Individuals with supervisory roles play a crucial part in organizing and overseeing work, making pivotal decisions across various organizational levels and economic sectors. However, the question arises: are those in supervisory positions truly the right fit based on their personality traits?
A key facet of managerial and supervisory traits revolves around values, representing guiding principles in one’s life. Certain values are deemed more favorable for effective supervision. For example, values like Universalism and Benevolence are anticipated to correlate positively with supervision quality, while others, like Power, pose the risk of fostering autocratic tendencies.
In a new IZA discussion paper, Mihails Hazans, Jaan Masso and Per Botolf Maurseth delve into the connection between supervisory responsibilities and human values, specifically those influencing the quality and efficacy of supervision. Leveraging data from rounds 7-9 of the European Social Survey, the focus is on the Baltic Sea region, encompassing three Baltic countries, four Nordic countries, and Poland and Germany.
Across most considered countries, values such as Achievement and Self-Direction show a significant positive association with supervisory roles, reflecting a pursuit of professional success, creativity, critical thinking, and independent action—all desirable qualities in a supervisor. Yet, there’s a caveat: these values also carry the potential for autocratic behavior, especially pronounced in Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Germany, where Power values contribute to adverse selection in supervisory roles.
Benevolence and Universalism are theorized to enhance supervision quality. However, Benevolence, driven by helpfulness and care for close others, positively correlates with supervision only in Norway and Sweden. Meanwhile, Universalism, rooted in understanding, tolerance, equality, and nature protection, exhibits a negative link with supervision in Finland, Norway, Estonia, and Germany, with no significant correlation elsewhere in the Baltic Sea region.
Examining the link between a supervisor’s values and the number of subordinates (as a measure of supervision intensity) reveals that values impacting the likelihood of becoming a supervisor also influence the management of larger worker groups.
In essence, this study provides robust evidence of both positive and negative selection into supervisory positions, reinforcing earlier findings that the selection of managers and supervisors poses challenges, including issues like abusive supervision. It prompts a reevaluation of promotion and selection procedures to ensure the alignment of values with effective supervisory roles.