Critical indicators associated with negative performance in a selectively manned unit

Hans C Bruntmyer, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Introduction. Selectively manned units have a long, international history, both military and civilian. Some examples include SWAT teams, firefighters, the FBI, the DEA, the CIA, and military Special Operations. These special duty operators are individuals who perform a highly skilled and dangerous job in a unique environment. A significant amount of money is spent by the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies to recruit, select, train, equip and support these operators. When a critical incident or significant life event occurs, that jeopardizes an operator's performance; there can be heavy losses in terms of training, time, money, and potentially, lives. In order to limit the number of critical incidents, selection processes have been developed over time to “select out” those individuals most likely to perform below desired performance standards under pressure or stress and to "select in" those with the "right stuff". This study is part of a larger program evaluation to assess markers that identify whether a person will fail under the stresses in a selectively manned unit. The primary question of the study is whether there are indicators in the selection process that signify potential negative performance at a later date. ^ Methods. The population being studied included applicants to a selectively manned DoD organization between 1993 and 2001 as part of a unit assessment and selection process (A&S). Approximately 1900 A&S records were included in the analysis. Over this nine year period, seventy-two individuals were determined to have had a critical incident. A critical incident can come in the form of problems with the law, personal, behavioral or family problems, integrity issues, and skills deficit. Of the seventy-two individuals, fifty-four of these had full assessment data and subsequent supervisor performance ratings which assessed how an individual performed while on the job. This group was compared across a variety of variables including demographics and psychometric testing with a group of 178 individuals who did not have a critical incident and had been determined to be good performers with positive ratings by their supervisors.^ Results. In approximately 2004, an online pre-screen survey was developed in the hopes of preselecting out those individuals with items that would potentially make them ineligible for selection to this organization. This survey has aided the organization to increase its selection rates and save resources in the process. (Patterson, Howard Smith, & Fisher, Unit Assessment and Selection Project, 2008) When the same prescreen was used on the critical incident individuals, it was found that over 60% of the individuals would have been flagged as unacceptable. This would have saved the organization valuable resources and heartache.^ There were some subtle demographic differences between the two groups (i.e. those with critical incidents were almost twice as likely to be divorced compared with the positive performers). Upon comparison of Psychometric testing several items were noted to be different. The two groups were similar when their IQ levels were compared using the Multidimensional Aptitude Battery (MAB). When looking at the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), there appeared to be a difference on the MMPI Social Introversion; the Critical Incidence group scored somewhat higher. When analysis was done, the number of MMPI Critical Items between the two groups was similar as well. When scores on the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO) were compared, the critical incident individuals tended to score higher on Openness and on its subscales (Ideas, Actions, and Feelings). There was a positive correlation between Total Neuroticism T Score and number of MMPI critical items.^ Conclusions. This study shows that the current pre-screening process is working and would have saved the organization significant resources. ^ If one was to develop a profile of a candidate who potentially could suffer a critical incident and subsequently jeopardize the unit, mission and the safety of the public they would look like the following: either divorced or never married, score high on the MMPI in Social Introversion, score low on MMPI with an "excessive" amount of MMPI critical items; and finally scores high on the NEO Openness and subscales Ideas, Feelings, and Actions.^ Based on the results gleaned from the analysis in this study there seems to be several factors, within psychometric testing, that when taken together, will aid the evaluators in selecting only the highest quality operators in order to save resources and to help protect the public from unfortunate critical incidents which may adversely affect our health and safety.^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Public Health

Recommended Citation

Bruntmyer, Hans C, "Critical indicators associated with negative performance in a selectively manned unit" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1467333.