Neuroticism and the Sales Profession
Recent research in psychology provides evidence that neuroticism is plastic and affected by individuals’ environment. This research, juxtaposed to the organizational literature on the sales profession, provides evidence for the inference that sales jobs may be prone to fostering neuroticism. To test this proposition, the authors present five studies with a total of more than 7,800 salespeople and 75,000 non-salespeople in which they (1) investigate the effect of working in sales jobs on neuroticism, (2) while differentiating between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) salespeople, and (3) examine the mechanism linking working in sales jobs to neuroticism. Collectively, the results suggest that B2B salespeople exhibit higher neuroticism than B2C salespeople or non-salespeople, and that such differences become greater as job tenure increases. The reason for salespeople’s higher neuroticism resides in idiosyncratic characteristics of the sales job. These results contribute to organization theory and personality theory. For organizational decision makers, the results highlight the importance of considering measures to (a) reduce the likelihood that B2B salespeople grow more neurotic over time and (b) alleviate the risk of adverse outcomes in case they do become more neurotic.
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