Personality traits predict performance differently in different jobs

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Michael Wilmot, University of Arkansas.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Can your personality affect your performance at work? It depends on the job, according to a new study by management and psychology researchers.

“Although previous studies have made statements about the effects of personality traits on overall job performance, the specifics of these relationships really depend on the job,” said Michael Wilmot, assistant professor of management at Sam M. Walton. College of Business of the University. from Arkansas. “More interesting results exist when we take a closer look at performance within different jobs. “

Wilmot and Deniz Ones, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, combined several meta-analyzes of the five major personality traits – conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, friendliness and neuroticism – and examined their effect on performance in the workplace. job. Meta-analysis is a process used to systematically merge several independent results using statistical methods to calculate an overall effect.

The researchers indexed these personality trait relationships across nine broad occupational groups – office, customer service, health care, law enforcement, management, military, professional, sales, and skilled / semi-skilled. They reported on the complexity of the job and what professional experts see as the relevance of these personality traits to the demands of the job.

Overall, Wilmot and Ones found that the relationships between personality traits and performance varied considerably across the nine major occupational groups. The main source of these differences was professional complexity.

Conscience predicts performance in all jobs. However, its effect was stronger in jobs with low and medium levels of cognitive demands and weaker in highly cognitively demanding jobs. Extraversion was stronger in jobs with medium levels of cognitive complexity.

Other traits showed stronger effects when they were more relevant to specific job requirements. For example, pleasantness is better predicted in health care jobs and extraversion is better predicted in sales and management jobs.

Overall, the results suggest that jobs with moderate job complexity might be ideal – the “golden loop range,” as Wilmot puts it – for relying on personality traits to predict job performance. job.

The researchers also compared the empirical results to professional expert assessments of the relevance of personality traits to job performance. They found the assessments to be mostly correct. For the majority of occupational groups – 77% in particular – the two highest-scoring traits corresponded to the two most predictive traits revealed in the meta-analyzes.

“These findings should prove useful for researchers seeking to better understand personality – performance relationships and for organizations that are perfecting systems for identifying and selecting employee talent,” Wilmot said. “They should also benefit individuals who are trying to choose the right vocation and, really, society as a whole, which would reap the collective benefits of better job performance. “

The researchers’ findings were published in the Professional behavior journal.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A offers internationally competitive education in over 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $ 2.2 billion to the Arkansas economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while providing training in professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the U of A among the top 3% of colleges and universities in the United States with the highest level of research activity. American News and World Report ranks the U of A among the best public universities in the country. Find out how the U of A is working to build a better world on Arkansas Research News.

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