Personality and Job Performance - Models and impact of individual attributes

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2013

20 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

Table of Figures

Table of Tables

Table of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Theory
2.1 Personality
2.2 Job Performance

3 Personality Models
3.1 The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire
3.2 Five Factor Model

4 Individual Attributes
4.1 Classifying Individual Attributes
4.2 Impact on Job Performance

5 Summary and Conclusion


Table of Figures

Figure 1 - Individual Differences

Figure 2 - The Five Factor Theory

Table of Tables

Table 1 - Advantages and disadvantages of different neuroticism-levels

Table 2 - Advantages and disadvantages of different extraversion-levels

Table 3 - Advantages and disadvantages of different openness-levels

Table 4 - Advantages and disadvantages of different agreeableness-levels

Table 5 - Advantages and disadvantages of different conscientiousness-levels

Table of Abbreviations

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1 Introduction

Every profit-oriented company tries to maximise its profit by raising the company’s productivity. In order to do so, they have to maximise the productivity of all their assets. One of the most complex and important assets of every company are the human resources. Chandramohan goes even as far as to say, that human resources are the most important and vital assets of an organisation as the productivity of all other resources depends on people (refer to Chandramohan, 2008, p. 1). While this statement might seem a bit extreme, it is definitely true that no company can run without humans. Even when the expenses for human resources represent only a small part of the company’s total expenses, they are still very important. Usually, humans do add a lot more value to the company’s output, then their work costs. This is no secret to companies, which is why they are very eager to use their human resources most efficiently. The high individuality humans feature complicates this intention heavily, as methods that work well for a particular person might not work so well for another one. Not every person might be fit for a certain job. Those problems result from all the different personalities humans feature.

Scientists have tried to master this problem by creating models and taxonomies to simplify the complex reality behind this matter. The aim of those is to abstract the reality to a point where accurate predictions can be made over the outcome of a certain decision while they should still be easy enough to use in real-life situations. Due to the high complexity of the matter at hand, a lot of different models have emerged in order to describe personalities of people. None of these models is without criticism though as the amount of variables to be observed is immense. When taxonomies are created in order to cluster the different attributes humans feature, there are a lot of problems to be considered. „A central question in taxonomy construction concerns the procedures to be used to divide or group the phenomena under study” (Barrick & Ryan, 2003, p. 3). That means that wrong conclusions can be made when the methods for taxonomy-construction are not selected carefully. Another problem of taxonomies is the possible emergence of stereotypes, which can ultimately lead to discrimination. Because of this, they have to be used with great care.

The aim of this assignment is to determine how companies can use different personalities more efficiently in order to increase work performance and ultimately maximise their profit. Because of the problems and chances that result from the usage of employees’ personalities to a company’s advantage it’s a very current, complex and important topic for scientists and companies alike. In order to achieve the goal of this assignment the theory behind the words “Personality” and “Job Performance” will be explained in chapter 2. Chapter 3 will feature a short overview over two very popular models which are used to determine a person’s personality. These models will be shortly described and their problems will be shown in order to work out possible problems which could affect the elaboration of personality attributes. Based on one of the models presented in chapter 3, the different personality-attributes will be presented in chapter 4. The first part of this chapter will try to justify the selection of the model used, while the second part will focus on presenting the different attributes and try to determine, in which situations the different values of those attributes are advantageous or disadvantageous for the work-performance. Chapter 5 will feature a short summary of the findings and a critical analysis of the used approach.

2 Theory

2.1 Personality

The term “personality” is often used in colloquial speech. Its meaning is very broad and in general, it is mostly used to describe a person’s social attractiveness (refer to Ryckman, 2008, p. 4). As it is the central term of this assignment, a more scientific approach is needed however. Ryckman states in his work, that a lot of definitions exist for this term, which are all very different in nature. He describes that the consensus in science is, that “personality is the dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations” (Ryckman, 2008, p. 4). That means that personality describes the very foundation of human individuality. Not every individual difference is a difference in personality however. This relation is illustrated in Figure 1.

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Figure 1 - Individual Differences (amended from Haslam, 2007, p. 8)

The figure illustrates that personality attributes are a part of our individual differences but they do not make all the difference. With this delimitation Haslam does not contradict the consensus that was stated by Ryckman. It does, however, show very well which differences are parts of the human personality and which are not. These delimitations are very important as other individual differences, like skills or a person’s physiology, do have an impact on work performance but they are not directly topic of this assignment. The term “directly” is used as some of these differences are at least in parts influenced by the human personality. For example: Someone who is extraordinary competitive might be more likely to have a better physiology than someone who is not. This, however, is not a necessity and might, for example, also be influenced by hereditary attributes. In the context of this assignment the term “personality” does only describe those differences that are psychological in nature, fall outside the intellectual domain, are enduring dispositions and form relatively broad or generalized patterns, as Haslam suggests (2007, p. 7).

2.2 Job Performance

As was stated in the introduction the ultimate aim of companies is to enlarge their profit by the means of increasing their productivity. Within the context of this assignment the terms “performance” and “productivity” are used synonymously. In business studies the term “productivity” is defined as a measure of the quantity and quality of work done, considering the cost of the resources used (refer to Mathis & Jackson, 2011, p. 9). In other words, it is the ratio of the output the company produces and the input it needs in order to produce the output. This implicates, that there are two basic possibilities in order to raise the productivity. The company can raise the output or lower the input, which is not necessarily mutually exclusive. When talking about the effect of personality on this basic equation it should be examined which basic methods exist in order to raise the productivity of a particular employee. These methods can contribute to lowering the required input or raising the output and will be presented below.

- find the right people for the job to be done
- raise employees’ motivation to fulfil tasks

find the right people for the job to be done

While it is common sense that the employees need the correct knowledge, skills and experience for a particular job to be done, it is also a good idea to examine their personalities. As was stated in chapter 2.1 the above mentioned attributes are not part of a person’s personality in the context of this assignment. There are certain personality traits that might affect how a person fulfils their tasks. For example: A lack of creativity might be a very important requirement for certain jobs, but it might not be desired in other jobs (especially in jobs with very repetitive and standardised tasks). Relations like this will be discussed in depth in chapter 4. It is very important to realise that the personality needs to be considered when selecting employees. This statement is backed up by the fact, that personality assessments had a great rise in popularity by companies in the last decade (refer to O'Neil, 2011). It is very important to keep in mind that those tests are no exact science though. They are often criticised as being inaccurate and susceptible to manipulation.

In general this is a nonrecurring task for each employee (not considering transfer of employees and natural fluctuation) so it has to be handled with great care as wrong decisions have a negative long-term impact. This method can significantly raise the quality and quantity of the work done when it’s implemented well. The input can be lowered as well if a low number of suitable employees do the same work as a high number of unsuitable employees.

raise employees’ motivation to fulfil tasks

Porter & Lawler developed a model which describes the effects that lead to an employees’ motivation to fulfil a certain task. It is a very sophisticated and complex model which essentially states that the amount of effort an employee puts into a certain task depends on the probability and value of reward as well as the amount of energy the employee has to commit in order to reach the target. (refer to Koontz & Weihrich, 2007, p. 294)

In order to increase an employee’s effort and therefor his output (the quality and quantity of work done), his motivation needs to be increased. This can be achieved by either enlarging the reward he expects or lowering the amount of energy he suspects to be necessary. Both of these factors are a matter of the employee’s perception. This is where the employee’s personality comes into play as it dictates how he perceives these factors. Some employees might, for example, see a high approval from their boss as very rewarding while others could see the pure achievement of getting the work done as the highest possible reward. It should be a continuous task of every leader in a company to balance these factors out for every employee in order to maintain a high motivation and therefor a high output. In order to do so the leader has to know the personalities of all his employees and determine how they can be rewarded more efficiently or how their perception of their workload can be reduced. Chapter 4 of this work will feature an overview which shows the advantageous and disadvantageous situations for each personality-type. It is important to keep in mind that this is a continuous task. If an employee made bad experiences with the rewards he got, his expectation of future rewards will be influenced negatively. Furthermore it’s important to remember that this is not an exact science. “The link between happiness and worker productivity has been called the Holy Grail of industrial psychology” (Barrick & Ryan, 2003, p. 30). The reason for this statement resides in the fact that the link simply cannot be quantified. That does not mean that the link is non-existent though.

3 Personality Models

3.1 The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire

The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) is a questionnaire that was developed by Raymond Catell. The sixteen factors are supposed to be the most basic personality traits of a person. Catell commenced wide empirical research in order to find those factors and revised the entire model four times. The questionnaire itself was used extensively in research for the last decades. Its result is a two dimensional matrix which describes the value of each factor a particular person features. That means that, for example, it is determined on a scale from 1 to 10 if a person is dominant or submissive. Catell concluded that the factors are structured hierarchically, meaning that people have primary traits and secondary traits which are influenced by the primary traits. (refer to Matthews et al., 2009, pp. 19-20)

One of the big advantages of this model is the possibility to cluster the results of larger groups of people in order to find similarities. By evaluating the questionnaire-results of a specific group it can be determined if correlations exist in the values of specific attributes. It can, for example, be determined if a specific group tends to be more traditional or open to change. This is very useful in order to recognize patterns and could be used to select employees.

While the 16PF has a very high popularity it’s also subject to broad criticism. The main critique being that the model can’t be replicated consistently. The reason for this likely resides in computational errors that occurred when Catell created the model. It is also not very easy to quantify the value of a particular trait of a person which makes the questionnaire susceptible to manipulation. Because of this the results should be handled with care and not be taken too seriously. The model seems to have problems with intercorrelations between the factors as well. That means that the value of a factor can influence the value of another factor. (refer to Fehringer, 2004) Another small problem with this model is the fact that one of the factors used concerns the intelligence of a person. This, however, contradicts the definition of personality given in chapter 2.1.

3.2 Five Factor Model

The Five Factor Model (FFM) is part of the Five Factor Theory (FFT) that was developed by Costa & McCrae. They discovered that there are five personality factors which describe the personality of a person. These factors are commonly known as “The Big Five”. A detailed description of these factors will be given in chapter 4.2. It is important to understand that these factors are only variables that can describe a personality in an abstract way and are not to be seen as patterns in behavior (refer to McCrae & Costa, 1999, pp. 162-163). They are only part in a very complex theory which describes personality itself and is depicted in Figure 2.

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Figure 2 - The Five Factor Theory (McCrae & Costa, 2006, p. 192)

This theory features three core components which make up personality. Those components are the basic tendencies of a person (“The Big Five”), their characteristic adaptions and their self-concept (represented by the rectangular fields). The latter is considered as being a part of the characteristic adoptions which represent the concrete manifestation of the rather abstract basic tendencies. In addition to the core components there are interfaces of personality with adjoining systems which are represented by the elliptical fields. (refer to McCrae & Costa, 1999, pp. 162-164)

The distinction between the basic tendencies and their manifestation implicates that the concrete value of a person’s trait can’t be measured directly as the traits do not interact with adjoining systems themselves. They can only be measured at the interfaces, or to be more concrete, by the behavior of the person. This is very important as the manifestation of a trait, for example, is also influenced by external factors. (refer to McCrae & Costa, 1999, p. 164)

As the FFT does not just describe some traits but also gives a rather good understanding of how personality “works” it is a very popular and often used theory. Furthermore it is backed up by wide and sophisticated empirical research and other researchers came up with similar results. It is not without criticism though. Boyle points out that it cannot be replicated consistently like the 16PF (refer to Boyle, 2008, p. 20). He further states that “it [the FFT] postulates heterogeneous broad traits which are too few in number to enable highly accurate predictions” (Boyle, 2008, p. 20). While this statement might be true it has to be considered that using more narrow traits might not necessarily yield more accurate results as they might lead to higher inter­correlation. The traits are also often criticised as having been selected randomly to which McCrae & Costa responded as follows: „… our view is that the existence of these five factors is simply an empirical fact, like the fact that there are seven continents on the earth“ (McCrae & Costa, 2006, p. 201).

4 Individual Attributes

4.1 Classifying Individual Attributes

As was stated in chapter 2.2 of this assignment it is essential to know your employees’ personalities in order to improve their performance by the means of raising their motivation and assigning the right people to the right jobs. In order to do so the personalities of the employees have to be determined and it has to be analyzed in which situations a specific personality performs well and in which situations it does not.


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Personality and Job Performance - Models and impact of individual attributes
AKAD University of Applied Sciences Pinneberg
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Personality;, productivity;, work-performance;, The Big Five;, Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire;, Five Factor Theory;, Five Factor Model;, Personality Tests;, Employee Selection;, Employee Motivation
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B.Sc. Daniel Simmank (Author), 2013, Personality and Job Performance - Models and impact of individual attributes, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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