Personality

The Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Learning Objectives

Apply the “Big Five” personality traits identified in psychology to organizational behavior

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The concept of the “Big Five” personality traits is taken from psychology and includes five broad domains that describe personality. The Big Five personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
  • These five factors are assumed to represent the basic structure behind all personality traits. They were defined and described by several different researchers during multiple periods of research.
  • Employees are sometimes tested on the Big Five personality traits in collaborative situations to determine what strong personality traits they can add to a group dynamic.
  • Businesses need to understand their people as well as their operations and processes. Understanding the personality components that drive the employee behavior is a very useful informational data point for management.

Key Terms

  • neuroticism: The tendency to easily experience unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability.

The concept of the “Big Five” personality traits is taken from psychology and includes five broad domains that describe personality. These five personality traits are used to understand the relationship between personality and various behaviors.

These five factors are assumed to represent the basic structure behind all personality traits. These five factors were defined and described by several different researchers during multiple periods of research. However, as a result of their broad definitions, the Big Five personality traits are not nearly as powerful in predicting and explaining actual behavior as are the more numerous lower-level, specific traits.

The Five Traits

The traits are:

  1. Openness – Openness to experience describes a person’s degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret this factor, which is sometimes called intellect.
  2. Conscientiousness – Conscientiousness is a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement. Conscientiousness also refers to planning, organization, and dependability.
  3. Extraversion – Extraversion describes energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability, talkativeness, and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others.
  4. Agreeableness – Agreeableness is the tendency to be compassionate and cooperative towards others rather than suspicious and antagonistic.
  5. Neuroticism – Neuroticism describes vulnerability to unpleasant emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to an individual’s level of emotional stability and impulse control and is sometimes referred to as emotional stability.

Applicability to Organizational Behavior

When scored for individual feedback, these traits are frequently presented as percentile scores. For example, a conscientiousness rating in the 80th percentile indicates a relatively strong sense of responsibility and orderliness, whereas an extraversion rating in the 5th percentile indicates an exceptional need for solitude and quiet.

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Questionnaires for the Big Five personality traits: The Big Five personality traits are typically examined through surveys and questionnaires.

Employees are sometimes tested on the Big Five personality traits in collaborative situations to determine what strong personality traits they can add to the group dynamic. Personality tests can also be part of the behavioral interview process when a company is hiring to determine an individual’s ability to act on certain personality characteristics.

Understanding its people is as important to a company as understanding its operations and processes. Understanding what personality components drive the behavior of subordinates is a highly useful informational data point for management that can be used to determine what type of assignments should be set, how motivation should be pursued, what team dynamics may arise, and how to best approach conflict and/or praise when applicable.

The Myers-Briggs Personality Types

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a commonly used personality test exploring 16 personality types.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality assessment perspective and the four personality types it measures

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a questionnaire that measures the psychological preferences that influence how people perceive the world and make decisions. The MBTI sorts psychological differences into four opposite pairs, resulting in 16 possible personality types.
  • None of these types are good or bad; however, Briggs and Myers theorized that societies as a whole naturally prefer one overall type.
  • The four type preferences are Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judgment vs. Perception. One possible classification of a personality type could be ESTJ: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J).
  • Myers-Briggs tests are frequently used in the areas of career counseling, team building, group dynamics, professional development, marketing, leadership training, executive coaching, life coaching, personal development, marriage counseling, and workers’ compensation claims.

Key Terms

  • Forced-choice: A type of question used in psychological tests that only allows the individual to choose between one of two possible answers to each question.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a questionnaire designed to measure the psychological preferences that shape how people perceive the world and make decisions. The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. They began work on a questionnaire during World War II to help women who were entering the industrial workforce as part of the war effort to understand their own personality preferences and use that knowledge to identify the jobs that would be best for them. That initial questionnaire grew into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was first published in 1962. The MBTI focuses on normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences between people.

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MBTI personality types: The dimensions of the MBTI are seen here, along with temperament descriptions associated with each personality trait.

MBTI Defined

The MBTI sorts psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or dichotomies, resulting in 16 possible psychological personality types. None of these types are good or bad; however, Briggs and Myers theorized that societies as a whole naturally prefer one overall type. In the same way that writing with the left hand is hard work for a right-handed person, people find that using their opposite psychological preferences is difficult, even if they can become proficient by practicing and developing those different ways of thinking and behaving.

The 16 Personality Types

The 16 personality types are typically referred to by an abbreviation of four letters—the initial letters of each of their four type preferences. The four type preferences are: Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judgment vs. Perception.

One possible classification of a personality type is ESTJ: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J). Another example is INFP: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P); and so on for all 16 possible type combinations. In this situation, extroversion means “outward turning” and introversion means “inward turning.” People who prefer judgment over perception are not necessarily more judgmental or less perceptive; they simply prefer one over the other. The most common combination from the Myers-Briggs test is ISFJ or Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, and Judgment.

The current North American English version of the Myers-Briggs test includes 93 forced-choice questions. Forced-choice means that the individual has to choose only one of two possible answers to each question. Myers-Briggs tests are frequently used in the areas of career counseling, team building, group dynamics, professional development, marketing, leadership training, executive coaching, life coaching, personal development, marriage counseling, and workers’ compensation claims.

Relevance to Management

One of the most common contexts for using the MBTI is team-building and employee personality identification. Managers are tasked with creating work groups and teams with a variety of human resources, which is a complicated social process of intuitively estimating who would complement who in group dynamics. The MBTI test is an excellent tool to measure and more accurately predict how individuals will interact in a group and what types of skills they may bring to the table.

One particularly good example is in the IE relationship. Understanding which employees in a team are naturally introverted is a useful way to ensure that a manager doesn’t miss out on these employees’ opinions just because they are naturally quiet. The manager could meet with them privately and informally—over coffee, for instance—and get their opinions. Similarly, knowing which members tend to be intuitive thinkers (NT) and which tend to understand emotions and be observant (SF) can lead the manager to give them very different tasks, though the two might work well together in a group setting since they balance each other. Management can use this tool to minimize conflict and optimize performance.

Other Important Trait Theories

The disposition theory, three fundamental traits, and HEXACO model of personality structure are applicable to the work place.

Learning Objectives

Examine various perspectives on personality and how to measure it in the context of organizational behavior

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Some important personality trait theories are: Gordon Allport’s dispositions, Hans Eysenck’s three fundamental traits and Michael Aston and Kibeom Lee’s six-dimensional HEXACO model of personality structure.
  • Gordon Allport’s disposition theory includes cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits. Cardinal traits dominate an individual’s behavior, central traits are common to all individuals, and secondary traits are peripheral.
  • Hans Eysenck rejected the idea that there are “tiers” of personality traits, theorizing instead that there are just three traits that describe human personality: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.
  • The HEXACO model of personality identifies six factors of personality: Honesty, Emotionality, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience.

Key Terms

  • trait: An identifying characteristic, habit, or trend.
  • extroversion: Concern with or an orientation toward others or what is outside oneself; behavior expressing such an orientation.
  • Disposition: A tendency or inclination to respond a certain way under given circumstances.

The “Big Five” describes five important personality traits, and the Myers-Briggs Test identifies a number of different personality types, but there are other important traits that have been studied by psychologists. Some of these traits include Gordon Allport’s dispositions, Hans Eysenck’s three fundamental traits, and Michael Aston and Kibeom Lee’s six dimensional HEXACO model of personality structure. All of these theories discuss important personality traits that have been studied and identified.

Allport’s Disposition Theory

Gordon Allport’s disposition theory includes cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits.

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Gordon Allport: American psychologist Gordon Allport wrote an influential work on prejudice, The Nature of Prejudice, published in 1979.

  1. Cardinal trait: A trait that dominates and shapes a person’s behavior. These are the ruling passions/obsessions, such as the desire for money, fame, love, etc.
  2. Central trait: A general characteristic that every person has to some degree. These are the basic building blocks that shape most of our behavior, although they are not as overwhelming as cardinal traits. An example of a central trait would be honesty.
  3. Secondary trait: a characteristic seen only in certain circumstances (such as particular likes or dislikes that only very close friend might know). They must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity.

Eysenck’s Extroversion and Neuroticism Theory

Hans Eysenck rejected the idea that there are “tiers” of personality traits, theorizing instead that there are just three traits that describe human personality. These traits are extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Extroversion and neuroticism provide a two-dimensional space to describe individual differences in behavior. Eysenck described these as analogous to latitude and longitude describing a point on the Earth. An individual could rate high on both neuroticism and extroversion, low on both traits, or somewhere in between. Where an individual falls on the spectrum determines her/his overall personality traits.

The third dimension, psychoticism, was added to the model in the late 1970s as a result of collaborations between Eysenck and his wife, Sybil B. G. Eysenck.

Aston and Lee’s HEXACO Model of Personality

Aston and Lee’s six-dimensional HEXACO model of personality structure is based on a lexical hypothesis that analyzes the adjectives used in different to describe personality, beginning with English. Subsequent research was conducted in other languages, including Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, and Turkish. Comparisons of the results revealed six emergent factors. The six factors are generally named Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extroversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). After the adjectives that describe each of these six factors were collected using self-reports, they were distilled to four traits that describe each factor.

  • Honesty-Humility (H): Sincerity, Fairness, Greed Avoidance, Modesty
  • Emotionality (E): Fearfulness, Anxiety, Dependence, Sentimentality
  • Extroversion (X): Social Self-Esteem, Social Boldness, Sociability, Liveliness
  • Agreeableness (A): Forgivingness, Gentleness, Flexibility, Patience
  • Conscientiousnes (C): Organization, Diligence, Perfectionism, Prudence
  • Openness to Experience (O): Aesthetic Appreciation, Inquisitiveness, Creativity, Unconventionality

These three personality trait theories, among others, are used to describe and define personalities today in psychology and in organizational behavior.