In a follow-up feature on risk management and personality, Geoff Trickey looks at the significance of risk types in personality in the response to COVID-19
The events of recent weeks are unprecedented, and the disruption to our routines is profound. People experience risk, react to it and make decisions in different ways, and risk dispositions vary from person to person. COVID-19 manifests with different degrees of severity, but the risk is something we must all deal with.
As outlined in a previous feature, bit.ly/3bOSQbb, individual risk dispositions reflect an interaction between our emotions and the way we make sense of our world. Both are fundamental to decision-making and behaviour. In terms of emotionality, we range from those who experience the world as treacherous and threatening, to those that are emotionally unresponsive and see danger as just another problem to be dealt with. In terms of cognition, people vary from one extreme – those who need to resolve uncertainties about their world for things to add up – to the other extreme, those who revel in uncertainty and ambiguity, probing and unwrapping established ideas in the hope of discovering new and exciting opportunities.
The Risk Type Compass is a psychometric personality assessment that models the ways we cope with risk. It is a continuously incremented 360° spectrum of risk dispositions, segmented into eight types. How will each of these types be facing up to the pandemic, and how will they be coping? Starting from the top of the compass, each risk type merges with the next.
1. The ‘wary’ risk type
These people are risk averse in two different ways: they will be fearful about infection, but also extremely troubled about being unable to make sense of what is going on. This makes them astute and critical followers of official pronouncements, media opinion and social media trends. They know their stuff and argue their case with passion.
Positive: Highly sensitive risk antennae, combined with their passion for maintaining order, will ensure that they are potent advocates for their viewpoint
Negative: They may be driven to the point of exhaustion by worry and their efforts to make an impact on immovable forces to get things done
2. Prudent risk type
Not especially emotional, their main concerns are about being organised and knowing what is going on; uncertainty will be a troubling discomfort. The daily drip, drip of information will be a source of acute discomfort and frustration. They will be checking the figures and keeping up to date with developments and statistics across the globe. As things become more predictable, they will experience considerable relief. They will be a pandemic information resource for their friends and family.
Positive: Their ability to seek out and discern solutions means they will always be reliably well informed
Negative: Having researched and decided, their viewpoint will become totally inflexible
3. Deliberate risk type
They hate being unprepared and will be profoundly unsettled by all the uncertainty, but this risk type is also unemotional and shows little anxiety. They view problems calmly and logically – something to solve rather than to fear. In a situation that is largely out of their hands, they will be trying to anticipate immediate consequences, trends and outcomes. During lockdown, the expression of these thwarted instincts may be displaced into obsessive attention to domestic organising.
Positive: Their search for coherence and order will help to ensure that policies are enacted
Negative: In extreme and prolonged circumstances, they may become obsessional
4. Composed risk type
Nothing fazes them. A calm imperturbability is their defining feature. They seem always on an even keel, without the usual peaks and troughs. Situations are considered unemotionally, practically and logically, but their risk radar is weak. In any crisis they will often be the last to react, and their responses may seem low key. In the case of possible contagion, their optimistic fearlessness may put them at risk.
Positive: Their imperturbability will be a calming and reassuring influence
Negative: Their unemotional focus on practicalities may make them seem insensitive
5. Adventurous risk type
They want to be in command of their own destiny and will feel hugely frustrated by the imposed restrictions. They believe that with an element of good fortune, things generally turn out well. Their lack of deference to consensus or convention frees them up to pursue imaginative solutions. They are intrepid big-picture people who have an eye on the disruption of business and the needs and opportunities that might arise in the aftermath.
Positive: They will always focus more on the opportunities than the dangers
Negative: Their unconventionality and enthusiasm will be unnerving for some
6. Carefree risk type
Relishing change and new opportunities, they see life as an ever-changing panorama. Finding routine and continuity monotonous, they will always look for ways to avoid repetitive tasks. Their ideal roles give them freedom and variety, and commitment may be transient. In this crisis, they will feel concern and compassion, and bring refreshing and novel ideas to the table. They may also experience a heightened awareness and excitement.
Positive: The energy and excitement they bring into any operation will be a morale booster
Negative: Routines and procedures associated with their role are likely to be challenged
7. Excitable risk type
They are never sure whether to listen to their head or their heart. Emotionally they are anxious and apprehensive, so risk averse from this point of view. But cognitively they positively embrace uncertainty and are excited by chaos and the opportunities that might arise. From this point of view they are risk takers. These are the ambivalent tensions of a stereotypic ‘artistic temperament’: high emotional sensitivity and precarious lifestyle. They seem to seek meaning in their lives through involvement in projects that are important, notorious or worthy in some way.
Positive: Their aims are often unconventional, but also aspirational and creative
Negative: Their creative ideas may prove too eccentric or impractical
8. Intense risk type
The strongest examples of this risk type feel things in deeply emotional and complex ways. Persistent worriers, their risk antennae will have been giving them little rest; they react strongly to things others find unexceptional and are difficult to placate or reassure. They are likely to be struggling more than others with the threat posed to them and their loved ones. They find it difficult to trust others and are vulnerable to the sensationalised interpretations of the media. During this pandemic they will have been severely stressed.
Positive: Their anxiety and vigilance will serve well in protecting themselves and others
Negative: Their views may be unrealistic and exaggerated by their anxieties
The Axial Group
These people score close to the mean on both the emotion and cognition scales. Risk dispositions will be varied and defined at the sub-theme level of analysis. Within a team setting, the central positioning of this group provides a perspective on the balance and dynamics of that combination of Risk Types. This independence qualifies them uniquely as arbiters and conciliators – key roles in group decision-making.
Positive: This group are best placed to objectively appreciate team balance and dynamics
Negative: They may find themselves caught in the crossfire between extremes
Risk Type descriptions are generalised interpretations based on research and are used here solely for illustrative purposes.
Geoff Trickey is managing director of Psychological Consultancy