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Employee Personality and Performance Correlation


Personality can be described as the different characteristics that make up an individual, which are common to the given individual. The characteristics form a trend that people can use to identify any person. Personality of an individual can be viewed as a trait of a given individual that can be used to predict the individual’s next move under certain circumstances. Personality is therefore a combination of repeated traits that can be predictable because they follow a certain pattern. In the workplace, industrial and organisational psychology has been introduced to find and place workers’ personality traits as a way of coming up with a model that would be able to predict the best work traits that individuals should have for them to bring out their best. Therefore, it is always important for managers to have a way of predicting the potential of their workers for better placement and smooth team operations because personality traits have an influence on the workability of an individual largely in terms of performance delivery. Therefore, the question of the extent to which personality has an influence on employers’ performance and careers forms the basis of the paper.

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To what extent does personality predict employee performance?

Personality, as a predictor of employee performance, is rather a complex parameter that can either deliver or fail to deliver the desired results because personality as a whole is a very complex thing to understand. It can never be fully understood due to its involvements. Personality varies from individual to individual thus becoming a great challenge for one to come up with a common measure that can be employed to accurately come up with a comprehensive personality profile. Most measures that are employed tend to come up with a broad cursor that has a significant margin of error. A tricky bit about personality is that its variance from one person to the other is so complex for persons exhibiting almost the same traits because there would be hidden traits in the group, which might be missed by the person making an observation. Psychologists have however come up with trait applicable measures whose margin of error is not so big. This strategy has been used to measure employee performance as well as predicting the same when recruiting a new member of staff. Stewart (1999) explains, “Several meta-analytic studies have shown that personality traits can be effective predictors of human performance at work” (p. 959).

The use of personality as a cursor to employee performance is a new phenomenon, which gained popularity in the early 90’s. So far, research is being conducted to come up with a sure way of profiling character traits for the sake of placing employees. Though this strategy is a scientific way of evaluating employees, it is viewed as being too scientific in the field for the sake of application. Most organisations employ staff by relying mostly on their academic credentials and largely their experience. Though this procedure is an old way of selecting employees, it is still in use up to date due to its user-friendly nature that would save the organisation money and time in evaluating employees for the future. Though personality traits are complex to understand, they can be placed into broad groups from which predictors can be derived for use to profile an individual. The mostly used personality stratification has been the five-factor theory otherwise known as the Big 5. The big five consists of five broad groups of personalities, which are namely extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Individuals with extraversion trait can be described as outgoing individuals who tend to express their thoughts freely and mix with others. They are also assertive in whatever they do. They tend to express their emotions freely. Such persons would not mind telling other persons their mind if they feel the other parties are on the wrong. They simply do not beat around the bush.

Agreeableness character is a person who is readily accommodative of others. He or she can be described as having pro-social traits. Persons with agreeable traits can easily work with anyone because they bend backwards to accommodate others thus qualifying as good group members. Conscientious personality trait accommodates people who are keen, objective, and balanced in the way they approach issues. They are usually focused towards the main goal to which they strive to achieve. The character attributes are for managers and team leaders to have in an organisation. On the other hand, neurotic people tend to display a picture of an unhappy person. They tend to be unnecessarily irritable with lots of bouts of anxiety, as well as sadness. This person is an antisocial character who does not allow other people to come close to him or her. Most people with the openness trait tend to be imaginative. Thus, they are known to think outside the box. They tend to think outside the box thus making good inventors. The above character traits are what can be described as the big five mostly used to predict employees’ character traits. The traits above have two endpoints, which are either high or low that are used to evaluate the predictions. They use two extremes. In general terms, personality traits can be used to predict an employee’s performance under a very limited scale.

The use of the big-five model has been successfully employed to characterise people though its employment in the predicting of employer’s performance has been questioned due to its inaccuracies and inconsistencies during the collection of data (Hurtz & Donovan 2000, p. 869). Most researchers concur with the claim that conscientiousness is the only character trait that can be used to predict employees’ performance due to the traits making it up. In the case of the other four traits, inconsistencies have been found that are a threat to the construct validity of the sampling used in that the data used was not meant for the big five research. Therefore, the use of personality to predict performance is a subject that needs more research to be done on it because it is so far complex and inconclusive. The only personality trait that has received validity is the conscientious trait. Stewart (1999) further explains that behaviours that make up the construct that should be used for job performance are dynamic and change over a period thus depicting the possibility of a change in someone’s personality constructs (p. 960).

How do personality traits translate into individual professional career?

Personality traits tend to exhibit a person’s intrinsic attitude towards life by defining what direction a given person might take under certain circumstances. This case though is not constant due to the changing nature of different people’s personalities over a given period. Personality traits are inborn, acquired, and largely influenced by the environment in which one lives. It is not easy to determine how personality traits translate into individuals’ professional careers due to the dynamic nature of character traits. Nevertheless, it is possible to associate a certain personality trait with possible career success only after all the other factors have been considered constant. Career success rides on many factors, which vary from place to place and from individual to individual depending on the ideology of the said groups. Career success also depends on different circumstances that happen to a given person’s life. An individual might have all the characters that can lead them to successful career heights. However, it is subject to the circumstances that the individual will be in at the time. Personality traits have been grouped into five major groups that characterise human beings. Among the five character traits, three of them have been identified as the most relevant in the evaluation of personality traits for individual professional careers. According to Judge et al. (1999), “three out of the big five dimensions namely neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness appear to be the most relevant to career success” (p. 624).

Neuroticism as described in the previous paragraph is a pervasive character, which can be described as disruptive in a way to any flow of work due to its inconsistent nature. Persons with neurotic characters tend to be indifferent to the normal flow of life. Thus, their unpredictability leads to them being overlooked when promotion positions occur. Because of their antisocial tendencies, persons with neuroticism characters tend to choose careers that give them a quiet environment away from too much interaction. Some of their professional careers can be such works as drawing, painting, and working in laboratories among other jobs that do not require them to interact with many people. Neurotics can be described as selfish people whose thoughts and feelings are simply for themselves. They are not meant to inspire others because their characteristics are not admirable. Therefore, they tend not to take on leadership positions in society. Whenever persons with this character take up positions that expose them to too much interaction, their character tends to come out in extreme ways. On the other hand, extraversion as a character builds one into careers that would lead a person into exposure. Persons with extraversion character are sociable in nature, and that they tend to get along with others. They also tend to make new friends easily thus standing out as persons who like being visible (Judge 1999, p. 624). They are also dominant and very active in an outgoing way. They would be found in social gatherings. In most cases, they are the most vocal people in these groups. Extraverts love leadership roles because of their hunger for visibility. They choose careers that are inclined to their personality traits. Persons with extraverted characteristics tend to take careers in media where they can be heard and or seen.

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They also tend to take careers in performing arts like music and acting. Extraverted characters tend to love leadership roles. Thus, most of them find their mettle in group leadership, as well as politics. Extravert characteristics therefore act strongly as a cursor to what career someone might chose in the future. Although not all extraverted characters tend to follow the named above careers, if given a chance then those, they mostly do what they would want to do to be recognised. In instances where they have taken on careers that are not so out going in nature, they will still tend to stand out among their colleagues as the most active. Conscientiousness on the other hand has been viewed as the most dependable construct that can be used to predict employees’ performance. A conscientious person is achievement-oriented. This kind of person is objective in the goals he or she pursues thus standing a good chance of setting out in an organised and systematic manner in their pursuit of this achievement. They are also dependable because they do not offer a risk of disappointing in terms of delivering on the set goals. As Judge (1999) describes them, “this character relates to an individual with a degree of self control” (p. 624). Therefore, due to their keen nature on everything they are working on, they tend to come out as leaders who can be dependable for delivery of results. Conscientious characters tend to develop very well in their career pursuits due to their disciplined nature thus becoming admirable to the persons they work under. In any work place, discipline and dedication are paramount to ones growth. Thus, people with conscientious characteristics tend to become very successful in their careers.


Personality is a key factor in employee performance as well as individual professional careers because it dictates how a person works besides showing how he or she also relates with other colleagues. In the modern day work, teamwork is crucial to the achievement of results. However, the individual’s character traits are the biggest determinant of this achievement.


Hurtz, G 2000, ‘Personality and job performance: The big five revisited’, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 85 no. 6, pp. 869-879.

Judge, T 1999, ‘The big five personality traits, general mental ability, and career success across the lifespan’, Personnel Psychology, vol. 52 no. 4, pp. 621-652.

Stewart, G 1999, ‘Trait bandwidth and stages of job performances: assessing different effects for conscientiousness and its sub traits’, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 84 no. 6, pp. 955-968.

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