The Big Five Personality Traits and Job Performance

By: Thandeka Madziwanyika | Posted On: 2020-09-30 23:36:43 | Updated On: 2021-12-04 15:19:21 | Views: 1462




Introduction

After much research in psychology, scientists today believe that there are five major personality traits. Well known scientists such as Smith (1967) and Goldberg (1981) have found these traits to be the prevalent ones in humans, although on different scales for each. These scales are what differentiate one person from the other. The big five personality traits are famously known under the acronym “OCEAN” but others use the acronym “CANOE”. Whichever acronym is used does not make a difference as these two stands for the following traits: Openness; Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

 

This article will explain what each personality trait entails and will further elaborate on how these can affect job performance in the workplace.

 

What is personality?

Before we go on to explain the various personality traits, there needs to be a good understanding of what personality is. While there is no one agreed on definition of what personality is, a general definition is that personality is the characteristic sets of behaviours, cognitions, and emotional patterns that evolve from biological and environmental factors (Very Well Mind, 2020). This filters down to the result of the different people we come across every day. No two people are the same and this is because of 1) personality traits that vary across a scale from one person to another and 2) environmental factors that influence how individuals behave such as society and culture.

 

The “OCEAN” explained

The big five personality traits are explained below. As mentioned before, people have these traits on varying levels on a scale. Following the explanation of the personality trait, a table will compare the types of individuals who possess these traits on the low or high end of the spectrum as explained by Travers (2019).

 

Openness

This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight. People who are high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. They are curious about the world and other people and eager to learn new things and enjoy new experiences. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative. People low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking.

High

Low

Very creative

Dislikes change

Open to trying new things

Does not enjoy new things

Focused on tackling new challenges

Resists new ideas

Happy to think about abstract concepts

Dislikes abstract or theoretical concepts

 

Conscientiousness

Standard features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviours. Highly conscientious people tend to be organised and mindful of details. They plan, think about how their behaviour affects others, and are mindful of deadlines.

High

Low

Spends time preparing

Dislikes structure and schedules

Finishes important tasks right away

Makes messes and doesn't take care of things

Pays attention to detail

Procrastinates important tasks

Enjoys having a set schedule

Fails to complete necessary or assigned tasks

 

Extraversion

Extraversion or extroversion is characterised by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. People who are high in extraversion are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. Being around other people helps them feel energised and excited.


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People who are low in extraversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings. Social events can feel draining and introverts often require a period of solitude and quiet to "recharge."

High

Low

Enjoys being the centre of attention

Prefers solitude

Likes to start conversations

Feels exhausted when having to socialize a lot

Has a wide social circle of friends and acquaintances

Carefully thinks things through before speaking

Say things before thinking about them

Dislikes being the centre of attention

 

Agreeableness

This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviours. People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and sometimes even manipulative.

High

Low

Has a great deal of interest in other people

Takes little interest in others

Cares about others

Doesn't care about how other people feel

Enjoys helping and contributing to the happiness of other people

Insults and belittles others

Assists others who need help

Manipulates others to get what they want

 

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is a trait characterised by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.

High

Low

Experiences a lot of stress

Emotionally stable

Worries about many different things

Rarely feels sad or depressed

Experiences dramatic shifts in mood

Doesn't worry much

Struggles to bounce back after stressful events

Is very relaxed

 

 

Which traits predict job performance?

The American Psychological Association (2020) outlines what researchers have for years indicated will predict job performance. It has been understood that within the big five personality traits, conscientiousness is the best predictor for a job. This is because being an individual with this trait guarantees to be responsible, dependable, organised, and persistent—is generic to success. While this is true for, it is not fit to generalise this to all jobs.

 

Travers (2029), highlights that in research conducted by the The University of Toronto indicated that 98% of the results were in favour of conscientiousness being a good predictor of job performance. Although this personality trait showed good prediction in job performance, an interesting point was revealed. The researchers found that conscientiousness is a weaker predictor of job performance in “high-complexity” occupations (think, for instance, of professions that require a high degree of ‘brain power’ such as an analyst or lawyer). It is the low- to moderate-complexity occupations – for example, customer service jobs – that are particularly well suited to the conscientious personality.

 

Further to the University’s findings, Travers explains that for some jobs, particularly creative ones, conscientiousness may be a liability, rather than an asset. Some research shows that while conscientiousness predicts performance in realistic and conventional jobs, it impedes success in investigative, artistic, and social jobs that require innovation, creativity, and spontaneity. This aligns with the research conducted by The University of Toronto.

 

Contextual performance is something that psychologists are moving towards and paying more attention to. This leads to good job performance as the context of an individual job is looked at while analysing the individual’s personality for that role. performance means doing things beyond the simple job performance, such as volunteering, putting in extra effort, cooperating, following rules and procedures, and endorsing the goals of the organisation (American Psychological Association, 2020).

 

Conclusion

No two people are the same. Everyone has an ‘OCEAN’ (the big five personality traits) in them but it varies from one person to the other. When looking at job performance, it may be right to use the most commonly used personality trait: conscientiousness but it is equally important to analyse the job and its environment and benchmark it against the person who will be occupying it. Contextual job performance should be used widely to get the best prediction of performance. It may take up some time to conduct all the necessary tests but in the end, it will be worth it. Rather than being surprised once the individual is on board.

 

Thandeka Madziwanyika is a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm.

Phone +263 (242) 481946-48/481950 or

Cell number +263 78 318 0936 or

Email: thandeka@ipcconsultants.com or

Visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com 

 

 

 

 

Thandeka Madziwanyika
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