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Allocation of roles

Author: Dr Simon Moss


Managers often need to decide which roles and responsibilities they should allocate to each employee. Alternatively, coaches or mentors might need to offer advice to their clients or proteges, specifying to which roles and responsibilities they are most suited. Finally, recruiters often need to decide whether someone is suited to a specific role.


Conservative versus risky roles

Employees who are extraverted-sociable, talkative, energetic, adventurous, and assertive rather than unsociable, reserved, and introverted-are not suited to roles in which they merely need to uncover and nullify errors, problems, or shortfalls (e.g., Wang & Erdheim, 2007). They are not, for example, suited to roles in which merely need to monitor screens, responding only when symbols that represent a threat or problem appear. That is, they cannot maintain effort when they engage in these tasks

In contrast, employees are extraverted are more suited to roles in which they need to maximize gains, such as propose creative suggestions, rather than minimize shortfalls. That is, they are more suited to risky roles.

Objectives of roles

Extraverted employees prefer roles in which they can evaluate or assess other individuals (Zhang & Huang, 2001). They also prefer roles in which they can consider broad, abstract issues rather than focus on specific, tangible details (Zhang & Huang, 2001).

Individuals who are not extraverted, but unsociable, reserved, and introverted, are less suited to these roles. These employees, for example, prefer roles in which they focus on concrete, tangible details (Zhang & Huang, 2001).

Difficulty of roles

In some jobs, the workload is often limited, but individuals need to maintain their concentration anyway. For example, security officers often need to monitor computer screens, over extended periods of time, even though few responses are necessarily. Individuals who are introverted are more effective in these roles than are individuals who are extraverted.

Introverted individuals can maintain their concentration even as their workload recedes. In contrast, extraverts are alert only when many stimuli and events. That is, their level of alertness drops appreciably (Cox-Fuenzalida, Angie, Holloway, & Sohl, 2006).

Characteristics of teams

Extraverted individuals should be assigned to teams in which some, or most, of their colleagues are introverted. Likewise, introverted individuals should be assigned to teams in which many, but not all, of their colleagues are extraverted.

Employees prefer colleagues who are dissimilar in the extent to which they are dominant or subservient. Dominant employees, who are often extraverted, prefer individuals who are submissive& fewer conflicts tend to arise (Peeters, van Tuijl, Rutte, & Reymen, 2006). Likewise, submissive, employees, who are often introverted, prefer individuals who are dominant.



Employees who demonstrate neuroticism-anxiety, irritability, instability, and discontent rather than composure and resilience-devote more effort to roles in which they need to outperform colleagues or to fulfill specific standards (e.g., Wang & Erdheim, 2007). They are more suited to roles in which employees must follow specific procedures, instructions, and routines (Zhang & Huang, 2001). They dedicate less effort to roles when the standards and expectations are ambiguous or unavailable.


Individuals who exhibit neuroticism perform effectively in work environments in which everyone is busy and careful concentration is critical (Smillie, Yeo, Furnham, & Jackson, 2006)& that is, the task is unpredictable rather than repetitive. These individuals are often distracted with worries and concerns. Indeed, these worries and concerns both reinforce their unpleasant emotions as well as compromise their performance on some tasks. In some environments, however, individuals must concentrate carefully on their tasks at work. This careful concentration curbs these distracting thoughts, improving their mood.

Characteristics of teams

Individuals who exhibit neuroticism, or at least seem very sensitive to noise and other demands and difficulties, should be assigned to teams in which supervisors and colleagues are very supportive rather than judgmental. That is, individuals who are very sensitive to these unpleasant events are inclined to experience negative mood states, especially if they operate in unsupportive environments (e.g., Aron, Aron, & Davies, 2005). More importantly, these individuals do not tend to communicate effectively and might not be suited to roles in which they must interact with difficult customers (Liss, Mailloux, & Erchull, 2008)

AgreeablenessCharacteristics of teams

Disagreeable employees-individuals who are defiant, immodest, distrusting, harsh, and unsympathetic- should be assigned to teams in which members exhibit similar traits. Likewise, agreeable employees, who are compliant, modest, trusting, forgiving, and sympathetic, should also be assigned to teams in which members exhibit similar traits. That is, employees tend to prefer colleagues who are similar on the extent to which they are friendly and amenable (Peeters, van Tuijl, Rutte, & Reymen, 2006).

Characteristics related to agreeableness

Emotional intelligence

Some employees do not seem to demonstrate emotional intelligence& they do not, for example, seem to control their temper, frustration, anxiety, or distress effectively. These employees should be assigned to supervisors who can regulate these emotions well.

That is, individuals are more inclined to be satisfied with their job when they elicit suitable emotions. For example, to think creatively, they need to curb their anxiety. To concentrate on monotonous tasks, they need to reduce their excitement, and so forth. Some employees can control these emotions effectively and appropriately, which ensures their feelings are suitable to the tasks they undertake, ultimately improving their satisfaction at work. Nevertheless, this capacity is not as essential if their supervisors have developed these emotional skills (Sym, Tram, & O'Hara, 2006). These supervisors are able to evoke the suitable emotions in their employees.


Stability of roles

Conscientious employees-that is, individuals who are organized, thorough, responsible, disciplined, and ambitious rather than unsystematic, irresponsible, unreliable, and unmotivated-should be assigned to jobs in which policies, procedures, and objectives change erratically over time. Conscientious individuals are motivated to achieve the goals they are set-and thus adapt their behavior exceedingly well when these goals are adjusted (Stewart & Nandkeolyar, 2006).

Characteristics of teams

Conscientious employees-individuals who are ambitious, disciplined, responsible, thorough, and methodical- should be assigned to teams in which members exhibit similar traits. Likewise, employees who are unmotivated, apathetic, irresponsible, erratic, and disorganized should also be assigned to teams in which members exhibit similar characteristics (see Peeters, van Tuijl, Rutte, & Reymen, 2006). Employees tend to prefer colleagues with similar values. Individuals who are undisciplined rather than conscientious do not value achievement and, as a consequence, prefer colleagues with similar qualities.

Characteristics related to conscientiousness


Individuals who seem somewhat hesitant, dejected, and uncertain, often struggling to motivate themselves to begin tasks they perceive as monotonous, challenging, or unpleasant, perform more effectively on tasks that are repetitive (Diefendorff, Richard, & Gosserand, 2006). That is, these individuals often cannot decide which course of action to pursue. That is, they continue to shift their focus, almost erratically, from one task to the next activity, uncertain how to proceed. This problem dissipates if they undertake tasks that comprise routines, in which fewer decisions need to be reached.

Characteristics related to openness

Preference to reach decisions rapidly

Some individuals like to seek a sense of clarity without careful contemplation. They like to reach decisions rapidly, without considerable deliberation or research, and would prefer to receive undesirable news now rather than remain in a state of uncertainty. These individuals should be assigned to the most autocratic leaders in the organization-that is, the leaders who often reach decisions alone, and then impose these initiatives, rather than consult with employees.

That is, these individuals like to experience a sense of clarity-an understanding of how they should behave-without careful contemplation. They seek a leader who can afford this understanding and clarity. Autocratic leaders often fulfill this role (Pierro, Mannetti, De Grada, Livi, & Kruglanski, 2003).

Physical appearance

Attractive features

Some organizations tend to select attractive employees, assuming these individuals are preferred by clients. However, recent studies suggest that very attractive employees are sometimes perceived as less trustworthy, proficient, and effective by clients (Koerning & Page, 2006).

This tendency is especially common in industries in which customers do not expect service providers to be especially attractive (Koerning & Page, 2006). Specifically, in industries that are unrelated to beauty, such as dentistry, attractive employees are usually perceived as less proficient. In industries that relate directly to beauty, such as hairdressing, attractive employees are usually perceived as more proficient.

Therefore, organizations should ascertain whether or not customers expect their employees to be attractive. For example, they could ask clients to anticipate the appearance of employee they will soon meet. Ideally, individuals who seem to align with these expectations are suited to the corresponding roles.


Aron, E. N., Aron, A., & Davies, K. (2005). Adult shyness: The interaction of temperamental sensitivity and an adverse childhood environment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 181-197.

Cox-Fuenzalida, L., Angie, A., Holloway, S., & Sohl, L. (2006). Extraversion and task performance: A fresh look through the workload history lens. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 432-439.

Diefendorff, J. M., Richard, E. M., & Gosserand, R. H. (2006). Examination of situational and attitudinal moderators of the hesitation and performance relation. Personnel Psychology, 59, 365-393.

Koerning, S. K., & Page, A. L. (2006). What if your dentist looked like Tom Cruise? Applying the match-up hypothesis to a service encounter. Psychology & Marketing, 19, 91-110.

Liss, M., Mailloux, J., & Erchull, M. J. (2008). The relationship between sensory processing sensitivity, alexithymia, autism, depression, and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 255-259.

Peeters, M. A. G., van Tuijl, H. F. J. M., Rutte, C. G., & Reymen, I. M. M. J. (2006). Personality and team performance: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Personality, 20, 377-396.

Pierro, A., Mannetti, L., De Grada, E., Livi, S., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2003). Autocracy bias in informal groups under need for closure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 405-417.

Smillie, L. D., Yeo, G. B., Furnham, A. F., & Jackson, C. J. (2006). Benefits of all work and no play: The relationship between neuroticism and performance as a function of resource allocation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 139

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Last Update: 6/15/2016