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Personality Traits and Job Success: An investigation in a Thai sample1

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The purpose of this study was to examine the predictive power of each facet of the five-factor model of personality on job success in a Thai sample. The sample consisted of 2518 persons from seven occupations. The research found that for all occupational groups neuroticism was significantly negatively correlated with job success, while extraversion and conscientiousness were significantly positively correlated with job success. Moreover, conscientiousness was the only personality trait that consistently predicted job success of persons across occupations.
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Personality Traits and Job
Success: An investigation in a
Thai sample
1
Chuchai Smithikrai
Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand. csmithikrai@gmail.com
The purpose of this study was to examine the predictive power of each facet of the five-
factor model of personality on job success in a Thai sample. The sample consisted of 2518
persons from seven occupations. The research found that for all occupational groups
neuroticism was significantly negatively correlated with job success, while extraversion
and conscientiousness were significantly positively correlated with job success. More-
over, conscientiousness was the only personality trait that consistently predicted job
success of persons across occupations.
1. Introduction
It is often asserted that, besides cognitive abilities, a
blend of personality characteristics is necessary for
people to be successful in education and eventually in
their jobs or careers. Recent research has demon-
strated that personality assessment contributes unique
information to the prediction of job performance, over
and above that offered by methods such as cognitive
ability testing and managerial assessment centers (Gof-
fin, Rothstein, & Johnston, 1996). As the introduction
and general acceptance of the five-factor model (FFM),
also known as the ‘Big Five’ (Goldberg, 1990) in the
early 1990s, research examining the link between
personality and work behavior has intensified. The
FFM dimensions have been replicated in an impressive
series of studies across countries and cultures and
remain fairly stable over time (McCrae & Costa,
1997; McCrae, Terracciano, & 78 Members of the
Personality Profiles of Cultures Project, 2005; Salgado,
1997). At least four studies using meta-analytic techni-
que were carried out by Barrick and Mount (1991),
Mount and Barrick (1995), Salgado (1997), and Tett,
Jackson, and Rothstein (1991). These studies show that
the most relevant personality factors, which predict job
performance, are conscientiousness and neuroticism.
Moreover, there have been multiple studies that ex-
amine how the FFM personality dimensions relate to
work behaviors and outcomes, including job satisfaction
(Judge, Heller, & Mount, 2002), executive career suc-
cess (Boudreau, Boswell, & Judge, 1999), and career
success across the life span (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, &
Barrick, 1999).
Although the FFM has been researched in many areas
of industrial-organizational psychology, most notably
with respect to job performance, the relationship of
the FFM to job success is much less studied, especially
in Asian countries. Moreover, no study is conducted in
the Thai sample. Thus, the objective of this study was to
investigate which of the FFM dimensions predict job
success of persons with different occupations.
2. FFM of personality and job success
The FFM dimensions are neuroticism, extraversion,
openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscien-
tiousness. Neuroticism refers generally to a lack of
positive psychological adjustment and emotional stabi-
lity. Extraversion is characterized by a keen interest in
other people and external events, and venturing forth
with confidence into the unknown. Openness to experi-
ence refers to the degree to which an individual is open
to new experiences/new ways of doing things. Agree-
ableness measures how compatible people are with
others, or basically how able they are to get along
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9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main St., Malden, MA, 02148, USA
International Journal of Selection and Assessment Volume 15 Number 1 March 2007
with others. Conscientiousness describes socially pre-
scribed impulse control that facilitates task and goal-
directed behavior, such as thinking before acting,
delaying gratification, following norms and rules, and
planning, organizing, and prioritizing tasks.
In this study, job success is defined as perceived
achievements individuals have accumulated as a result
of their work experiences. It is similar to the concept
of ‘intrinsic career success’ (Judge, Cable, Boudreau, &
Bretz, 1995). According to Judge et al. (1995), career
success can be partitioned into extrinsic and intrinsic
components. Extrinsic success is relatively objective
and observable, and typically consists of highly visible
outcomes such as pay and ascendancy. Conversely,
intrinsic success is defined as an individual’s subjective
reactions to his or her own career. Past research has
confirmed that extrinsic and intrinsic career success
can be assessed as relatively independent outcomes, as
they are only moderately correlated (Judge & Bretz,
1994).
3. Method
3.1. Sample
The sample consisted of 2518 persons, 1209 males and
1309 females from seven occupations, i.e., pharmacist
(n¼312), teacher (n¼604), bank employee (n¼492),
hotel staff (n¼304), dentist (n¼373), salesperson
(n¼318), and air-traffic controller (n¼115).
3.2. Measures
3.2.1. NEO five-factor inventory (form S) (NEO-FFI-S)
The NEO-FFI-S (Costa & McCrae, 1992) is a 60-item
self-report questionnaire that yields subscale scores for
each of the five major dimensions of normal person-
ality: neuroticism (N), extraversion (E), openness (O),
agreeableness (A), and conscientiousness (C). Partici-
pants responded to NEO-FFI-S items using a five-point
Likert-type scale ranging from 0 (strongly disagree) to 4
(strongly agree). In this study, the authorized Thai
translation of the NEO-FFI-S (Smithikrai, 2000) was
used to collect personality data of the sample. The
NEO-FFI-S was translated into Thai by the author and
then back translated into English by a bilingual expert
who was unfamiliar with the English version of the
NEO-FFI-S. Alpha estimates for the Thai version based
on 2518 adults were 80, .58, .45, .63, and .72 for N, E,
O, A, and C, respectively.
3.2.2. Job success measure
Participants in each occupational group was asked to
report their perceived success with various facets of
their job (e.g., income, supervisors’ satisfaction, respect
from coworkers) as they have started their careers.
The measure was developed based on data from focus
group interviews conducted separately in each occupa-
tional group. Thus, there were seven versions, each for
an occupational group. Each scale consisted of 10 items;
a sample items is: ‘You have more achievements in your job
than your comparable colleagues.’ Participants responded
to each item using a five-point Likert-type scale ranging
from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Alpha
estimates were .91, .89, .89, .81, .82, .80, and .89 for
pharmacist, teacher, bank employee, hotel staff, dentist,
salesperson, and air-traffic controller, respectively.
4. Results
Tables 1–7 describe the relationships among the Big
Five dimensions and job success in each occupational
group. The results indicated that for all occupational
groups neuroticism was significantly negatively corre-
lated with job success, while extraversion and con-
scientiousness were significantly positively correlated
with job success.
Multiple regression analyses were conducted to
investigate the predictive power of each facet of the
FFM of personality on job success. The N, E, O, A, and
C were forced enter into the models, respectively.
Table 8 indicated that conscientiousness was the only
construct that consistently predicted job success across
six occupations, except the air-traffic controller group.
Standardized bfor pharmacist, teacher, bank employ-
ees, hotel staff, dentist, and salesperson were .25, .26,
.42, .41, .33, and .19, respectively (all po.01). Extra-
Table 1. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the pharmacist group (n¼312)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 19.30 6.38 (.83)
2. E 27.78 5.20 .34
**
(.71)
3. O 28.03 4.93 .13
*
.16
**
(.61)
4. A 32.31 4.50 .34
**
.30
**
.18
**
(.65)
5. C 31.90 5.34 .27
**
.31
**
.20
**
.28
**
(.79)
6. JS 32.13 5.65 .28
**
.28
**
.25
**
.14
**
.36
**
(.91)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS, job success.
Personality Traits and Job Success 135
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Journal compilation &2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 15 Number 1 March 2007
Table 2. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the teacher group (n¼604)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 21.87 6.64 (.78)
2. E 28.04 4.38 .20
**
(.50)
3. O 27.08 4.11 .10
*
.18
**
(.44)
4. A 31.27 5.03 .45
**
.25
**
.20
**
(.64)
5. C 32.81 4.94 .31
**
.36
**
.26
**
.44
**
(.71)
6. JS 35.40 4.66 .21
**
.21
**
.17
**
.16
**
.33
**
(.89)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS, job success.
Table 3. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the bank employee group (n¼492)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 17.58 6.24 (.77)
2. E 27.24 4.58 .25
**
(.52)
3. O 26.59 4.56 .14
**
.23
**
(.44)
4. A 32.16 4.79 .44
**
.35
**
.15
**
(.60)
5. C 34.70 5.21 .38
**
.42
**
.31
**
.43
**
(.71)
6. JS 41.25 3.95 .30
**
.37
**
.19
**
.30
**
.53
**
(.89)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS job success.
Table 4. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the hotel staff group (n¼304)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 20.61 7.12 (.79)
2. E 28.64 4.68 .18
**
(.50)
3. O 26.70 4.16 .17
**
.18
**
(.45)
4. A 31.42 5.60 .44
**
.32
**
.27
**
(.67)
5. C 34.08 5.61 .44
**
.38
**
.31
**
.51
**
(.76)
6. JS 30.61 3.85 .29
**
.19
**
.16
**
.26
**
.46
**
(.81)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS, job success.
Table 5. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the dentist group (n¼373)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 17.72 7.25 (.88)
2. E 27.69 5.30 .47
**
(.73)
3. O 27.12 4.50 .01 .15
*
(.54)
4. A 32.47 4.64 .52
**
.40
**
.10
*
(.70)
5. C 33.13 4.94 .36
**
.44
**
.21
**
.31
**
(.76)
6. JS 29.06 3.74 .45
**
.43
**
.10 .33
**
.49
**
(.82)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS, job success.
Table 6. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the salesperson group (n¼318)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 22.06 5.61 (.69)
2. E 29.35 5.24 .32
**
(.68)
3. O 25.34 4.48 .40
**
.13
*
(.45)
4. A 28.34 3.57 .29
**
.08 .00 (.60)
5. C 34.21 4.68 .34
**
.11
*
.29
**
.34
**
(.59)
6. JS 38.25 3.41 .28
**
.46
**
.13
*
.09 .28
**
(.80)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS, job success.
136 Chuchai Smithikrai
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 15 Number 1 March 2007
&2007 The Author
Journal compilation &2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
version was a significant predictor in five occupational
groups: pharmacist (b¼.14, po.01), teacher (b¼.09,
po.05), bank employee (b¼.16, po.01), dentist
(b¼.16, po.01), and salesperson (b¼.42, po.01).
5. Discussion
The results indicated that conscientiousness was the
only personality trait that consistently predicted job
success of persons across six occupations, except the
air-traffic controller group. Thus, the present study was
consistent with previous studies, e.g., Barrick and
Mount (1991); Salgado (1997); and Tett et al. (1991).
It is not surprising that conscientiousness was the only
personality trait that could predict job success of
persons from various occupations. This is because
conscientious persons tend to work toward goals in
an industrious, disciplined, and dependable fashion.
Thus, it leads to a greater likelihood of obtaining
satisfying work rewards, both formal (e.g., pay, promo-
tions) and informal (e.g., recognition, respect, feelings
of personal accomplishment).
The results also indicated that extraversion appears
to be positively related to job success, especially jobs
that require interpersonal contacts such as salesperson,
bank employee, and teacher. This is consistent with
early studies. For example, Rawls and Rawls (1968)
found that measures of dominance and sociability
differentiated successful and unsuccessful executives,
when pay and job title were considered as indices of
success. Studies conducted in the United Kingdom also
found that extraversion was predictive of salary and job
level, even after partialling out the positive association
between career success and age (Melamed, 1996). It
might be that extraversion is related to the experience
of positive emotions, and extraverts are more likely to
take on leadership roles and to have a greater number
of close friends (Watson & Clark, 1997). This kind of
characteristics is critical for advancing one’s career.
In summary, results of the current study indicate that
the five facets of personality display appreciable corre-
lations with job success, and that the five-factor model
is a fruitful basis to examine the dispositional source of
job success. Whether other variables can contribute
uniquely to the explanation of job success beyond the
effects of personality remains a question for future
research. Future studies should attempt to model the
psychological processes that may explain the relation-
ships of the personality traits with job success.
Acknowledgement
I thank Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR) Inc.,
for granting permission to use the Thai version of the
NEO five-factor inventory (NEO-FFI) in this study.
Table 7. Intercorrelations among the Big Five personality dimensions and job success in the air traffic controller group (n¼115)
Variable MSDNEOACJS
1. N 18.97 5.69 (.74)
2. E 29.01 4.38 .29
**
(.58)
3. O 26.32 3.92 .25
**
.18
*
(.44)
4. A 30.49 5.80 .55
**
.21
*
.15
*
(.74)
5. C 33.37 4.99 .50
**
.46
**
.38
**
.50
**
(.72)
6. JS 38.69 5.01 .28
**
.29
**
.12 .23
*
.32
**
(.89)
Note: Reliabilities of scales were in parentheses along diagonals.
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience;
A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness; JS, job success.
Table 8. Results of multiple regression analysis for all occupational groups with job success as dependent variable and the Big Five
personality dimensions as predictors
Dimension Standardized b
Pharmacist
(n¼312)
Teacher
(n¼604)
Bank employee
(n¼492)
Hotel staff
(n¼304)
Dentist
(n¼373)
Sales-person
(n¼318)
Air-traffic
controller
(n¼115)
N.16
**
.12
**
.09
*
.11 .24
**
.07 .12
E .14
*
.09
*
.16
**
.02 .16
**
.42
**
.18
O .16
**
.08
*
.01 .01 .00 .01 .01
A.05 .04 .02 .01 .04 .04 .05
C .25
**
.26
**
.42
**
.41
**
.33
**
.19
**
.15
R.45 .37 .56 .47 .59 .52 .38
R
2
.21 .14 .31 .22 .35 .27 .15
Adjusted R
2
.19 .13 .31 .21 .34 .26 .11
Note:
*
po.05.
**
po.01. N, neuroticism; E, extraversion; O, openness to experience; A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness.
Personality Traits and Job Success 137
&2007 The Author
Journal compilation &2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 15 Number 1 March 2007
Note
1. A preliminary version of this article was presented at the
Asian Applied Psychology International-Regional Confer-
ence on November 16, 2005, Bangkok, Thailand.
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138 Chuchai Smithikrai
International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Volume 15 Number 1 March 2007
&2007 The Author
Journal compilation &2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
... This widely recognized framework stands primarily for bright and affirmative personality attributes (Judge et al., 2009). Previous studies in career and personality research show that the diverse Big Five dimensions differently affect career related outcomes Ng et al., 2005;Smithikrai, 2007). indicated in their meta-analysis on job performance that the best predictors when relating to "getting along" ...
... The (Ng, Eby, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2005;Smithikrai, 2007). Conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion seem to be the most relevant dimensions in relation to career success . ...
Thesis
For years now career success emerged as one of the focal points in managerial psychology research. It still remains a key topic in contemporary literature. Personality has been identified as an essential predictor of work and career success. In examining associations between personality traits and professional outcomes, the Big Five represents the prevalent theoretical basis. This widely recognized framework stands primarily for bright and affirmative personality attributes. In more recent times, the rather negative side of the personality range received increasing scientific attention, not least triggered by severe scandals in the business world. Especially the Dark Triad personality construct consisting of Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism has attracted growing academic consideration. Surprisingly these rather undesirable personality characteristics do not only promote counterproductive outcomes. Consequently, the two topics of bright as well as dark personality traits and career success constitute the scope of the thesis. To split the topic up and to explore it as sophisticated as possible, a comprehensive scientific approach is required. Supported by a multilayered methodological procedure, the interplay of personality and career success was investigated on heterogeneous criteria: (1) multifaceted bandwidth of personality, (2) diversity of career success indicators, (3) varied decision-making levels, and (4) new work environment. In summary, this dissertation answers the following research questions in three interrelated essays: 1. How successful are both light and dark personalities in terms of objective success criteria? 2. Does a GFP-E specific for executives exist and how is it related to the Dark Triad, success and satisfaction measures? 3. Do paradox personalities, in particular narcissism and humility, succeed in new work environments? The first paper represents the basis for gain in knowledge. It takes a broad attempt by addressing both the bright and dark personality traits of the Big Five and the Dark Triad. Accordingly, the influence of these expansive personality attributes and the selected objective career success indicators budget responsibility and personnel decision-making authority were examined. Empirically, a dual approach with a German sample combining an AI-based automated speech analysis tool with self-reported survey data was chosen. The results indicate a positive relationship between psychopathy and personnel decision-making authority, as well as between narcissism and emotional stability to budget responsibility. In the second article, the interest shifts entirely to the top-management. Here, a narrower personality approach was considered. For this purpose, self-reported survey data from German top-managers were collected. The study demonstrates that a superordinate singular factor (General Factor of Personality, GFP) specifically for executives (GFP-E) exists that is characterized by high agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness and openness to experience as well as low neuroticism. Furthermore, the relationship of the GFP-E to the Dark Triad and to success and satisfaction indicators were examined. Positive correlations to these criteria as well as to narcissism were evident. In contrast, negative connections to Machiavellianism and psychopathy were apparent, indicating the existence of a Dark Dyad. Finally, the third essay highlights the impact of paradox personalities on career success, namely the combination of narcissism and humility. In order to reflect the current transformation in the business world, new work settings are integrated in this study as well. Methodologically, a dyadic approach relating self-reported and other-reported survey data of US-professionals was selected. Further, to represent career success in its entirety, especially in new work environments, four measures of objective career success as well as a multidimensional subjective career success scale were included. The interaction between narcissism and humility indicated negative effects on leadership position, project responsibility and salary. However, when the working environment is included, the humble narcissist is materially successful in the new world of work. In total these findings contribute to existing knowledge of both bright and dark personality by showing that psychopaths and especially narcissists can be quite successful in their professional life. Emotional stability and conscientiousness proved to be the relevant predictors in a professional setting. Supplementary to the important content-related insights, this thesis further contributes to an increasing body of research incorporating language and personality. It encompasses as one of the first studies that introduces elements of artificial intelligence to the research streams of personality and success by using an automated psycholinguistic analysis technology. This dissertation further contributes to the literature on paradoxes in the workplace by enhancing previous leadership approaches. While positive effects of paradoxical personalities have already been found at the top management level it was demonstrated that this phenomenon couldn’t be converted to the general career success perspective. Further, by expending the research focus to new modes of working it could be shown that the working environment in today’s organizations proves to be an essential contextual factor impacting an employee’s career.
... Berg and Feij (2003) conducted a study on complex relationships among personality traits, job characteristics, and work behaviours and found that extrovert employees make the best use of their skills and abilities compared to employee's low on extrovert, and this helps them to increase their selfefficacy which ultimately leads to greater work efficacy. Similar results were found by Smithikrai (2007), i.e., a positive correlation between the personality trait of extraversion and job success, particularly for the job that needs interpersonal contact within employees. Taking into consideration the above two results and recent examination of work efficacy it can be stated that the disposition of an extrovert seems to be advocated as important for advancing job involvement. ...
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