Type A, Occupational Stress and Salesperson Performance

Article excerpt

TYPE A, OCCUPATIONAL STRESS AND SALESPERSON PERFORMANCE

For sales-oriented companies wanting to expand, an infusion of entrepreneurially-oriented salespersons could be a great help. "Internal entrepreneurs" are people who tend to be strongly, even excessively, involved in their work. However, these are also two of the behaviors that are characteristic of the "Type A" personality, said to be at higher risk for developing physiological stress symptoms, notable coronary heart disease (CHD). A measure which could contribute to selecting, retaining, or encouraging the self-selection of enterprising sales people into semi-autonomous sales positions could be quite useful. The Type A measure might contribute to this purpose.

The purpose of this study is to look at the associations between measures of Type A and stress symptoms and sales performance in a real estate company, and to examine the implications for managing commission sales people in small businesses, both in real estate and elsewhere. Type A has received considerable attention as a key personality construct with substantial consequences, both good and bad. Thus, Type A behavior may contribute to successful individual sales performance as well as to problematic behavioral and physical expressions of stress. The real estate setting is particularly appropriate for studying the implication of Type A for individual performance and stress, because (1) individuals tend to work independently, (2) individuals control their work commitments, work hours, and work intensity, and (3) performance is directly linked to an individual's efforts.

BACKGROUND

One way of determining the appropriateness of a Type A measure as a pratical predictor of commission sales success is its association with other indicators of self-initiative and work drive. One relevant set of variables is the three-category system of needs identified by Alderfer -- existence needs (physical well-being and economic security), relatedness needs (praise and acceptance), and growth needs (achievement, challenge, and development). A successful commission salesperson would be expected to score high on existence needs, because the uncertainty of satisfying them makes them continuously salient. The salesperson should score low on relatedness needs, since he or she must work alone and take personal responsibility for activities. Since less effective commission sales people experience continual uncertainty about meeting existence needs, growth needs of less effective commission sales pepole are likely to be lower than that of more effective associates.

Apart from personal need orientations, a commission salesperson would be expected to show some of the same attitudes with which Type A has been found to be associated. In a real estate company, an entrepreneurial sales associate would be likely to show high job involvement, but low commitment to the company, since individualism is a key element in commission sales activity. An entrepreneurial person is likely to find a strictly commission based real estate company very attractive and to generally express a strong desire to remain in real estate. The provides considerable autonomy, even in a large company. Intent to change companies may be acted on less often than it might be by independent people in more bureaucratic, constrained settings.

The Type A Coronary-Prone Behavior Pattern (or, more simply, Pattern A or Type A) has been defined as an "action emotion complex that can be observed in any person who is aggressively involved in a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and if required to do so, against the opposing efforts of other things or other persons." Type A is characterized by competitive achievement, a sense of urgency, explosive vocal patterns, excessive hostility, and intense job involvement. Early on, research established that "Type As" exhibited twice the level of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) as "Type Bs," who do not exhibit strong Type A behavior. …