People have often studied what makes us behave the way we do and the relationship between job performance and personality has become a frequently studied topic. Job performance is affected by situational factors, which may be coworkers or characteristics of the job, and dispositional factors such as personality characteristics, needs and motives. The dispositional factors lead to a tendency to react to situations in a predetermined manner.
The Big Five Personality Model (OCEAN) is a theory that underlines five main personality traits these are Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Openness to experience which are the driving factors behind organizational behaviour.
Personality in the Workplace
Conscientiousness is proposed to be the major personality trait, which leads to success. Research has shown that conscientiousness is the strongest predictor of job performance and here are some of the reasons why: When it comes to goals, people high in conscientiousness are good at setting them, working towards achieving them and working around challenges that may arise. As a result, they tend to achieve the employers desired goals. Conscientious people have a high tendency to organize their lives well and they tend to follow rules and norms. A conscientious person is most likely to be a highly productive worker. However, this trait may not result in positive results in all trades, as highly conscientious individuals tend to lack in innovation, creativity and spontaneity.
Neuroticism is the dimension of personality indicating the tendency to experience negative affect, the opposite being emotional stability. Neuroticism is a predictor of job performance in certain circumstances; a person who is high in neuroticism is prone to irrational ideas, copes badly with stress and is less able to control impulses. Employees that are low in neuroticism are even tempered and are more able to cope in stressful situations. Those with emotional stability have a higher chance of dealing with workplace demands.
Extroverts are typically people who take charge of situations and show high levels of leadership ability. Extraversion traits include sociability, assertiveness and are most often energetic and optimistic. On the other hand, introverts are more reserved and independent. Research shows extroversion is a strong predictor of job performance in jobs characterized by social interaction.
Agreeable people are more liked by those around, they follow the rules, are sympathetic to others and eager to help. They demonstrate higher levels of job satisfaction. Contrary to this, those who score low in agreeableness are egocentric, competitive and engage in counterproductive work behavior, which may cripple career success. Agreeableness is a significant predictor of job performance as the cooperative nature of agreeable people leads to organizational success where teamwork and customer service are relevant.
Openness to experience includes creativity, a preference to variety, intellectual curiosity and independence of judgement. Those who score low in openness tend to be more conservative. Research shows openness leads to higher success in adapting to change. Openness as a predictor of job performance is subject to the type of job in question as different jobs have different requirements.
Instead of looking at cognitive abilities and experience alone, personality traits allow you to look at how well an individual fits into your organisation through their predisposed traits, which will most often affect their day-to-day work behavior.
Munodiwa Zvemhara is a consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.
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