Are Sales Managers Predisposed to Self-Monitoring?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Frequently when people are in unfamiliar situations they look to others for cues to determine appropriate behavior, a process described as self-monitoring. The research reported here examined the self-monitoring construct with a national sample of sales managers and compares the results with previous research of salespeople. The results indicate that sales managers with a higher predisposition to self-monitoring (modify facet) were the higher performers. Significant differences by gender are reported. Sales management experience was a significant predictor of performance in the male subset, but not with the female subset. The sensitivity facet of self-monitoring was significantly influenced by sales management experience in the female sample.

INTRODUCTION

Frequently when people are in unfamiliar situations, or when they are uncertain of the proper behavior, they look to others for cues to determine appropriate behavior, a process Snyder (1974, 1979) described as self-monitoring. Such behavior then is the manifestation of an individual's predisposition to monitor (observe and control) their self-presentation and expressive behavior to others by adjusting their behavior according to situational cues. The high self-monitoring individual is defined as:

... one who, out of concern for the situational and interpersonal appropriateness of his or her social behavior, is particularly sensitive to the expression and self-presentation of relevant others in social situations and uses these cues as guidelines for self-monitoring (that is, regulating and controlling) his or her own verbal and nonverbal self-presentation. (Briggs, Cheek, and Buss 1980, p. 679)

Snyder (1974) suggested that the high self-monitoring individual might communicate emotions (actual and arbitrary) through expressive behavior, or conceal those inappropriate emotions. The individual might appear to experience an emotion that he or she does not feel. The Snyder research has generated other research streams with self-monitoring, including sales research, but the results have generally been inconsistent. We discuss some of the research and posit hypotheses for testing.

Dubinsky and Hartley (1986a, 1986b), the first researchers to examine the construct in a sales context, studied the moderating effect of self-monitoring on job performance, role conflict, and role ambiguity. The results indicated a lack of association between self-monitoring and other model variables (job performance, role conflict, and role ambiguity). Unexpectedly, results indicated that sales people exhibiting higher levels of self-monitoring experienced higher level of role conflict and role ambiguity. While these authors did not examine the direct effects between self-monitoring and job performance, indirect effects (through role ambiguity) did exist and were statistically significant.

Lennox and Wolfe (1984) used a student sample in an earlier study to conclude that the Snyder scale lacked internal validity and a theory based rationale. They argued that the acting ability (in the theatrical-entertainment sense) subset of the Snyder scale does not have much in common with the ability to modify self-presentation in everyday life. They also argued that cross-situational variability of behavior may not be positively associated with effectiveness in social interactions. Based on these arguments, Lennox and Wolfe (1984) revised the self-monitoring scale to include four distinct facets for the construct. Subsequent research (Snyder and Gangestad 1986) examined the construct and reported satisfactory reliability and face validity.

Goolsby, Lagace, and Boorom (1992) suggested the inconsistencies in previous research concerning self-monitoring and performance was due to the unidimensional Snyder scale. They argued "logic would dictate individuals high in psychologically adaptive traits should have higher sales performance levels than others" (p. …