Reversing the Negative Relationship between Conscientiousness and Creativity

The Mediating Role of Work Engagement

Bachelor Thesis, 2013

24 Pages, Grade: 1.0






Based on its relevance and influence to a considerable range of fields within the business world, creativity has become a topic of growing interest. Since recent research by Chávez-Eakle, Eakle and Cruz Fuentes (2012) revealed that certain personality traits are related to creativity, the negative relationship between conscientiousness and creativity appears to be well established for individuals and groups across different contexts (Robert & Cheung, 2010). However, little is known about the underlying processes of this relationship. To address this need, the present study examines the possibility that the relationship between conscientiousness and employees' creativity is mediated by the extent to which individuals are engaged in their work. On the basis of existing literature, it is hypothesized that work engagement mediates the relationship between conscientiousness and employees' creativity. Specifically, it is argued that conscientiousness positively relates to work engagement and that in turn, work engagement positively relates to creativity. Using a large multi-source field study, the results of the correlation and regression analysis supported almost all hypotheses. Thus, work engagement was found to fully mediate the relationship. Results also revealed that conscientiousness was positively associated with work engagement and that work engagement was positively related to creativity. However, we did not find support for Hypothesis 1, which predicted conscientiousness and creativity are negatively related. Implications and suggestions for practice and future research are provided.


In a world of increased competition and ever-changing market conditions, evidence suggests that employees' creativity can substantially contribute to the competitive advantage, supremacy and effectiveness of any organization (Amabile, Conti, Coon, Lazenby & Herron, 1996). This is particularly evident in the success of Google. In becoming one of the world's most innovative companies, Google has devoted much time and effort towards enhancing its employees' creativity and innovative capacity. But, what are the factors that are actually influencing and facilitating creative thinking and creative outcomes? To answer this, one must first define the concept of creativity.

According to Amabile (1996: 1169), creativity is the "production of novel and useful ideas by individuals or teams of individuals" concerning products, practices, procedures and services within and outside an organization. To be considered novel, ideas must be unique and new relative to other ideas currently available in the organization (Shalley, Zhou & Oldham, 2004). Moreover, ideas are considered useful and valuable if they are implementable and have the potential to directly or indirectly raise the value of an organization. Due to the importance of employees' creativity to organizational effectiveness and survival, much empirical research has been conducted with regards to contextual and personal factors which stimulate or restrain creativity.

One personality trait which has a significant impact on creative behavior is conscientiousness (Robert & Cheung, 2010). According to Barrick and Mount (1991), conscientious people are characterized as being task- and result-oriented; organized; persistent highly motivated to achieve; dependable; competent; self-disciplined; and reliable. Subsequent literature has shown conscientiousness relates positively to job performance but negatively to creativity. (Batey, Furnham & Safiullina, 2010; Robert & Cheung, 2010). Hence, the more structured and organized an employee is, the less likely he or she is to think outside the conventional work constraints and engage in creative behavior. However, even though Amabile (1983) argued that individuals possess certain traits and abilities, which either foster or restrain creative thinking, how and why these thoughts will actually result in creative outcomes depends on other factors as well. To put it in other words, despite the negative direct relationship between conscientiousness and creativity, there might also be other forces that are mediating this relationship. Although previous research has shown that this direct negative relationship between conscientiousness and creativity exists, far less is known about the mediating factors that unfold this relationship.

One of these intrinsic factors is work engagement. Work engagement as defined by Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Romá and Bakker (2002: 74), is a "positive, fulfilling work- related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption". In other words, it is the extent of involvement, enjoyment and commitment to one's work. In this respect, recent research by Wefald, Loo, Downey, and Smith (2007), found some positive correlation between conscientiousness and work engagement. Hence, due to their reliability, task-orientation and persistence, highly conscientious employees are expected to report higher work engagement. (Wefald, Reichard & Serrano, 2011). Furthermore, dedicated employees are also more willing to invest additional effort in their work, are more productive and more creative (Bhatnagar, 2012), since they care more about the outcomes of their actions. Consequently, this variable serves as an important mediator in the relationship between the independent and dependant variable. By reversing the effect of conscientiousness on creativity from restricting to fostering employees' creativity, the mediation illustrated in this research is a so-called inconsistent mediation. Despite its potential impact on creativity, it is surprising that there are no explicit studies of how work engagement can actually reverse the linkage between conscientiousness and creativity.

By empirically testing the inconsistent mediation of work engagement in the relationship between conscientiousness and creativity, this study has the potential to contribute to existing literature and managerial implications in two ways: the first contribution is to question the established literature which suggests that conscientiousness is negatively associated with creativity (Batey, Furnham & Safiullina, 2010; Robert & Cheung, 2010). This paper argues that work engagement can reverse the negative direct relationship between conscientiousness and employee creativity. Secondly, the insights obtained by this research will be of managerial interest to the field of human resource management and organizational behavior as well, as it demonstrates managers how to increase the creative behavior of their employees by enhancing their level of work engagement. This in turn, will ensure the organization's survival and effectiveness in the long run.

The remainder of this paper starts with the theory section in which the relations between the different variables are explained in detail using existing literature and previous empirical evidence. This is followed by a description of how the data was collected and what methods were used in the analysis. Furthermore, the type of empirical research, which we conducted is explained and the results of the statistical analysis are presented. The paper concludes with a discussion and summary of the theoretical and managerial implications and limitations of the research.


The Relationship Between Conscientiousness and Employees' Creativity

For the last decades, the study of highly creative individuals and their personalities has become an increasingly important field in management (Chávez-Eakle et al., 2012). Hence, the question of whether certain personality traits can predict creative behavior should be investigated. According to Lin, Hsu, Chen, and Wang (2012), there are several personality traits that have been identified as being related to creativity. One of the first to attract the attention of organizational behavior was conscientiousness, as it is also positively related to the overall job performance (Landy & Conte, 2010).

Conscientiousness is defined as the "quality of having positive intentions and carrying them out with care" (Landy & Conte, 2010: 111). As mentioned above, conscientious people are characterized as being task- and results-oriented; organized and persistent with a high degree of striving for achievement; dependable; competent; self-disciplined; deliberate and reliable (Barrick & Mount, 1991). This behavior, however, actually restricts the employees' ability to think creatively and produce innovative outcomes, since conscientious employees tend to maintain already established rules and practices and are less prone to change their behavior. In addition, highly conscientious people are "less willing to abandon old patterns of behavior, even after it is apparent that the behavior is inappropriate" (LePine, 2003: 31). This implies that individuals who are highly conscientious are more likely to adopt a systematic and organized approach when dealing with tasks. As people are more organized and considerate, they are less likely to think outside their normal work constraints and to generate new ideas. This negative relationship between conscientiousness and employees' creativity is also supported by empirical results and previous research (Feist, 1998; Furnham, Batey, Anand & Manfield, 2008; King, Walker & Broyles, 1996; McRae, 1987; Wolfradt & Pretz, 2001). With respect to Batey, Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham (2010), conscientious people are more likely to follow instructions, appreciate order, and act deliberately, which in turn will decrease the chances of discovering novel and useful ways of approaching tasks and organizational processes. Furthermore, Robertson, Gibbon, Baron, MacIver, and Nyfield (1999), have come to the conclusion that conscientiousness is negatively related to tasks and processes that included creativity, innovation, and an action orientation.

As an overall result, the tendency of highly conscientious people to deal with different tasks in a systematic manner and the incompatibility of these approaches with the requirements for creative thinking, predict a direct negative relationship between conscientiousness and employees' creativity (Robert & Cheung, 2010).

Hypothesis 1: Conscientiousness is negatively related to employees' creativity

The Relationship between Conscientiousness and Work Engagement

In times of increased employee turnover rates within organizations, work engagement is a concept of growing importance within both academia and practice as a way to assess employees' commitment and enthusiasm (Wefald et al., 2011).

As stated by Schaufeli et al. (2002: 74), work engagement is defined as "a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption" towards a certain task, whereby the individual strives for achievement by engaging in the work role and its obligations. Therefore, the concept of work engagement demonstrates how one expresses himself or herself in a work role by contributing his or her emotional, cognitive and physical capabilities towards the current task or exercise (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003). More specifically, work engagement refers to the involvement in one's work and the willingness to invest effort into one's job. Work engagement is also beneficial to the organization in so far as it enhances job performance (Bakker, Demerouti, & Brummelhuis, 2012). Hence, it is important to know what factors might have a stimulating effect on work engagement. Recent research by Christian, Garza, and Slaughter (2011), suggests that work engagement is a result of both personal and environmental characteristics. This includes that certain personality traits of employees can be either positively or negatively related to work engagement.

One personality trait that is said to have a positive influence on the degree of work engagement is conscientiousness. Research by Barrick and Mount (2005) has revealed conscientiousness to be the most consistent predictor of work engagement across situations. According to Judge and Ilies (2002), individuals who are striving for achievement, which is one characteristic of conscientiousness (Barrick & Mount, 1991), are also more engaged in their tasks. This means more specifically, as people are task- and results-oriented, they show fewer intentions to leave the organization and have a higher level of work engagement. Likewise, Erdheim, Wang, and Zickar (2006) have found a significant correlation between conscientiousness and continuance commitment, organizational commitment and job satisfaction, which are all signs of increased work engagement (Erdheim et al., 2006). Moreover, employees who are highly conscientious are also more engaged in their work, especially on the dedication facet, as "they are more consistent, reliable and industrious"


Excerpt out of 24 pages


Reversing the Negative Relationship between Conscientiousness and Creativity
The Mediating Role of Work Engagement
University of Groningen  (Faculty of Economics and Business)
Bachelor Thesis
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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601 KB
reversing, relationship, conscientiousness, creativity, role, work, engagement
Quote paper
Julia Gerken (Author), 2013, Reversing the Negative Relationship between Conscientiousness and Creativity, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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