talent optimizer analyzes workplace behavior

The four key factors that determine workplace behavior

September 7, 2017
6 minute read
Last updated February 7, 2020

The four key factors that determine workplace behavior

By Greg Barnett, PhD September 7, 2017

An explanation of how PI’s Behavioral Assessment works

60+ years ago, Arnold Daniels created the first version of the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment™ (BA). The design of the assessment was based on the works of William Marston and his book “Emotions of Normal People.” But Arnold’s workplace assessment tool also took inspiration from and followed the psychometric and psychological principles of influential psychologists such as Gordon Allport, Louis Thurstone, Raymond Cattell, and Carl Rogers, to name a few.

After several years of refining, Arnold’s workplace assessment was complete. He settled on an 86-item, free-choice, adjective checklist, which was specifically designed to measure four motivating needs, or “drives,” that had the biggest effect on workplace behaviors: dominance, extraversion, patience, and formality.

His position was this: If you know where a person falls on a spectrum of these four factors, you possess a great deal of knowledge about what it would be like to work with him or her. 

Let’s take a look at those four key factors in detail.

man taking PI Behavioral Assessment

The four drives that determine workplace behavior

1. Dominance

Dominance is the drive to exert influence on people or events. It’s also called the A drive.

An employee with a low amount of the dominance drive is collaborative, cooperative, and harmony-seeking. This person is accepting of company policies and generally happy to go along with others’ ideas. Low dominance employees prefer to be recognized as part of a team, and they tend to shy away from individual competition.

An employee with a high amount of the dominance drive is independent, assertive, and self-confident. This person enjoys being challenged, is comfortable with conflict, and likes autonomy in problem-solving. High dominance employees prefer individual recognition, and they can sometimes come across as authoritarian.

2. Extraversion

Extraversion is the drive for social interaction with other people. It’s also called the B drive.

An employee with a low amount of the extraversion drive takes time to trust others, values his or her privacy, and needs opportunities to reflect. This person likes to work with facts and is analytical and imaginative. Low extraversion employees prefer private recognition, and they can sometimes come across as matter-of-fact.

An employee with a high amount of the extraversion drive connects easily with others, craves social acceptance, and needs opportunities to influence others. This person is outgoing, convincing, animated, and enthusiastic. High extraversion employees prefer public recognition and like seeing visible signs of accomplishments.

3. Patience

Patience is the drive to have consistency and stability. It’s also called the C drive.

An employee with a low amount of the patience drive needs variety, freedom from repetition, and opportunities to handle multiple priorities. This person is comfortable with change, can juggle multiple priorities, and works at a faster-than-average pace. Low patience employees can sometimes be seen as intense, restless, impatient, or brisk.

An employee with a high amount of the patience drive craves a stable work environment and the ability to work at a steady pace. This person needs freedom from constantly changing priorities and is generally patient, calm, and peaceful. High patience employees tend to form long-term affiliations and like being recognized for their loyalty.

4. Formality

Formality is the drive to conform to rules and structure. It’s also called the D drive.

An employee with a low amount of the formality drive needs freedom from rigid structure as well as freedom from rules and controls. This person is tolerant of ambiguity, likes to be spontaneous, and would rather delegate the details to others. Low formality employees are flexible, informal, and adaptable.

An employee with a high amount of the formality drive needs clarity of expectations and time to gain expertise. This person sees him or herself as a subject matter expert and thus needs freedom from risk of error. High formality employees are meticulous, thorough, and disciplined, and prefer to be recognized for depth of knowledge.

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Reading behavioral patterns to understand workplace behaviors

Everyone has some combination of all four key factors. When a person takes the PI Behavioral Assessment, their results are translated into a behavioral pattern that centers around a midpoint and has three sigmas on either side.

If a factor falls to the left of the midpoint, the person has a low amount of that factor. If a factor falls to the right of the midpoint, the person has a high amount of that factor.

In the pattern below, the individual has high dominance (A), high extraversion (B), low patience (C), and low formality (D).

The further a factor is from the midpoint, the stronger those workplace behaviors will present. Think of it as turning up the volume button on a stereo. A person with a dominance drive that’s one sigma high would be moderately assertive whereas a person with a dominance drive that’s three sigmas high would be extremely assertive. While the first person might come across as independent, determined, and autonomous, the second person might seem to be aggressive, authoritarian, and challenging.

Factor combinations—or the way that certain drives interplay—are extremely important. The wider the spread between the two factors, the stronger the behavior will present. Looking at the above pattern you can see that there are three sigmas separating A and D (this is a pretty wide spread). Factor combination “A over D” tells you how comfortable someone is with taking risks. If the person’s A (dominance) factor is higher than his or her D (formality) factor, that person is comfortable with risk. On the other hand, if the candidate’s D is higher than his or her A, that person is cautious with risk.

Why understanding workplace behaviors is critical to your success

Understanding factor combinations can help you pinpoint candidates who are likely to be a good fit for an open role. For example, if you need to hire a sales BDR, you’d look for candidates with A over D because salespeople must be comfortable with risk.

One of the four forces that disrupt employee engagement and productivity is poor job fit. Poor job fit happens when people are placed in roles they aren’t naturally wired to do. But if you take the time to understand what makes a candidate tick—and what type of workplace environment and role they’d be most successful in—you can reduce bad hires and turnover.

Another reason why good employees quit is poor manager fit. Poor manager fit happens when managers don’t have the tools they need to manage employees in a way that pushes them to the top of their game. But when you give managers access to behavioral tools they can use those data insights to tailor their management style to each individual direct report.

Want to learn more about the four key factors that determine workplace behavior and how you can use people data to boost your business? Request a demo and experience the power of PI for yourself.

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  1. Durante muito tempo, usavamos diversas avaliações para entender o comportamento das pessoas no ambiente de trabalho, entretato, com o PI, podemos identificar os fatores primários (traços de personalidades) que impulsionam as pessoas para a realização das tarefas e sua proximidade com as pessoas. Vale a pena usar esta ferramenta científica para potencializar nosso time, tendo as pessoas certas na função correta. Prof. Sinkler Rojes

  2. My career has been in Human Resources and Operations for 25 years – My reference profile came back as an Altruist. Is that a good/strong fit for an HR Position? what about Operations?

    1. Hey JoAnn! It really depends on the company and the needs of the role. We do have/see Altruists in HR and Operations positions. 🙂

    1. Hi Will,

      I’m not understanding the question. I apologize. Are you asking which behavioral drives are best suited for bank jobs?


  3. Good morning. I am a Controller/CFO. My reference profile is “Specialist” and I would like to know if this is an OK, Good or strong match for an accounting/finance professional.

    Thank you

    1. Hey Jake!

      Thanks for reaching out! Great news: Specialist is actually the top Reference Profile for Financial Controllers, based on over 3,900 job benchmarks created in our software. 🙂

  4. A new hire presented me with a PI he completed 4/22/19 and we need assistance in interpreting it. Is there a resource that provides more in-depth explanation of reviewing the results and understanding them? We have not used PI in our hiring practices to date, but we would like to learn more.

    1. Hi Wendi,

      Did you know his Reference Profile (Maverick, Altruist, Collaborator, etc.)? If so, I can share some information specific to his profile/behavioral pattern.


  5. I love the Predictive Index! I have been using it for 10 years and think the redesign of the website and reporting is brilliant. This is one of the most fascinating and accurate tools I have used and it provides invaluable insights for both individuals and leaders.

    1. Hey Timothy!

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment, and we’re thrilled to hear you’ve enjoyed the updates and the PI solution.

  6. Thanks for the information about those 4 key factors. I like being dominance, dominance is one of the important things to be successful in your career path. Being dominant is what the boss want and it’s like thinking outside the box. Be confident and show the team your best version.

    1. Hi Aryan!

      Dominance can definitely be important and can play a role in success in your career, but all factors can be leveraged for individual and team success. That’s the beauty of having so many different patterns and factor combinations.

  7. This is a key factor in determining how people feel about the company and how motivated they are. When a company undergoes leadership changes the psychological climate of the company is altered and in turn, the whole employee performance improves.

  8. Hi Robert, sorry for this, we’re still dealing with bugs since launching our new website. You can take our free assessment here.

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