisms and the communications skills to make change a positive force within the organization.

Before delving further into one’s personality within the social construct of work, it is important to define key concepts to create a foundation from which to examine change. These concepts include: personality, relativity, relational perspective, position theories, differences in language and social constructionism.  One will look primarily at the research of Vivien Burr and Kenneth Gergen to understand these concepts but also offer one’s own insights into the subject.  To take this examination further, one will look to business experts, specifically those who understand organization behaviors for evidence of personality, change and the evolving modern workplace.

Finally, the implications of change management and innovation will be discussed as one concept feeds on the other.  Change cannot exist without a by-product and in other words, the relationship is cyclical.  In many social constructs, change acts a catalyst that promotes a response or behavior from each personality.  How one relates or remains relative to this response directly is attributed to one’s perception of change as part of his or her personality and therefore, creates his or her position within the organization.  By looking at personality, an organization can better position that personality to optimize key traits and levels of communication.  Still the job interview can be a time when the personality is subjected to great stress.  One may not act like themselves during this situation.  One takes cues from the interviewer to understand what social constructs in which to rely.  This can sometimes by like navigating a mind field.

 

Defined Concepts

When one starts to tackle the concept of personality, one discovers many complexities, theories and foundations for definition.  In psychology, many seek to separate the meaning of self and ego in relation to personality when really in today’s modernist view; the three are interchangeable.  With this in mind, how can one grasp the concept, do these concepts even really exist in today’s world of examining feelings?  Maybe one’s personality is a combination of so many things; it is impossible to define.  For the sake of understanding, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines Ego as “one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality” (Mish, 398).  The Ego also functions in aiding perception and the adaptation of reality for individuals.  Basically how one defines one’s self is directly related to its surroundings.  I believe this is one reason why the word ego is synonymous with the word self in culture.  Ego is centered completely on a person’s perception of themselves and their environment.  This brings up further issues with respect to personality when discussing social constructionism because in the words of experts like Vivien Burr and Kenneth Gergen how that term is defined needs changing to fit the modern view of the world.

For the purist and students of Descartes, Kenneth Wilson starts defining personality as “existing within people is really just an extension of the Cartesian self” (1997, 2).  For traditionalists, this means that the self or personality is defined by one’s relativism to society, history, culture and language.  It could be argued by Burr and Gergen that one’s relativity or relation to these factors has changed as the work environment has evolved due to the impact of innovation.  Our history, society, culture and language are shaped by innovations, inventions or technology more today than ever before.  Really there is no such thing as a collective notion of history, society, culture and language because of personality differences due to living with innovation that makes the world a seamless melting pot.  People are proud of difference and this can be evident during the hiring process.  This in itself changes one’s relationship with the world but also brings the issue of personality to the forefront of discussion.  Because one’s relational perspective has changed because of factors like race, gender and multiculturalism; the definition of personality must also change with respect to social constructionism.  We will find that Burr’s and Gergen’s views vary when looking at society from a multicultural standpoint.

Burr starts her argument by saying “personality is not a meaningful way of understanding ourselves” (Wilson, 1997, 2).  She in fact believes the term should change for social constructionists or replaced with the word ‘identity’, as it is a more social concept.  The idea of personality distorts the view as it creates “circular reasoning” that behavior is situational (Burr, 2003, 30-31).  Human behavior is influenced by personality but not all human behavior can be defined by social constructs like society, culture, language and this mainly because the concept of personality is largely a western concept.  By applying this definition to people outside of western culture, gives one a false sense of reality and false basis for universal human nature.

With respect to this paper, it is important to stay within the western view but still this furthers Burr’s argument for further change to social constructionism, relativity and relational perspective as the definition of society changes because of differences in language, race, culture and gender have impact.  It is impossible not to include the ‘unreality’ of non-western culture.  Still within the framework of western definitions, one is challenged because of differences, as one’s uniqueness becomes a focal point.  This is the catalyst for chance.  Still during an interview, does one use one’s differences in demographic ‘identity’ to further themselves and the organization acknowledge these differences allowing his or her preconceived notions to ‘judge’ these differences?  It happens all the time whether or not we see it.  Or does the organization live outside the conventional western view of society construct?  One would hope that because of innovation, such movements as civil rights that the organization could see past stereotypical personality factors when managing change.  The fact of the matter the person is interviewing for a reason, to change something about his or her life.

With this in mind, it is the work of Burr and Gergen that suggests the social constructionist modern view of personality be defined as “the concept that we use in our everyday lives in order to try to make sense of the things” around us (Burr, 2003, 34).  This allows one’s experiences into the equation (Warren, 2004, 40) but also allows for continued transformation of the personality.  Gergen relates that such transformative dialogues within the personality allows one to know one’s self directly instead of remaining confused and this in turn opens the mind to new experiences and less resistance to change (1995, 162).  This allows the mind to be open to new ideas and constant evolution as a personality, self or identity.

 

Organizational Behavior and Change

The implications of doing business within this new reality means constantly being open-minded to change as an everyday factor and remaining comfortable knowing that not every day is same.  Some people cannot work in such conditions.  As Stephen Robbins’ comments, “As humans, we are creatures of habit. Changes substitute ambiguity and uncertainty for the known” (2001, 546).  People, by human nature, inherently resist change.  It does not matter if ‘identity’ is flexible; people remain within the status quo.  This is why people find his or her comfort zone at work and usually do not venture out into the interview realm; there is too much stress.  Still the multicultural generation lends itself to constant change and movement from organization to new opportunities.  In much reflection, while Burr’s work is groundbreaking for the time, it is somewhat outdated for the present, modern workplace.

This resistance to change can result in conflict but it also creates opportunities for innovation.  Change in business, including multicultural demographics and new technologies, has required perceptions to change.  The attitude toward knowledge has evolved because more than one type is needed in order to implement a new idea.  This changes the needs of workers and organizations as diffusion of innovation takes place as many different points of view are considered.  This creates new identities for the personality to flourish creating a new atmosphere for the interview.  As Kenneth Gergen suggests these internal conservations within one’s personalities not only create war zones of conflict for the worker but also as a result create coping mechanisms for moving forward (1995, 40). The internal dialogue that Gergen presents acts a coping mechanism; somehow allowing times of stress to be ‘okay’ and allowing the personality to work under pressure of the unknown during the interview.  His work examines how the personality is constantly evolving to not only include past experiences but to also incorporate new ones happening in the present.  As a result an interviewee may say something unique challenging to the organization.  They may display creativity under performance pressure, therefore reflecting how they may thrive in the new workplace.  The dialogue offers comfort during uncertainty and company’s look for people who exhibit these levels of emotional intelligence.  This allows the future to present itself in a way maybe not understood before hand.  This adds value as it spawns creative thinking but allows leaders to better understand the people on his or her teams.  This brings a whole new level to team building strategy that can start with the first interview and continue throughout an employee’s tenure.  This in a sense creates positioning of personalities so the work can get done efficiently.  This is one reason why many organizations have turned to personality testing during the recruiting process (Williams, 2).  Knowing upfront how personalities fit into the organizational puzzle alleviates conflict and reduces resistance to change.

With regards to modern society and workplace, Gergen is on the forefront of innovative thinking in the social constructionism field.  In Burr’s continued debate about identity, she delves into the absolute belief found in western society that one must have a personality.  Still she questions this concept; “there is no objective evidence that you can appeal to which would demonstrate the existence of your personality” (2003, 30).  This challenges everything we believe about conscious thought, the self, and Gergen’s dialogue.  She believes everything is ‘circular reasoning’ but yet she questions it all.  Her perspective comes from the need to label personality when one could have more than one facet to his or her personality.  We want to label a person as aggressive because of repeated behavior in the past but Burr makes the argument that personality is “stable across situations and over time” (2003, 31).  Does this mean it can change at all?  Burr suggests there is a difference between personality and behavior.  In other words, how we behave depends upon the situations we find ourselves in and not our characteristics (2003, 31).  Therefore by this definition, the situation predicts how we will behave, not necessarily how personality will react.

Still it can be believed Burr was struggling with new modern influences that a multicultural world presents today.  She suggests that not all people have not realized the potential of personality and how much it can persuade behavior (2003, 33).   From a modern view, this displays discrimination as she explains people outside the west struggle in a ‘false view of reality’ (2003, 33) due to the fact they are born into a society not as advanced as the west or with different cultural values.  These societies lack the structure and complexities of the west.  It seems judgmental. This seems unfair.  She believes “how people think about and describe their experiences our language is constantly changing and we accept the meanings of words mutate over time” (2003, 33).  This should apply to all language and culture worldwide.

These ideas act as a foundation for Gergen’s work as the concept remains important to the interview and being open to the internal dialogue within now that the west and non-west have fused into a multicultural society.  In other words, even when concepts are so carefully defined, the impact of change puts the modern world into a realm of endless possibility.  We can analyze these concepts into infinity but we must be aware of change as a continuous force within today’s society.

Change and its impact upon personality positioning starts a cycle of direct relationships where one cannot survive without the other, especially within the modern business world where change occurs at the speed of light.  Peter Drucker describes, “unexpected successes and failures are such productive sources of innovation opportunities because most business dismiss them, disregard them, and even resent them” (1998, 149) and this type of behavior represents people’s resistance to change but at the same time creates recognition of new opportunities within society.

 

Change produces a whole new reality that the employees may not be prepared to handle, thus the cycle continues.  With innovations come new inventions that make our lives easier but also have a higher risk when used.  This is the nature of the realm of possibility.  This age has given permission to anyone to create and discover.  This can backfire as it can also destroy and impose new rules of conduct upon communities.  It changes political views as the world becomes border-less and as a result changes society.  This new age brings up issues of responsibility and accountability for everyone involved.  Because change and the conflicts that follow create innovation, not everyone fully embraces such ideas.  His or her personality is not flexible.  This leads to counter movements to conserve what is left of the past.  This means as change rapidly flourishes out of control, those resistant to change aim to gain control of laws and rules to make change more difficult.

For the Interview process, it is important to consider factors that may encourage stereotypes.  These steps begin with understanding not only the organization’s values and mission, but also understanding what personalities can lead the stages where coping with change and change’s impact have the greatest effect on furthering the positioning of positive employee traits.  This connection begins at a fundamental level of human sociology where the use of story is central.  Howard Gardner reflects, “The ultimate impact of the leader depends most significantly on the particular story that he or she relates or embodies, and the receptions to that story on the part of the audiences” (1995, 14).  By telling stories, allows for a certain level of openness or vulnerability on the part of the leader and makes them human.  By opening the line of communication, gives the employee knowledge of his or her environment and develops trust.  The leader’s role is to sell the idea of commitment within a social construct; identify personalities that are flexible to change; identity personalities that are not but build a bridge to ease people’s fears and internal conflicts.  These can be difficult challenges but realistic as long as the leader remains focused on differences and is able to communicate in language clear to all.

 

Conclusion

It was important to define key concepts to create a foundation from which to examine change and explain within modern society but also organizational culture and interviewing.  These concepts included: personality, relativity, relational perspective, position theories, differences in language and social constructionism.  One looked primarily at the research of Vivien Burr and Kenneth Gergen to understand these concepts.  By having such a basis for analysis, one can look at social constructionism as an evolving movement with room to manage change within a modern world where there is endless possibility.  Organizations and their management must be able to look at the interview process with a subjective eye and flexibility toward multicultural elements found today in everyone.

 
References:

 

Bennis, Warren.  On Becoming a Leader, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts, 1989.

 

Burr, Vivien.  The Case for Social Constructionism, Psychology Press, 2003.

 

Drucker, Peter F.  1998, “The Discipline of Innovation”, Harvard Business Review, 76,

p. 149.

 

Gardner, Harold.  Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, Harper Collins, New York, 1995.

 

Gergen, Kenneth, J.  Realities and relationships, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,

Massachusetts, and London, 1995.

 

Mish, F. C. (Ed.).  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, 2004.

 

Robbins, Stephen.  Organizational Behavior, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 2001.

 

Warren, Bill.  2004, “Construing Constructionism: Some Reflection on the Tension Between PCP and Social Constructionism”, Personal Construct Theory & Practice, 1, p. 34.

 

Williams, Wendall.  2006, “To Be or Not to Be”, Electronic Recruiting Exchange, p. 1-4.

 

Wilson, Kenneth, G.  The Line in the Sand Has Blown Away, University of South Africa, Durban, 1997.