Sharon Cornet

PSY 302 – Industrial/Organizational Psychology

How to Succeed in the Business World

Derykka Ross

May 8, 2009



Many factors play into how successful we can or will be in the business world.  These include the topics of preparing to succeed, communicating with others, working with groups, leadership in the workplace, and keeping balance in your life.  This author will go over these topics one by one, and consider how these aspects, when applied, can promote success, or hurt it. 

Regardless of where you come from, or what your background or personality is, finding your self-efficacy (ability) by examining your work ethic, your motives, and even your desires for a particular field of work is often accomplished through intrinsic (driven from within) means; this self-defining moment in time, along with taking examples from others and learning from them, could be one of your greatest keys to success in the business world.


Preparing to Succeed

When preparing to enter the business world we need to think of why we are motivated to succeed.  There is some merit to Maslow's theory to motivation because of the famous Maslow's Need Hierarchy pyramid (DuBrin, 2004, p. 123).  According to a posting by Vischal Lalsa, a student of Ashford University (April 20, 2009):
             “Hierarchy of needs includes; esteem needs where an individual focuses on gaining
            respect of themselves and other. Belongingness needs the individual seeks love,
             acceptance, friendship in the community. Physiological needs the individual seek the
            factors that are necessary for life or survival, these factors includes food, water, and other
            needs. Security needs the individual seeks emotional distress freedom, safety, and
            stability in the physical environments. To accomplish the hierarchy of needs in today
            world, the major of human much applies the hierarchy of needs in a workplace to produce
            and provide for their needs.”

            Although Maslow’s Need Hierarchy is sufficient to explain some reasons behind motivation, this author is not sure that it's as clear-cut as the pyramid makes it out to be.  For instance, social needs are supposed to be satisfied before you can move up to esteem needs.  This author has known so many people who feel secure in themselves, and prefer to be alone, have plenty of self-esteem and shun social, belonging, and ideals of "love" in any way.  For the, the esteem need comes through their work or whatever else, and social bonds and networks just are not that important to them.  Perhaps this is an exception to the loose "rule" of the pyramid, but in this author’s experience and observations of people, she has known too many who did not fit this model.  

Because of these reasons, this author lean more towards accepting the Expectancy theory of motivation.   According to DuBrin (p. 124), people are motivated under three conditions:

1. Expectancy is high
2. Instrumentality is high
3. Valence is high

Also, performance is directly related to motivation and ability, together, in order to be achieved (p. 125).  Whether something intrinsic and/or extrinsic brings you into a job that you enjoy or not, or pays good or not, etc., the performance level is going to be reflected in the motivation-ability connection.   When this author’s husband lost his income due to the economic downturn last year she made sure there were other ways we were taken care of financially.  It can feel, sometimes, like this is more survival than living, but at least the basic needs are met, and the most important bills are paid.  People find ways, even when there seems to be no way.  Motivation is a powerful factor in success, and expectancy theory appears to line up with that more than does Maslow's need hierarchy.

Communicating with Others

Communication is key in the business world.  Without proper communication there is a breakdown in understanding, and therefore productivity, which can hurt profits and even customer satisfaction.  According to NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) methods of deciphering how people communicate, 93% of all communication is not the words, but nonverbal communication.  NLP is explained by Graham Yemm like this:

The principle is that the ‘neuro’ is to understand how we process and think about things, the ‘linguistics’ is to consider the words we use and the clues within those and finally the ‘programming’ is how we have generated the patterns within ourselves and keep running the programmes. NLP is ‘a set of guiding principles, attitudes and techniques that enable you to change behaviour patterns as you wish.’

Here’s an example of how NLP can be used in the workplace to enhance success.  This author used to have a non-paying "job" (it was work, but on a voluntary basis) doing investigations into anomalous phenomena.  Certain day required the investigation of a scene and/or interviewing people to pull out details of whatever happened.   Eyewitness accounts are typically not very reliable, but there are a lot of hidden things that people "say" without saying it, due to the details of non-verbal communication that our text brought out. 

One of the details that interviewees never realized was occurring during the interviews was the practicing of NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) techniques, including brain wiring.  Peoples' eyes would be watched carefully to see how they would move, so would know what information they were accessing in their brains, and from where.  For instance, they would be asked a question on hearing something, and find out if they were pulling the already-known information from memory, or construct (fabrication), or if their eyes flashed over to their left, or right side, respectively (if wired "normal").  Once it was determined how their brains were wired (because some are wired backwards, such as left-handed people, and cross-wired people) then deciphering the rest of what they were saying came easy.  Also paying close attention to their body language, facial expressions, and inflections, as well as breathing, and other physiological responses was important. 

If the interviewees were constructing/fabricating then this interviewer knew they were either outright lying or attempting to fill in blanks with useless information (i.e., guessing).  If they were pulling from memory (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) then she would know how they reacted physiologically and mentally to the stimuli of the anomalous phenomena (a PC term for "paranormal" or "supernatural" or "supranatural" depending on your view).  This would help greatly when writing up a report because it would help determine the weight that she gave to their claims.  This was also impressive to the organization’s CEO (ex-CIA, NLP Master, and registered hypnotherapist and hypnothic anaesthesiologist) because he saw that she was using the NLP skills he had taught her, but also gave more credence and reliability to the reports turned in.  All of these things were based on non-verbal communication, and were attributed to the words coming out of peoples’ mouths, merely by watching them and noticing little things that they, themselves, are often unknowingly doing.  Non-verbal communication and behavior tell all kinds of things about the encounter or experience that the people had (or didn't have).  Often times it was the dividing line as to whether the claim was thrown out, or was trusted that it was the truth (as they perceived it).

Most times NLP is used with great success by its practitioners; however, it cannot always tell you the underlying truth about people, because a limitation exists within the mind of the communicators.  If they have told a lie, for instance, for so long that they’ve come to believe it, then the lie will be rewired in the brain as “fact” and so the person will not appear (to the observer) to be lying at all, but telling the truth.  Overall, though, business owners, managers, and employees that deal with customers or other employees (or even bosses) can typically benefit from NLP use in the workplace.


Working in Groups

According to DuBrin "an extremely effective and enthusiastic work group is a hot group" (2004, p. 291).  The characterstics he says makes up these effective groups include (in an order this author see as important):

“A feeling of empowerment” (both individually and within the group), the “right mix [of diverse people and backgrounds] and size”, “good support for the work group”, “effective processes within the group” (cohesiveness), “adherence to processes and procedures” (rules), “familiarity with jobs and coworkers” (friendship outside of work can be included in this), “interdependent tasks and rewards” (important for intrinsic motivation), and lastly, “enriched job design.”

Groups with these qualities tend to lead in way of productivity and effectiveness within the workplace as compared to groups with other characteristics.  These criteria, when brought together, help create an atmosphere that promotes both productivity and job satisfaction (p. 292).

Sometimes there is conflict within a work group, which needs to be resolved.  A group’s members may find personality conflicts (among other things) as their source of conflict.  According to Marc Anderson (2009) there are five personality factors involved:

These five factors are frequently called 'The Big Five' and consist of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability (or 'neuroticism'), and openness to experience (sometimes labeled 'intellect'). Individuals scoring high in extraversion tend to be positive people who are warm and cheerful, energetic, and ambitious. Those scoring low on extraversion are generally quiet and reserved. People scoring high on agreeableness display caring, nurturing behaviour and are a source of emotional support to others, while low-scorers tend to be indifferent to others, self-centred, and even hostile. People who score high on conscientiousness tend to be more thorough, neat, wellorganized, and achievement-oriented than low scorers. Individuals scoring high on emotional stability tend to be calm, relaxed, and even-tempered versus low-scorers who tend to experience greater distress and chronic negative affects such as depression, frustration, and guilt. Finally, people scoring high on openness to experience are generally more imaginative and original, hold unconventional values, and have intellectual interests, while those scoring low are usually more conventional and hold conservative values.

            An example of dealing with group conflict due to personality was when this author worked at a pharmaceutical company warehouse where employees organized and boxed different medicines.  There was a man there who drove a “big truck” that was elevated on huge tires, which he considered to be “his baby.”   Status was important to him, as were sports and other competition related activities.  This spilled over into the workplace, as do all of peoples’ individualistically combined personality traits.  One day everyone on the team had to pull bottles of liquid and place them into boxes that would run down the conveyor belt and on to the other people on the team.  This particular man was working with this author at the front of the line, pulling dark glass bottles and organizing them into groups of two for the people next in line.  She was used to people working as a team, where team/group members would each take about half of the bottles and place them where they needed to go.  However, this particular man was so competitive-minded that he would hoard all of the bottles, grabbing them quickly and ritualistically, even to the point of stealing them from peoples’ grasp in order to put them into the box.  This made her particularly frustrated and she didn’t know what to do because anything she said was completely ignored.  He wouldn’t respond or talk other than to continue taking 75-85% of the bottles, which made her feel useless (role conflict).  She tried mirroring him after a while and attempted to be as aggressive as he was, but it didn’t stop his competitiveness, but rather made it worse.  Eventually she figured this made him happy that he was working ahead of her, and so she figured he was a ‘jock’ type personality who thrives on competition and “winning.”   Teamwork was more important to her than one-upping someone else, so after standing there with hands on hips, completely flustered, she finally just asked someone else to switch places with her, which solved the problem (for her – the man’s personality “glitch” evidently didn’t bother the other person).   She had thought about reporting the competitive man, but figured it was not worth the effort since productivity was typically rewarded, and his was skyrocketing.  

Getting along as a team, and being productive, included learning about limitations (for others, as well as yourself) and dealing with people in the group as best you can, even if that means taking another person as your direct work partner from the group (to replace someone else you were working closely with).  These are most often conflicts that arise and must wind up being an intrinsic (inner) driven choice as to how to handle it.

Leadership in the Workplace

According to DuBrin "Leadership is but one component of management, working with and through individuals and groups to accomplish organizational goals."  Good leadership qualities inspire people and bring change to the company, the group/employee(s), and helps things run in an organized way.  Managers deal with "planning, organizing, controlling, and leading" (p. 332).

There are some managers that make better leaders than others.  Effective leaders have position power and/or personal power.  Self-confidence and a sense of humor are often found in good leaders, as are passion/enthusiasm, efficacy and cognitive ability, and even courage.  Other traits and behaviors include being stable when under pressure, both trusting others and being trustworthy, and remaining positive.

Different types of leaders, according to DuBrin (p. 340) include, consultative leaders (leader makes decisions without the group, even though obtaining opinions from the group first), consensus leaders (decisions made by the leader that reflects the group’s choice(s)), and democratic leaders (the group has the authority).  Participative leaders work best when trust is strong between the leader and the workers (regardless of gender).  Lastly there are charismatic leaders (using charm, intuition and inspiration, and capitalizes on emotional bonds), and transformational leaders (transforms the business through organizing and positive methodologies).

One good example on strong leadership, and one this autor would consider a transformational leader, is an Organizer with a non-profit she used to work with when she did a lot of social justice work in the community.  The Organizing job was very detailed, and oftentimes required 70-hr workweeks.  It took a lot of devotion, and skill, as meetings and events had to be coordinated by groups and churches of many faiths all working together for a common goal.  The vision was shared and guided by him in a benevolent and critical way, with training and seminars, workshops, and monthly meetings.  If she would have stayed with that job (but didn't due to several reasons, one of which was a desire to NOT work 70-hr work weeks because of having children and going to school full time) this author would have chosen him to be her mentor because of his ability to inspire and lift people up into their own sense of efficacy.  There was a reason he had the title “Organizer,” because his methods of bringing ideas and people together to benefit the goals of the group/organization were profoundly positive and effective.


Keeping Balance in Your Life

The last topic is balance.  At times everyone has to juggle many different things in their life, which can sometimes conflict or even drain you of energy, especially during times of crises.  This can affect personal productivity in the workplace.  For successful business dealings it is essential to find balance, even when it is knocked off kilter for one reason or another (or several, depending).  This author can share some of her own experiences here.

Personal productivity for her moves forward when she is not procrastinating (usually due to fear of too much responsibility), but she is most productive when focused and has set personal goals, avoid attempting too much (a bad habit, which spreads her thin), and when she has a deadline.  Deadlines also help with procrastination.  To-do lists are something she lives by, and is continually making, crossing things out or checking them off, or updating.  Concentrating on one thing at a time, but having a vision of the big picture of all that needs to be done, and how it all fits together in time, are also ways she improves her productivity. 

This author works at home, and attends school full time, so she has to manage time effectively.   On the side, her adult son is helping work on their business plan to build a business - a campground and home cinema that should draw destination customers as well as locals.  They have been busy cleaning up the property and rearranging the rooms to make an office and store, rooms to rent, a day room/night cinema room, a community kitchen, prune bushes and trees, and create tent sites, picnic and recreational areas.  Although a little behind schedule due to the many things they are constantly having to take care of, they also are lacking money to go forward any sooner than they have been.  Everything is being done by hand, but since their labor is free, she and her son save a lot of money this way.  So although things are moving slowly, they are still moving!  This comes from perseverance and an inner desire to make their business ideas succeed.



            In closing, business success is reliant on an inner desire to succeed.  One has to prepare to succeed, and communicate effectively with others on both verbal and nonverbal levels.  Also, you may often find that you have to work with or within groups at your place of work, and deal with leadership in the workplace – whether that be those who lead you, or whether you become the leader – and lastly, one must strive to keep balance in life.

             Regardless of where you come from, or what your background or personality is, finding your self-efficacy (ability) by examining your work ethic, your motives, and even your desires for a particular field of work is often accomplished through intrinsic (driven from within) means; this self-defining moment in time, along with taking examples from others and learning from them, could be one of your greatest keys to success in the business world.



Anderson, Marc. H.   (2009). The role of group personality composition in the emergence of task and relationship conflict within groups. Journal of Management and Organization, 15(1), 82-96.  Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1686396991).

DuBrin, Andrew J., (2004). Applying Psychology: Individual & Organizational Effectiveness,
            6th Edition. NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Yemm, Graham.  (2006). Can NLP help or harm your business? Industrial and Commercial Training, 38(1), 12-17. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1017980471).


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