When attending a dinner party, you would not show up an hour late, remark that the food was cold, and blithely inform the hostess that she appears to be carrying an extra 10-20 pounds since you last saw her. Well, most wouldn’t. Most people are aware of what is expected of them at a dinner party. At some point they learned the manners and etiquette required, and they perform accordingly. Most are able to learn the situational demands of different environments and apply them appropriately. So, how does this relate to job performance?
Jansen et al studied 67 men and 57 women. Participants were run through a process that mimicked the selection process for a new job. Organizational skills, consideration of others, persuasiveness, analytical skills, presentation skills, assertiveness, and creativity were measured. Afterwards, participants completed a situational assessment questionnaire.
The researchers found that performance during the simulated selection process was linked to a candidate’s ability to assess the situational demands of the process. In short, they knew what was expected of them. Those who didn’t do well often didn’t understand what behavior was needed of them, while those who excelled were able to accurately determine what was wanted. This suggests an under-examined element (i.e., the awareness of situational demands) that may come into play during the hiring process.
However, not only was the ability to gauge expectations and situational demands related to performance at a selection process for a new job, but it was also related to job performance at the candidate’s current employer. In short, poor job performance may be due to an employee’s inability to determine from normal context what exactly is expected of them.