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Birth Order and Personality in the Workplace Ben Dattner, Ph.D. Ben Dattner, Ph.D.

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Presentation on theme: "Birth Order and Personality in the Workplace Ben Dattner, Ph.D. Ben Dattner, Ph.D."— Presentation transcript:

1 Birth Order and Personality in the Workplace Ben Dattner, Ph.D. Ben Dattner, Ph.D.

2 2 Birth Order and Personality Evolutionary Theory Evolutionary Theory First Born Children First Born Children Second Born Children Second Born Children Middle Children Middle Children Only Children Only Children Twins Twins Special Circumstances Special Circumstances Conclusion Conclusion

3 3 Evolutionary Theory  Evolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion Kinds of competition in evolution: Between speciesBetween species Within species, within gendersWithin species, within genders For status, power, resources, and matesFor status, power, resources, and mates Within species, between gendersWithin species, between genders For less relative investment in offspring For less relative investment in offspring Within species, between parents and their childrenWithin species, between parents and their children For resourcesFor resources Within species, between siblingsWithin species, between siblings For power and resourcesFor power and resources (Source: “Born to Rebel” by Frank Sulloway, 1996) (Source: “Born to Rebel” by Frank Sulloway, 1996)

4 4 Evolutionary Theory  Evolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion Siblings compete for emotional, physical and intellectual resources from parentsSiblings compete for emotional, physical and intellectual resources from parents Depending on sibling position, different niches are available, leading to different patterns of adaptation and different personalitiesDepending on sibling position, different niches are available, leading to different patterns of adaptation and different personalities Childhood adaptation to a niche in the family is an important determinant of adult personality and therefore, is an important predictor of thought and behavior in the workplaceChildhood adaptation to a niche in the family is an important determinant of adult personality and therefore, is an important predictor of thought and behavior in the workplace

5 5 First Born Children First born children will support the status quo as represented by their parents and relative to later born siblings, and tend to be more: Extroverted and confidentExtroverted and confident Assertive, authoritarian, dominant, inflexibleAssertive, authoritarian, dominant, inflexible Conformist, politically conservativeConformist, politically conservative Task-oriented, conscientious and disciplinedTask-oriented, conscientious and disciplined Concerned about and fearful of losing position and rankConcerned about and fearful of losing position and rank Defensive about errors and mistakesDefensive about errors and mistakes DefinitionDefinition  First born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion Birth order theory and research indicate that there is a greater probability that:

6 6 Famous First Born Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft: Ballmer is the hard-driving operational manager who has implemented much of Bill Gates’ vision Ballmer is the hard-driving operational manager who has implemented much of Bill Gates’ vision Described variously as ebullient, focused, funny, passionate, sincere, and dynamic Damaged his vocal chords by cheering too loudly at a Microsoft sales meeting Damaged his vocal chords by cheering too loudly at a Microsoft sales meeting Steve’s sister, a social worker in the Seattle area, is two years younger Steve’s sister, a social worker in the Seattle area, is two years younger DefinitionDefinition  First born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

7 7 Famous First Born Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon: "I was raised in a traditional, humble Asian environment. There was focus on achievement and education" "I was raised in a traditional, humble Asian environment. There was focus on achievement and education" "Power is the privilege to influence," Jung says. "It's an unbelievable responsibility to influence decisions, shareholder value, and most important to me, people's careers and livelihoods” "Power is the privilege to influence," Jung says. "It's an unbelievable responsibility to influence decisions, shareholder value, and most important to me, people's careers and livelihoods” Her brother, three years younger, runs a San Francisco software development company Her brother, three years younger, runs a San Francisco software development company DefinitionDefinition  First born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

8 8 Second Born Children Second born children do not have the option of occupying the first born’s niche and relative to first born siblings, tend to be more: Open to new experiences, rebellious, unconventionalOpen to new experiences, rebellious, unconventional Creative, flexible, more likely to embrace change and innovationCreative, flexible, more likely to embrace change and innovation More empathic and relationship focusedMore empathic and relationship focused Concerned about fairness and justice, champions of those with less power, more liberal politicallyConcerned about fairness and justice, champions of those with less power, more liberal politically Less academically inclined, but better at using social intelligence and humorLess academically inclined, but better at using social intelligence and humor More interested in travel and diverse cultures, often more successful at international assignmentsMore interested in travel and diverse cultures, often more successful at international assignments Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children  Second born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

9 9 Famous Second Born Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM Gerstner’s older brother was a high-level business manager at IBM when he joined the company Gerstner’s older brother was a high-level business manager at IBM when he joined the company From the very beginning of his tenure at IBM, Gerstner made sure that everything he did communicated the need to change the way the organization did business From the very beginning of his tenure at IBM, Gerstner made sure that everything he did communicated the need to change the way the organization did business Gerstner transformed IBM, emphasizing a clear focus on customers and heavily investing in services and software Gerstner transformed IBM, emphasizing a clear focus on customers and heavily investing in services and software Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children > Second born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

10 10 Famous Second Born Ronald Lauder, CEO of RSL Investments Lauder has successfully invested his family’s fortune in a wide variety of emerging businesses and markets Lauder has successfully invested his family’s fortune in a wide variety of emerging businesses and markets He was the US ambassador to Austria under Reagan and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York City in 1989, spending $400 for each vote he received He was the US ambassador to Austria under Reagan and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York City in 1989, spending $400 for each vote he received Ronald is the younger brother of Leonard Lauder, Chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies Ronald is the younger brother of Leonard Lauder, Chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies Evolutionary theory Evolutionary theory First born children First born children  Second born children Middle children Middle children Only children Only children Twins Twins Special circumstances Special circumstances Conclusion Conclusion

11 11 Famous Second Born Evolutionary theory Evolutionary theory First born children First born children  Second born children Middle children Middle children Only children Only children Twins Twins Special circumstances Special circumstances Conclusion Conclusion George Soros, CEO of Soros Fund Management Born in Budapest, Hungary, graduated from the London School of Economics, where his grades were not good enough to get into graduate school Born in Budapest, Hungary, graduated from the London School of Economics, where his grades were not good enough to get into graduate school Describes himself as a “failed philosopher” and has developed an investing philosophy he calls “reflexivity” Describes himself as a “failed philosopher” and has developed an investing philosophy he calls “reflexivity” Gives away hundreds of millions of dollars each year through the Open Society Institute which encourages democracy Gives away hundreds of millions of dollars each year through the Open Society Institute which encourages democracy Considers his older brother Paul, an engineer, “the real brains in the family” Considers his older brother Paul, an engineer, “the real brains in the family”

12 12 Middle Children Middle children cannot employ the strategies used by either first born or youngest siblings and relative to other siblings, tend to be more: Diplomatic and politically skilledDiplomatic and politically skilled Good at negotiation, peacemaking, and compromiseGood at negotiation, peacemaking, and compromise Relatively closer to friends than to familyRelatively closer to friends than to family Because of differentiation between adjacent siblings, non-adjacent siblings tend to be more similar to one another ( e.g.: 3 rd is like 1 st, 4 th is like 2 nd, etc.) Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children  Middle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

13 13 Kenneth I. Chenault, CEO of American Express: Kenneth I. Chenault, CEO of American Express : Balances an unrelenting achievement drive with friendliness and an open door policy Balances an unrelenting achievement drive with friendliness and an open door policy Classmates often chose Chenault to represent them in negotiations with school administrators because of his diplomatic skills Classmates often chose Chenault to represent them in negotiations with school administrators because of his diplomatic skills Ken is the second born of three brothers and one sister Ken is the second born of three brothers and one sister DefinitionDefinition First born children First born children Second born children Second born children > Middle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion Famous Middle Born

14 14 Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Looks for employees who “expect change to be the norm” and who do not "accept the status quo as good enough” Looks for employees who “expect change to be the norm” and who do not "accept the status quo as good enough” Describes himself as “allergic to hierarchy” Describes himself as “allergic to hierarchy” He is the middle of three brothers, the youngest of whom is a successful venture capitalist He is the middle of three brothers, the youngest of whom is a successful venture capitalist Famous Middle Born DefinitionDefinition First born children First born children Second born children Second born children > Middle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

15 15 Carleton "Carly" Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard Fiorina leveraged her diplomatic skills to build coalitions and consensus, for example, in the highly contentious merger between HP and Compaq Fiorina leveraged her diplomatic skills to build coalitions and consensus, for example, in the highly contentious merger between HP and Compaq Her leadership mantra: “It is not the strongest nor the smartest of the species who survive, but those who are most adaptable to change"Her leadership mantra: “It is not the strongest nor the smartest of the species who survive, but those who are most adaptable to change" Has one older sister and one younger brotherHas one older sister and one younger brother DefinitionDefinition First born children First born children Second born children Second born children > Middle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion Famous Middle Born

16 16 Only Children Only children are often similar to first born children, and tend to be: Motivated to conform to parental expectationsMotivated to conform to parental expectations Achievement oriented and good studentsAchievement oriented and good students More inclined to do work themselves rather than to delegateMore inclined to do work themselves rather than to delegate Age gaps between siblings of more than 6 years lead each sibling to have only child attributes Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children  Only children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

17 17 Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric: Welch was able to make the tough decisions necessary to build GE into a successful, “boundaryless” innovator Welch was able to make the tough decisions necessary to build GE into a successful, “boundaryless” innovator A highly disciplined worker, Welch has said “despite not being the smartest, I did have the focus to get the work done” A highly disciplined worker, Welch has said “despite not being the smartest, I did have the focus to get the work done” “Many of my basic management beliefs: competing hard to win, facing reality, setting stretch goals, and relentlessly following up, can be traced to my mother” “Many of my basic management beliefs: competing hard to win, facing reality, setting stretch goals, and relentlessly following up, can be traced to my mother” DefinitionDefinition First born children First born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children >Only children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion Famous Only Child

18 18 Twins Because they are the same age (and, in the case of identical twins, share the exact same genes), twins tend to: Have closer relations with one another than other siblings Have closer relations with one another than other siblings Have less conflict with one another than other siblings Have less conflict with one another than other siblings Be different in terms of personalities and interests, but more similar to one another than other siblings Be different in terms of personalities and interests, but more similar to one another than other siblings Twins raised apart are even more similar than twins raised together because they don’t need to differentiate from one another Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children  Twins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances ConclusionConclusion

19 19 Famous Twin Evolutionary theory Evolutionary theory First born children First born children Second born children Second born children Middle children Middle children Only children Only children  Twins Special circumstances Special circumstances Conclusion Conclusion Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase: Dimon achieved enormous success as a protégé of Sandy Weill and was instrumental in helping Weill build Citigroup Dimon achieved enormous success as a protégé of Sandy Weill and was instrumental in helping Weill build Citigroup Dimon is known as a brilliant strategic thinker, but had difficulty sharing power and credit with peers. He left Citigroup after coming into conflict with Weill’s daughter Dimon is known as a brilliant strategic thinker, but had difficulty sharing power and credit with peers. He left Citigroup after coming into conflict with Weill’s daughter Dimon and his twin brother have one older brother Dimon and his twin brother have one older brother

20 20 Special Circumstances Other variables, such as: GenderGender CultureCulture Socioeconomic factorsSocioeconomic factors Family sizeFamily size Attributes of parentsAttributes of parents Divorce, additional marriages, and half- or step- siblingsDivorce, additional marriages, and half- or step- siblings …may lead to deviations from the general patterns of birth order and personality characteristics in the workplace. Therefore, the impact of birth order on personality is not a fail-safe predictor and should not be used in human resource decisions. Also, since birth order involves family background and can be related to socioeconomic status, ethnic group membership, or religious affiliation, companies should be very cautious about inquiring about the sibling structures of job candidates if they decide to do so at all. Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins  Special circumstances ConclusionConclusion

21 21 Special Circumstances (Continued) As an example of an exception to the usual birth order pattern, second born children can take on first born attributes if: There is a high degree of conflict between the first born and parentsThere is a high degree of conflict between the first born and parents Or if the first born is:Or if the first born is: Disabled Disabled Shy Shy Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins  Special circumstances ConclusionConclusion

22 22 Conclusion Since birth order can have such a significant influence on personality, it can also help illuminate thinking and behavior in the workplace. However, because there are so many other variables that influence personality, and because birth order is part of one’s family background and can be related to religion and ethnicity, birth order should not be used as a criterion in selection or promotions. Birth order is more valuable for inspiring questions about personality and style than for providing answers. Evolutionary theoryEvolutionary theory First born childrenFirst born children Second born childrenSecond born children Middle childrenMiddle children Only childrenOnly children TwinsTwins Special circumstancesSpecial circumstances  Conclusion

23 23 Ben Dattner, Ph.D. NYU Psychology Department 6 Washington Place, Room 161G New York, NY


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