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The Big Five Model of Personality Dimensions: Predicting Job Performance & Job Satisfaction

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The Big Five Model of personality dimensions:

Predicting job performance and job satisfaction

Introduction

The objective of this essay is to define and convey the key themes and differing views that have been presented across the literature on the relationship between the Big Five Model of personality to the concepts of job performance and job satisfaction. It aims to define personality, analyse key dimensions the Big Five as they relate to job performance and job satisfaction, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the various positions contained within the literature. The essay begins by defining personality, analysing definitions in chronological order. It then examines the relationship between personality and job performance using the framework of the Big Five Model. The essay continues by discussing the linkages between the Big Five dimensions of personality and job satisfaction. Finally, this essay includes a reflective writing section that seeks to integrate my personal experiences of job performance and job satisfaction in the workplace to the concepts contained in the literature review.

Literature Review

Definitions

The term personality has been described as "one of the most abstract words in our language" (Saucier & Goldberg, 2003, 1), which explains the enormous array of definitions in existence. Allport (1937, as cited in Robbins, Judge, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2008, 104) defines personality as "the dynamic organisation within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment". Allport's definition places emphasis not only on external attributes but on inner traits that are inherent in the individual. Ones, Viswesvaran and Dilchert (2005, 390) suggest that personality is not one single thing but "a spectrum of attributes that consistently distinguish people from one another in terms of their basic tendencies to think, feel and act in certain ways." Like Allport, Ones et. al. (2005) highlight that personality comprises both internal states, including thoughts and feelings, and external traits, such as observable behaviours. Furthermore, Ones, et. al. (2005, 390) contend that "the enduring nature and consistency of personality characteristics are manifested in predictable tendencies of individuals to behave in similar ways across situation and settings". This definition extends Allport's definition in that it includes the significance of personality remaining relatively stable and unchanged throughout an individual's life. This view is supported by McShane and Travaglione (2007, 52) who propose that personality "refers to the relatively stable pattern of behaviours and consistent internal states that explain a person's behavioural tendencies".

The definitions examined thus far share the viewpoint that personality explains the behavioural predispositions of an individual, which in turn explains the theory that personality factors are predictors of job performance and job satisfaction - while an individual's personality influences their behaviour, their behaviour determines their workplace performance.

The relationship between the Big Five Model of personality and job performance

Performance refers to the overall evaluation of how well an individual is meeting the organisations expectations in terms of job performance (Allen & Griffeth, 1999). Campbell, McHenry and Wise (1990) contend job performance is behaviour that is relevant to the goals of the organisation and can be measured based on an individual's input to achieving said goals. Assessing the legitimacy of personality measures as predictors of job performance is a key issue discussed throughout the literature. Within the framework of the Big Five Model, Barrick and Mount (1991) argue that personality variables are in fact associated with job performance. This is supported by Tett, Jackson and Rothstein (1991) who found an even higher validity when using the Big Five personality measures as predictors of job performance than those reported by Barrick and Mount (1991). This means, the overall mean personality validity (based on job performance) reported by Tett et. al. (1991) points to the relationship between the Big Five dimensions of personality and job performance being stronger than previously thought.

Throughout the literature there are many references to the dimension of conscientiousness and its affect on job performance. Costa and McCrae (1992) contend the foundation of the dimension of conscientiousness lies with an individual's need to exercise self-control and in doing so be guided by their principles and ethics. Numerous studies demonstrate that conscientiousness - being careful, dependable, and self-disciplined - is the fundamental personality trait for predicting job performance across nearly all occupations (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Hough, 1992; Tett et. al., 1991). In other words, individuals who are responsible, organised and hard-working tend to perform well at their jobs, as they are inclined to have the will to succeed and the desire to fulfil their responsibilities and requirements. Though conscientiousness is the personality dimension most predictive of job performance, extraversion - being outgoing, talkative, sociable and assertive, is an aspect of the Big Five highlighted throughout the literature as typically correlating with positive job performance. Barrick and Mount (1991) argue this correlation is particularly true of occupations that require a lot of social interaction with others, such as sales representatives. In contrast, Witt (2002) contends the extraversion-job performance relationship is not as consistent as that of contentiousness-job performance with conscientiousness being partially responsible for a "weak relationship" between extraversion and job performance. In fact, Witt (2002) claims extraversion is positively related to job performance among high conscientious individuals, to the same extent that it is negatively related to job performance among low conscientious individuals, and as such cancels itself out leading to the theory that extraversion may be unrelated to job performance.

The notion that personality traits cannot be used to predict or explain employee behaviour is posited by Hough (1992), who contends that if the prediction of behaviour as opposed to a description of behaviour is the standard for assessing the adequacy of personality taxonomies, then the Big Five is an ineffective taxonomy of personality dimensions.

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