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Provides an overview of my research into the personality characteristics of technical communicators; presented at the West Michigan Shores Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC)

Provides an overview of my research into the personality characteristics of technical communicators; presented at the West Michigan Shores Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC)

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  • A Preliminary International Internet-Based Study of the Personality Characteristics of Technical Communicators

Personality of Technical Communicators Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Technical Communicators and Personality Types What’s the hype? Results of an international Internet-based survey of technical writers Deborah Hemstreet http://www.tech-challenged.com [email_address]
  • 2. Reasons to look at personality…
    • TC literature focuses on cognitive psychology
    • Cognitive psychology is intertwined with personality
    • Criteria for being a “good” TC border on personality related issues
  • 3. Let’s Look at Our Work
    • First rule: effective communication
      • Does this include verbal skills?
    • Good research and interviewing skills
      • Does this include interpersonal skills?
    • Open to new knowledge, quick learners
      • Does this include the ability to adjust to changing environments?
    RE Burnett (1997) Technical Communication
  • 4. Things We Look for in TCs
    • Quick Learner
    • Motivation
    • Curious & Inquisitive
    • Flexible in approach
    • Aware of own limitations
  • 5. These Qualities are Linked with Personality!
  • 6. Hard skills
    • Quantifiable
    • Technical
    • Professional
    • Obscure
    • Teamwork
    • Communication
    • Analysis
    Soft skills
  • 7. Why is personality typing useful for leading teams?
    • Soft skills are hard to quantify
    • Soft skill issues are hard to identify
    • Typing provides a good vocabulary
    • People don’t/can’t always say what they want or need
  • 8. We forget that people are different…
    • People respond to stress in different ways
    • People are motivated by different things
    • People respond better when receiving information in a form that is easy to digest
  • 9. My research question was
    • Are there personality characteristics that TCs have in common?
  • 10. Technical Communicators and the “Big 5” The Five Factors of Personality
  • 11. Personality tool: “The Big 5”
    • Five-Factor Model of Personality
    Openness Conscientiousness Extroversion Agreeableness Neuroticism Low (-) High (+) Average (o)
  • 12.
    • Professional literature stresses the need for TCs to be open to new knowledge
      • May relate to a TC’s curiosity
      • Ability to learn new technologies and tools
      • Openness includes creativity and the desire to learn new things
    Openness Schriver KS (1997) Dynamics in Document Design . John Wiley & Sons, New York. Preserver Moderate Explorer Terminology of Howard & Howard, 2000 Low (-) High (+) Average (o)
  • 13. Conscientiousness
    • Professional literature places emphases on the TC’s interest in detail, high ethical standards, and research skills
      • Related to motivation
      • Ability to meet deadlines
      • Attention to small details
      • Self-control and ethics
    Porter LR and Coggin W (1995) Research Strategies in Technical Communication . John Wiley & Sons, New York. Flexible Balanced Focused Terminology of Howard & Howard, 2000 Low (-) High (+) Average (o)
  • 14. Extraversion
    • Personality research indicates that introverted people may be more sensitive to pain, more easily bored, and more easily disrupted by over-stimulation
      • How well can the TC communicate with others?
      • Team work
      • Sociability
    Aiken LR (1997) Psychological Testing and Assessment . Ninth edition, Allyn and Bacon, London. Introvert Ambivert Extravert Terminology of Howard & Howard, 2000 Low (-) High (+) Average (o)
  • 15. Agreeableness
    • Want ads often include phrases like, “ability to get along well with others.”
    • TCs are often advised to work on their people skills
      • Is the TC cooperative with others?
      • When hiring, we want to “like” our colleagues
    Molisani J (1999) “Tools or talent? Hiring a technical writer.” Intercom , 46 (2): 24-25. Challenger Negotiator Adaptor Terminology of Howard & Howard, 2000 Low (-) High (+) Average (o)
  • 16. Neuroticism
    • Writing ability is affected by apprehension, anxiety, and motivation
      • Is the TC easily upset/disturbed when challenged?
      • Do schedule changes affect their writing ability?
    Sharples M (1999) How We Write: writing as Creative Design . Routledge, London. Resilient Responsive Reactive Terminology of Howard & Howard, 2000 Low (-) High (+) Average (o)
  • 17. Results 223 Respondents
  • 18. OCEAN Results Responsive / Resilient Adaptor Will Vary Focused Explorer Hypothesis Reactive 20 Adaptor 148 Extravert 57 Focused 69 Explorer 127 High Responsive 95 Negotiator 69 Ambivert 129 Balanced 128 Moderate 74 Avg. Resilient 108 Challenger 6 Introvert 37 Flexible 26 Preserver 22 Low N A E C O N=223
  • 19. Correlations to Professional Effectiveness Based on additional TC-related survey and information provided by respondents
  • 20. How to determine “effective”
    • Professional effectiveness based on:
      • Number of years working in field
      • Professional Achievements
      • Professional Satisfaction
      • Priority of TC tasks/skills/work
      • Self-rating of skills/capabilities
    • Scoring
      • Same standard as for the personality factors
  • 21. Results: Effectiveness
  • 22. OCEAN vs Effectiveness scores   Hypothesis: O + , C + , E o/+/- , A + , N o /N - - + o o + 42% + More Effective (n=24) - + o o + Average (n=141) o - 41% + o o + Less Effective (n=58) N A E C O Effectiveness
  • 23. A Quick Look at the Differences Conscientiousness and Extraversion
  • 24. Conscientiousness (Not!)
    • High conscientiousness was not a common factor
      • But it was for Editors and Managers !
    • Focused (C+) may prevent one from knowing when to stop, an important factor for TCs who are handling ever changing deadlines and products.
  • 25. The big controversy: Extraversion
    • Introversion may interfere with effective interpersonal communication.
    • Extroversion contributes to a job well done !
    • Explorers (O+) compensate for introversion
    • Focus training on individual communication style
  • 26. Extraversion Correlations
  • 27. Understanding less effective TCs
    • Highest % of introverts (E-)
      • May need to learn to ask for help, may find team work tiring
    • Highest % of “ reactives ” (N+)
      • May take critiques as reflection of self
      • May not handle stress well
    • Their generally avg. to high C, A & O helps to provide balance, making them pleasant people to work with
  • 28. Less effective TCs close-up Actual Overall Results: O + , C o , E o , A + , N - /N o Reactive 9 (16%) Adaptor 37 (64%) Extravert 11 (19%) Focused 10 (17%) Explorer 31 (53%) High Responsive 25 (43%) Negotiator 19 (33%) Ambivert 29 (50%) Balanced 38 (66%) Moderate 21 (36%) Avg. Resilient 24 (41%) Challenger 2 (3%) Introvert 18 (31%) Flexible 10 (17%) Preserver 6 (10%) Low N A E C O N=58
  • 29. Understanding more effective TCs
    • Highest % of managers
    • Highest % of N- (Resilient)
    • Equal number of C+/Co (focused/flexible)
      • Achievers, setting high goals & meeting them.
      • Able to interact in a non-threatening way
      • Strongly developed inner world, but enjoy socialization
  • 30. More effective TCs close-up Actual Overall Results: O + , C o , E o , A + , N - /N o Reactive 1 (4%) Adaptor 19 (79%) Extravert 10 (42%) Focused 10 (42%) Explorer 19 (79%) High Responsive 6 (25%) Negotiator 5 (21%) Ambivert 14 (58%) Balanced 12 (50%) Moderate 3 (13%) Avg. Resilient 17 (71%) Challenger 0 (0%) Introvert 0 (0%) Flexible 2 (8%) Preserver 2 (8%) Low N A E C O N=24
  • 31. Understanding average TCs
    • Highest % of average OCEAN score
      • The trend is for higher OCEA and lower N
      • These TCs may not take things to extremes
      • Provide balance for polarized teams
    • Highest % of Lone Writers , high % of writers
      • “Average” characteristics help to find the balance between research and writing
  • 32. Average TCs close-up Actual Overall Results: O + , C o , E o , A + , N - /N o Reactive 10 (7%) Adaptor 92 (65%) Extravert 36 (26%) Focused 49 (35%) Explorer 77 (55%) High Responsive 64 (45%) Negotiator 45 (32%) Ambivert 86 (61%) Balanced 78 (55%) Moderate 50 (35%) Avg. Resilient 67 (48%) Challenger 4 (3%) Introvert 19 (13%) Flexible 14 (10%) Preserver 14 (10%) Low N A E C O N=141
  • 33. Personality typing benefits
    • Resolve soft skill issues
    • Intuitively pull information
    • Create effective partnerships
    • Improve relationships
    • Foster diversity and teamwork
    • Identify growth areas
  • 34. Tips about typing
    • Consider the shades of grey
    • People are not one type
    • Under stress, most people are themselves
    • Perspective versus reality
  • 35. Top 5 pitfalls to avoid
    • No us vs them
    • Don’t pigeonhole
    • Don’t use type as an excuse not to grow
    • Don’t get hung up on one sentence or one point
    • Managers: don’t mandate testing for your team
  • 36. What do you think? Lets talk about these results and how to use them in real life situations
  • 37. Contact Me Deborah Hemstreet http://www.tech-challenged.com [email_address]
  • 38. Selected Bibliography
    • Buchanan, T. (2001). Online implementation of an IPIP Five Factor Personality Inventory [On-line]. Available: http://wwwffi.individualdifferences.org.uk
    • Coe M (1996) Human Factors for Technical Communicators. John Wiley & Sons, NY
    • Delanghe S (2000) Using learning styles in software documentation. IEEE Trans on Professional Communication vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 201-205
    • Howard PJ and Howard JM (1992) The Big Five Quickstart: An introduction to the five-factor model of personality for human resource professionals . Vol. 60, No. 2 Journal of Personality
    • Kellogg RT (1994) The Psychology of Writing. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford.
    • Molisani J. (1999) Tools or talent? Hiring a technical writer. Intercom vol. 46, no. 2 pp. 24-25
    • Pervin, L.A. (1996) The Science of Personality . John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
    • Piedmont, R.L. (1998) The Revised NEO Personality Inventory. Clinical and research applications. Plenum Press, NY
    • Schriver KS (1997) Dynamics in Document Design . John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  • 39. Review of Common Factors
    • Explorers, O +
      • open to new experiences & knowledge
      • have a well developed inner world
      • enjoy working with ideas & intellectual interests
    • Balanced, C o
      • able to move from production to research and back
    Actual Overall Results: O + , C o , E o , A + , N - /N o
  • 40. Review of Common Factors
    • Ambiverts, E o
      • able to work in a group, or in isolation
      • handle collaborative work situation better than introverts or extroverts
    • Adapters, A +
      • straightforward, frank
      • willing to help others
      • yield under conflict
    Actual Overall Results: O + , C o , E o , A + , N - /N o
  • 41. Review of Common Factors
    • Resilient/Responsive, N - /N o
      • Emotionally stable in competitive situation
      • Not easily ruffled
      • When combined with C + (Focused), is the stereotypical achiever
    Actual Overall Results: O + , C o , E o , A + , N - /N o
  • 42. Close-up: General Writers (n=84) Reactive 8 (10%) Adaptor 60 (71%) Extravert 20 (24%) Focused 27 (32%) Explorer 47 (56%) High Responsive 36 (43%) Negotiator 21 (25%) Ambivert 51 (61%) Balanced 47 (56%) Moderate 27 (32%) Avg. Resilient 40 (48%) Challenger 3 (4%) Introvert 13 (15%) Flexible 10 (12%) Preserver 10 (12%) Low N A E C O N=84
  • 43. Close-up: Lone Writers (n=53) Reactive 5 (9%) Adaptor 31 (58%) Extravert 10 (19%) Focused 16 (30%) Explorer 31 (58%) High Responsive 24 (45%) Negotiator 21 (40%) Ambivert 33 (62%) Balanced 30 (57%) Moderate 17 (32%) Avg. Resilient 24 (45%) Challenger 1 (2%) Introvert 10 (19%) Flexible 7 (13%) Preserver 5 (9%) Low N A E C O N=53
  • 44. Close-up: Managers (n=25) Reactive 0 (0%) Adaptor 16 (64%) Extravert 8 (32%) Focused 11 (44%) Explorer 16 (64%) High Responsive 11 (44%) Negotiator 8 (32%) Ambivert 13 (52%) Balanced 12 (48%) Moderate 6 (24%) Avg. Resilient 14 (56%) Challenger 1 (4%) Introvert 4 (16%) Flexible 2 (8%) Preserver 3 (12%) Low N A E C O N=25
  • 45. Close-up: Info Design & Visual Arts (n=23) Reactive 2 (9%) Adaptor 13 (57%) Extravert 5 (22%) Focused 4 (17%) Explorer 14 (61%) High Responsive 9 (39%) Negotiator 10 (43%) Ambivert 15 (65%) Balanced 17 (74%) Moderate 8 (35%) Avg. Resilient 12 (52%) Challenger 0 (0%) Introvert 3 (13%) Flexible 2 (9%) Preserver 1 (4%) Low N A E C O N=23
  • 46. Close-up: Editors (n=18*) *Not statistically significant – more research is needed Reactive 5 (28%) Adaptor 13 (72%) Extravert 6 (33%) Focused 3 (17%) Explorer 11 (61%) High Responsive 4 (22%) Negotiator 4 (22%) Ambivert 7 (39%) Balanced 10 (56%) Moderate 5 (28%) Avg. Resilient 9 (50%) Challenger 1 (6%) Introvert 5 (28%) Flexible 5 (28%) Preserver 2 (11%) Low N A E C O N=18
  • 47. Openness—a key factor!
    • Openness to new experiences, a strong inner world and enjoying working with ideas and intellectual interests seems to be a common factor across the board.
    • Openness should be a major consideration in career counseling and curriculum planning
  • 48. Agreeableness: Balancing Factor
    • Its importance is due to its relationship with other factors
      • A+, Eo (n=81): flexible style of relating
      • Co, A+ (n=72): find the balance between research & writing, in friendly communicative manner
      • Agreeableness impacts team work and cooperation. Since TCs tend to be adaptors, they may need work on negotiating skills.
  • 49. Neuroticism: How We Respond!
    • Importance appears when correlated with Conscientiousness
      • C + N provide a reflection of competitive performance, motivation, and self-confidence
      • Majority: Co/N- (Balanced/Resilient) or C+/N- (Focused/Resilient) profile
      • None of the managers surveyed had a Reactive score
      • Highest % of Reactives was among Editors