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As employees grow older, do their attitudes regarding work change over time? Can such long-term changes be understood from a personality development perspective? The present study addressed these fundamental questions by tracking 504 young professionals' work attitudes (i.e., job satisfaction and work involvement) and Big Five personality traits over the first 15 years of their professional career. We specifically investigated whether trait changes drive peoples' changing attitudes, a mechanism we called maturation of work attitudes. Latent change models first indicated significant associations between traits and attitudes at the beginning of the career, and mean-level changes in Big Five traits (i.e., increases in Agreeableness and Conscientiousness and decreases in Neuroticism) in the direction of greater functional maturity. Although no significant mean-level changes in work attitudes were observed, results regarding correlated change indicated that variability in attitude change was related to variability in trait change and that this indeed signaled a maturational process. Finally, reciprocal effect estimates highlighted bidirectional relations between personality and attitudes over time. It is discussed how these results (i) provide a better understanding of potential age effects on work-related attitudes and (ii) imply a revision of the traditional dispositional approach to attitudes. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Maturation of Work Attitudes: Correlated Change with Big Five Personality Traits and
Reciprocal Effects over 15 Years
Bart Wille1, Joeri Hofmans2, Marjolein Feys1, and Filip De Fruyt1
1Ghent University, Belgium
2Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
Cite as:
Wille, B., Hofmans, J., Feys, M., & De Fruyt, F. (2014). Maturation of work attitudes: Correlated change with
Big Five personality traits and reciprocal effects over 15 years. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35, 507-529.
Keywords: Work attitudes; Aging; Personality; Job satisfaction; Work involvement
As employees grow older, do their attitudes regarding work change over time? Can such long-
term changes be understood from a personality development perspective? The present study
addressed these fundamental questions by tracking 504 young professionals’ work attitudes
(i.e. job satisfaction and work involvement) and Big Five personality traits over the first 15
years of their professional career. We specifically investigated whether trait changes drive
peoples’ changing attitudes, a mechanism we called maturation of work attitudes. Latent
change models first indicated significant associations between traits and attitudes at the
beginning of the career, and mean-level changes in Big Five traits (i.e. increases in
Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, and decreases in Neuroticism) in the direction of
greater functional maturity. Although no significant mean-level changes in work attitudes
were observed, results regarding correlated change indicated that variability in attitude change
was related to variability in trait change, and that this indeed signaled a maturational process.
Finally, reciprocal effect estimates highlighted bi-directional relations between personality
and attitudes over time. It is discussed how these results (a) provide a better understanding of
potential age effects on work-related attitudes and (b) imply a revision of the traditional
dispositional approach to attitudes.
Work attitudes have recently been described as one of the oldest, most popular, and most
influential areas of inquiry in the Organizational Behavior (OB) literature (Judge &
Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012). One notable reason for this is that they are traditionally conceived
as predictors of a wide range of important work-related behaviors. The association between
employee satisfaction and in-role performance, for instance, is among the most frequently
studied phenomena in applied psychology (Brief & Weiss, 2002). Similarly, a central question
in the attitude literature is whether involvement in work is predictive for extra-role behaviors,
such as organizational citizenship behaviors (Diefendorff, Brown, Kamin, & Lord, 2002).
Given their importance, many studies have aimed at uncovering the antecedents of
work attitudes, and increased attention is being devoted in this line of research to their
dispositional source (e.g., Judge & Larsen, 2001; Staw & Cohen-Charash, 2005). Early
researchers such as Staw and Ross (1985) and Steel and Rentsch (1997) found work attitudes
to be relatively stable over time, and used such findings to argue for a dispositional source.
More recently, further evidence for this dispositional approach has been provided by studies
that have directly demonstrated cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between
prominent dispositional models, including the Five-Factor Model of personality (FFM;
McCrae & Costa, 1987), and the most prominent work attitudes, including satisfaction and
involvement (Bowling, Beehr, & Lepisto, 2006; Judge, Heller, & Mount, 2002). Overall, it is
now grounded to say that differences in work-related attitudes, defined as the evaluation or
personal importance of work-related targets(Riketta, 2008, p. 472), can be at least partially
traced back to differences in disposition or temperament (Judge & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012).
Further, because knowledge about age-attitudes relationships can improve our
understanding of differences between younger and older workers in terms of productivity
and/or work role engagement (Ng & Feldman, 2010), researchers have become increasingly
interested in whether employees’ attitudes change as they grow older. At this point, research
indeed indicates that age relates positively to a number of work attitudes (Ng & Feldman,
2010), suggesting that older employees generally tend, for example, to be more satisfied with
their jobs and involved in their work compared to younger employees. Relatively little
research, however, has compared work attitudes within the same individuals at different and
widely-separated points in time. As a result, it remains an open question whether the apparent
between-person pattern of increase can also be detected within individuals as they get older.
Moreover, and related, the fundamental question of why work attitudes might be inclined to
increase over time remains largely unresolved (Ng & Feldman, 2010).
Indeed, it has recently been pointed out that chronological age is only an index, and
that it is of utmost importance to gain a better understanding of how age-related changes in
psychological variables affect organizational outcomes such as work attitudes (Ng &
Feldman, 2008, 2010; Schwall, 2012). Drawing on the rich literature on the dispositional
sources of work-related attitudes, one particular developmental process that has specifically
been highlighted in this regard involves transitions in personality traits during adulthood. For
instance, Ng and Feldman (2010) suggested that increases in Agreeableness and
Conscientiousness over one’s life course might provide an explanation for why age would be
associated with more favorable attitudes concerning work. Similarly, Costanza, Badger,
Fraser, Severts, and Gade (2012) suggested within-individual changes in traits like
Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism as a possible explanatory mechanism for
observed generational differences in job satisfaction. To date, however, no study has sought to
empirically validate this mechanism, and the paucity of research in this area represents a
serious gap in an organizational literature that is increasingly interested in age issues and
lifespan approaches to organizational phenomena (e.g., Truxillo, Cadiz, Rineer, Zaniboni, &
Fraccaroli, 2012).
The present study re-investigates age effects on work-related attitudes and addresses
this issue from a personality development perspective. Specifically, the contributions of this
study to the literature on age effects on work-related attitudes are threefold. First, on a
theoretical level, this article further develops the idea of how changes in personality traits can
drive changes in work-related attitudes (broader than job satisfaction) through their influence
on different aspects of the attitude formation process, namely work evaluation and work
identification. Second, we will substantiate this idea of trait changes as drivers of changes in
work-related attitudes by incorporating theory on personality development into the lifespan
perspective on work-related attitudes. Drawing on the Maturity Principle of personality trait
change during adulthood (Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner, 2005; Roberts & Wood, 2006), we will
refer to this process as maturation of work attitudes. Third, the present study is the first to
empirically test this idea of correlated change between personality traits and two important
work-related attitudes, that is, job satisfaction and work involvement, using an appropriate
longitudinal research design that covers a substantial and significant period of time, namely
the first 15 years of the professional career. In this regard, the present study responds to
repeated calls in the OB literature to study the effects of aging using a longitudinal research
design that tracks intraindividual changes accompanying aging, rather than relying on indirect
cross-sectional comparisons (Ng & Feldman, 2008, 2010, 2012).
Although various dispositional models are eligible, it can be argued that the FFM is, to
date, most appropriate to examine how dispositional changes are associated with changes in
work attitudes. First, the FFM has the advantage of being the most popular and widely
investigated personality taxonomy, whose traits have proven their relevance to many criteria
in OB, including job attitudes, job performance, leadership, and work motivation (Judge,
Heller, & Klinger, 2008). Second, FFM traits are relevant to affect-driven attitudes such as
job satisfaction (e.g., Judge et al., 2002) as well as to attitudes that tap into the relative
importance of work to individuals and that are more value-driven (e.g., Judge & Ilies, 2002).
Finally, given their central position in the personality literature, the long-term change
trajectories of Big Five traits have extensively been documented (Roberts, Walton, &
Viechtbauer, 2006), allowing specific hypotheses concerning the effects of trait changes on
Personality Effects on Work Attitudes
Before discussing how changes in Big Five personality traits can drive changes in work-
related attitudes, it is useful to take a closer look at the underlying mechanisms that cause
these traits to influence attitudes at a single point in time. Virtually all research on
dispositional processes underlying work-related attitudes has focused on job satisfaction. For
instance, Motowidlo (1996) described job satisfaction as a series of information processing
steps, and noted how individual differences may influence the assessment, recall, and
reporting of satisfaction. At about the same time, the affective events theory by Weiss and
Cropanzano (1996) delineated how organizational events become translated into affect, how
these affective reactions are structured, and how these affective experiences eventually
influence behavior.
In contrast to the relatively well-developed literature on job satisfaction, process
models of personality and work-related attitudes other than job satisfaction are lacking.
Nonetheless, research and theory in that direction is warranted as differential dispositional
effects, both in size and direction, could be expected depending on the specific nature of the
work attitude under consideration. One crucial issue in this regard seems to be the extent to
which attitudes are affect- versus value-driven (Bowling et al. 2006).
Building on Riketta’s (2008) broad definition, work-related attitudes encompass at
least two central components, an evaluation and an identification component, with specific
attitudes differing in the weight that each of these components have. For example, job
satisfaction primarily taps into the evaluative component. Work environments, or specific
elements in these environments, are liked or disliked; are evaluated positively or negatively.
Other work-related attitudes are primarily function of the degree of identification with work in
general or with specific aspects of the work environment such as the concrete job (Riketta,
2008). In this respect, job involvement is probably the most prototypical example, defined as
the psychological importance of work to the person’s identity’ (Ng & Feldman, 2010, 2012;
Rabinowitz & Hall, 1977). Hence, whereas satisfaction implies ‘happiness’ or
‘contentedness’, referring to the result of an evaluative process, involvement implies
‘commitment’, being the result of an identification-process.
Uncovering these broad attitude components - evaluation and identification - may help
to understand how each of the Big Five traits can impact on clearly different work-related
attitudes. First, traits can influence evaluative processes, which will then be primarily
reflected in attitudes concerning satisfaction. Specifically, individuals high on Neuroticism are
described as angry, embarrassed, anxious, hostile, depressed, worried, and nervous (Costa &
McCrae, 1992). They are characterized by an enduring tendency to experience negative
emotional states and to interpret situations in a pessimistic way. In contrast, individuals high
on Extraversion are more optimistic and fun-loving in nature (Costa & McCrae, 1992). They
generally hold more positive evaluations to life in general and their careers in specific (Judge,
Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1999). In a similar manner, individuals scoring higher on
Agreeableness can be described as trusting, flexible, cooperative, courteous, and tolerant.
They generally tend to be mild and forgiving in their evaluations, while more disagreeable
individuals have the reputation of being harsh and contrary (Costa & McCrae, 1992). In
addition, Big Five traits can also influence the evaluative component indirectly. Organ and
Lingl (1995) argued that higher Conscientiousness is associated with a greater likelihood of
obtaining positive work rewards, which facilitates positive work evaluations. Similarly, it has
been argued that individuals higher on Agreeableness are also more motivated to get along
with others in a pleasant work relationship, which should facilitate positive work evaluations
as well (Organ & Lingl, 1995). Thus, these two traits are described to have mainly indirect
effects on work evaluation through the satisfaction of work rewards (for Conscientiousness)
or interpersonal relations (for Agreeableness). Finally, no clear effects, direct or indirect, of
Openness to Experience on work evaluation have been described. For instance, DeNeve and
Cooper (1998) noted that “Openness to Experience is a ‘double-edged sword’ that
predisposes individuals to feel both the good and the bad more deeply” (p. 199), rendering its
influence on affective evaluations unclear (see also Judge et al., 2002).
Traits can also affect processes of identification with work, which will be primarily
reflected in levels of involvement. Given their lack of confidence and optimism, individuals
high on Neuroticism are less likely to develop ambitions regarding their careers and to set
performance and career goals accordingly. Research has, for instance, demonstrated a
negative association between Neuroticism and motivation (Judge & Ilies, 2002). Individuals
high on Extraversion, on the contrary, are more likely to demonstrate greater commitment to
the work role as high scores have shown to be accompanied by high work performance
motivation (Judge & Ilies, 2002). Similarly, individuals scoring high on Conscientiousness
have a constant striving for success and express a tendency to set challenging goals and to do
what it takes to succeed (Barrick, Mount, & Strauss, 1993). Highly conscientious individuals
have furthermore been described as having a strong sense of duty towards every role they
engage in including the work role (Organ & Lingl, 1995). With regard to Agreeableness, it
has been argued that, because of their altruism and modesty, individuals high on this trait
prioritize relationships with others over work and career success (Judge et al., 1999). Hence,
they should demonstrate lower levels of identification with work. Finally, for individuals high
on Openness to Experience, work can serve as an arena to entertain their curiosity, their
appetite for exploring new perspectives, and their tendency to develop genuine interest for
any activities that they engage in. This is supported by empirical research that reports a
positive relationship between Openness and work drive (Lounsbury, Sundstrom, Loveland, &
Gibson, 2003). Table 1 summarizes how and in what direction each of the Big Five traits can
influence work evaluation and identification, and, hence, impact on the attitudes that draw
heavily on these processes, namely satisfaction and involvement.
Personality Maturation in Adulthood
A second prerequisite for correlated change between attitudes and personality is that traits
should have the potential to change over time. Although personality traits are typically
conceptualized as stable causal entities in applied research, recent developments in the
personality domain indicate that this perspective is no longer entirely valid (see also Woods,
Lievens, De Fruyt, & Wille, 2013). Specifically, the personality development literature has
now convincingly demonstrated that people display clear patterns of mean-level changes in
Big Five traits across the life course, with the preponderance of change during adulthood
occurring between the ages of 20 and 40 years (Roberts & Wood, 2006). Studies have
particularly indicated increases in Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, and decreases in
Neuroticism (or increases in Emotional Stability) (Roberts, et al., 2006), and these age
differences are now widely evidenced across most industrialized countries (Soto, John,
Gosling, & Potter, 2011).
Theoretically, the trait changes described above point to increasing psychological
maturity over the period from young to middle adulthood (Caspi et al., 2005; Roberts &
Wood, 2006). Maturity in this context should be understood from a functional perspective,
which encompasses the capacity to become a productive and involved contributor to society
(Caspi et al., 2005). From an observer’s point of view, functional maturity concerns the
degree to which a person is liked, admired, and respected in his or her community, and this is
due to three broad but indispensible characteristics (Hogan & Roberts, 2004). First, they are
rewarding to deal with because they praise, support, and encourage others and they maintain a
positive mood. Second, well-liked people are consistent, which means that others know what
to expect when they deal with them. And third, well-liked people can contribute something to
their groups (e.g., as teachers, entertainers, or wise counselors). Translated into the
terminology of the FFM, a mature person would be agreeable (supportive and warm),
emotionally stable (consistent and positive), and conscientious (honoring commitments and
playing by the rules) (Caspi et al., 2005; Hogan & Roberts, 2004; Roberts & Wood, 2006).
Considering these empirical findings, most people seem to become more functionally mature
with age, and those who develop the traits of psychological maturity earliest tend to be more
effective in the tasks of social development (Caspi et al., 2005).
Maturation of Work Attitudes
Knowing (a) how work attitudes can be influenced by personality traits, and (b) that these
personality traits are not fixed like plaster but continue to develop throughout adulthood, it is
only a small step to argue that changes in traits may be one of the driving forces behind
changes in attitudes with age. It can be expected that as personality traits change in a direction
of increased functional maturity during young to middle adulthood, this will also influence
attitude formation processes involving work evaluation and identification. As indicated above,
the Big Five traits most likely to change during this stage of life are Neuroticism (decrease),
Agreeableness (increase), and Conscientiousness (increase), and each of these traits has been
described to directly influence at least one of both attitude components.
In this regard, the effects of changing personality traits on work evaluation are
relatively straightforward. Increased personality maturity would first be accompanied by more
positive work evaluations because individuals are evolving towards a more positive general
mood (increased Emotional Stability or decreased Neuroticism). Furthermore, as individuals’
traits mature they also tend to become milder and more forgiving in their appraisals (increased
Agreeableness), which may also positively influence work evaluations.
The situation is more complex for personality maturation and work identification. On
one hand, decreases in Neuroticism (through higher performance and career goals) and
increases in Conscientiousness (through a stronger sense of duty and need for achievement)
would facilitate higher levels of work identification; on the other hand, increases in
Agreeableness would imply lower levels of identification through weakening work
achievement orientation. This suggests that, at least from a personality development
perspective, intraindividual changes in work identification can be the result of at least two
opposing processes. To date, however, we have no knowledge on whether and how these
theoretical processes are reflected in real-life longitudinal data on attitude changes.
Study Hypotheses
The central objective of this study is to investigate whether and how changes in Big Five
personality traits relate to changes job satisfaction and work involvement. We chose these
attitudes because they are theorized to reflect different attitudes components, that is, aspects
of work evaluation and identification respectively, and we want to investigate the extent to
which this principle of attitude maturation generalizes to attitudes other than job satisfaction.
This research question is modeled in the middle part of Figure 1 (dotted lines), and involves
three testable conditions (i.e., concurrent associations, trait and attitude change, and correlated
change) for which specific hypotheses can be formulated.
Concurrent associations. The idea of maturation effects in work attitudes first
requires the attitudes to have a significant dispositional basis. In the present study, this is
tested by examining the associations between Big Five personality traits and work attitudes
both measured at the very beginning of the professional career. For job satisfaction, this
mainly involves a replication of prior research (e.g., Judge et al., 2002). However, re-
examining these static associations between Big Five traits and job satisfaction is necessary as
they may differ depending on specific study features such as sample characteristics or
specificity in measurement instruments. Establishing these concurrent associations is, hence,
an imperative first step as they will form the basis for more innovative hypotheses concerning
correlated change (see further). As summarized in Table 1, for four of the five Big Five traits
grounded expectations can be generated regarding their associations with job satisfaction.
This translates into the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1: Levels of job satisfaction at the beginning of the career are expected to
be positively associated with initial levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness and
Conscientiousness. Conversely, a negative association is expected with initial scores
on Neuroticism. The association with Openness to Experience is examined on
exploratory grounds.
In a similar manner, it was already indicated that each of the Big Five traits relate to
work involvement, given the presumed direct effects on work identification processes.
Specifically, there are considerable indications that Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and
Openness to Experience should relate positively to work involvement because of the stronger
work drive displayed by people high on these traits. Conversely, higher scores on Neuroticism
and Agreeableness relate negatively to work involvement, due to a lower work achievement
orientation. Taken together, the following hypothesis can be formulated:
Hypothesis 2: Levels of work involvement at the beginning of the career are expected
to be positively associated with initial levels of Extraversion, Openness to Experience,
and Conscientiousness. Conversely, a negative association is expected with initial
scores on Neuroticism and Agreeableness.
Changes in personality traits. The idea that functional maturation in personal
dispositions triggers changes in work attitudes further requires dispositions, here Big Five
personality traits, to change over time. Consistent with the findings on personality trait change
cited above, the following hypothesis can be formulated:
Hypothesis 3: During the 15-year period from young to middle adulthood, we expect
individuals to increase in scores on Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, and to
decrease in scores on Neuroticism.
Note that for Openness to Experience and Extraversion the change patterns during this
specific stage of life are less clear (Roberts et al., 2006). Therefore, changes in Openness and
Extraversion will be examined on exploratory grounds.
Changes in work-related attitudes. To date no research has examined within-person
changes across a time span that is sufficiently large to observe maturation effects. Indirect
evidence for aging effects has recently been provided by Ng and Feldman (2010) who showed
meta-analytically that age relates positively to a broad range of work-related attitudes,
including satisfaction and involvement. Moreover, their results demonstrated no evidence for
curvilinear effects of age on these attitudes. In particular, the associations between age and
satisfaction/involvement were the same for the younger group (age ≤ 40) compared to what
was found for the older group (age ≥ 40). To the extent that these significant positive
correlations between age and both work-related attitudes indicate true within-person changes,
the following hypothesis can be formulated:
Hypothesis 4: Job satisfaction and work involvement are expected to increase over the
first fifteen years of the professional career.
Correlated change between traits and attitudes. Finally, and perhaps most
importantly, maturation of work attitudes requires trait changes to be associated with changes
in work-related attitudes. Recent findings in aging and personality literatures have provided
strong evidence for the existence of interindividual differences in trait change (Allemand,
Zimprich, & Martin, 2008; Hudson, Roberts, & Lodi-Smith, 2012). Apparently, not everyone
demonstrates the change patterns to the same extent, or even in the same direction. Instead,
there is significant variation in trait change across individuals, and demonstrating that these
interindividual differences in personality change relate to interindividual differences in
attitude change offers a strong test of what can be called maturation of work attitudes.
What form should this pattern of correlated change between dispositions and attitudes
take? The most logical expectation is that attitudes change under the influence of those traits
that constitute their dispositional source. It is, therefore, most logical to expect the patterns of
correlated change to mirror the associations between traits and attitudes observed at a single
point in time. This specifically means that (a) correlated change is restricted to those traits and
attitudes that also showed significant correlations at the beginning of the career, and (b) that
the sign of correlated change is in concordance with the sign of the static correlation. If, for
example, Conscientiousness is positively related to early career work involvement, then
increases in Conscientiousness should be related to increases in work involvement.
Conversely, if Neuroticism is negatively related to job satisfaction, then decreases in
Neuroticism should be related to increases in job satisfaction. Based on this principle, the
following hypothesis is proposed:
Hypothesis 5: The pattern of correlated change between traits and attitudes will
mirror the observed correlations at the beginning of the career.
Two important features of this hypothesis merit further attention. First, although we
mainly expect intraindividual changes in work-related attitudes to reflect personality changes
in the direction of greater maturity (i.e., increases in Conscientiousness and Agreeableness
and decreases in Neuroticism), our hypothesis does not exclude the effects of potential
changes in Extraversion and/or Openness. Although the mean-level changes for these two
traits are less clear during this specific stage of life, this does not mean that changes are not
possible at the individual level. As indicated in Table 1, both traits have been described to
directly affect work evaluation and/or identification, and there are no reasons to suspect that
individual changes in these traits are unrelated to individual changes in work-related attitudes.
Second, as indicated above, theory on personality maturation is not unequivocal regarding the
effects on changes in work involvement. On one hand, increases in Conscientiousness could
stimulate increases in involvement; on the other hand, increases in Agreeableness could be
expected to stimulate decreases in this attitude. Our current hypothesis concerning the pattern
of correlated change allows us to shed a light on these potentially opposing processes.
Reciprocal relations. So far, we have implicitly assumed that correlations between
changes in traits and changes in attitudes are indicative of an underlying process (i.e.,
maturation of work attitudes) that is elicited by trait change, and not vice versa. However,
findings regarding correlated change remain essentially correlational, and, hence, inferences
regarding the direction of influence should be made with caution. Moreover, there is now
increasing evidence that personality development is -at least partially- influenced by our
social environment, including our experiences at work (Hudson et al., 2012). This is
incorporated in neo-socioanalytic perspectives on personality (Roberts & Wood, 2006), which
acknowledge that personality trait development and work-related experiences are in constant
transaction. In order to address this issue of bi-directionality, our research model contains the
prospective effects of personality trait levels on change in work attitudes as well as the effects
of initial work attitudes on personality trait change (Hudson et al., 2012). If, for instance, we
should only find trait effects on change in attitudes and no reciprocal effects, then this would
support the pattern of correlated change being mainly induced from the dispositional side. The
existence of reciprocal effects, on the contrary, would indicate that patterns of correlated
change between traits and attitudes are best interpreted as a bidirectional processes. This
translates into the following research question:
Research question: Is there any evidence for bi-directionality in the longitudinal
associations between Big Five personality traits and work attitudes across the first 15
years of the professional career?
Design and Participants
To examine these research questions and hypotheses, data are used from a longitudinal
research program on personality development and work-related experiences in a Flemish
college alumni sample. Previous studies have used data from this project to illustrate the
importance of FFM personality traits regarding initial job choice (De Fruyt & Mervielde,
1999), early career work adjustment (De Fruyt, 2002), job transitions (Wille, Beyers, & De
Fruyt, 2012; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2010) and career success attainment (Wille, De Fruyt,
& De Clercq, 2013; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2013). The present study is unique in that
assessments of personal dispositions and work attitudes at the very beginning of the
professional career are related to measurements of the same variables assessed 15 years later.
In 1994 (T1), a sample of 934 final year college students from various disciplines
enrolled in this longitudinal research program by filling out personality questionnaires three
months prior to graduation (for a thorough description of the sample, see De Fruyt &
Mervielde, 1999). One year later (1995), a first follow-up was conducted, focusing on initial
work experiences (including attitudes) in a subsample of 612 college alumni. For the purpose
of the present study, these initial personality and attitude assessments are considered as (Time
1; T1) measures reflecting scores at the beginning of the professional career. In the spring of
2009 (Time 2; T2), exactly 15 years after the first assessment, a second follow-up was
organized to re-assess participants’ personality traits and work attitudes. Data were collected
through an online survey conducted in the context of a college alumni project (for a thorough
description of the procedures, see Wille, De Fruyt, & De Clercq, 2013).
The issue of dropout is inherent to longitudinal studies, especially when time intervals
are large. Data could be included in this study from 504 (280 males and 224 females) college
alumni who completed at least one of both personality assessments (1994 or 2009) and at
least one of both work attitude measures (1995 or 2009). Each of these 504 participants
provided valid and complete personality assessments at T1, so we could examine if and to
what extent this subsample differs from the original sample of 934 in terms of baseline
personality traits. Independent sample t-tests indicated that “continuers” (n = 504) scored
significantly lower than “dropouts” (n = 430) on T1 Neuroticism, (t(932) = 2.96, p < .01), and
significantly higher on T1 Conscientiousness (t(932) = -4.00, p < .001). Associated effect
sizes indicate small to medium differences between both subsamples for these traits (d = .19
and -.26 respectively). No significant differences were observed between both samples for the
other baseline personality traits. Further, of the 934 participants that provided personality
reports at T1, a subsample of 381 also reported on their work attitudes at the beginning of
their career. Non-respondents (n = 553) either dropped out of the study or were not yet
employed at the time of the assessment, thus also unable to report on work attitudes. Each of
these 381 participants were included in the subsample of 504 that was used for the present
study. Again, it was checked whether and how these 381 “continuers” differ from the
“dropouts” (n = 553) in terms of baseline personality traits. We found continuers to score
higher on Conscientiousness (t(932) = -4.24, p < .001, d = -.29) and lower on Neuroticism
(t(932) = 3.32, p < .01, d = .22) compared to dropouts. In addition, continuers also scored
significantly higher on Extraversion (t(932) = -2.58, p < .05, d = -.17) and lower on Openness
to experience (t(932) = 2.30, p < .05, d = .15). Together, these results indicate that the
selected sample of 504 participants differs to some extent from the original sample in terms of
baseline personality traits, although selectivity in dropout was generally modest. The mean
age of the 504 included participants was 22.44 (SD = 1.73) at T1 and 37.60 (SD = 1.71) at T2.
For a subsample of 125 participants (i.e., those who provided valid attitude
assessments at T1 and at T2, see further in the Methods section), qualitative information was
available on the types of occupations held at T1 and T2 in the form of self-reported job titles
and job descriptions. Moreover, at T2 these participants also retrospectively reported on the
frequency of job moves during this 15-year time interval (Wille, et al., 2010). In the present
study, we used this descriptive information to get an idea of (a) the variability of occupations
in our sample, (b) the stability of jobs, and (c) the frequency of career changes. For that
purpose, participants’ self reported job titles were first recoded into more formalized function
titles using the O*NET database (O*NET Resource Center, 2012). Two authors
independently recoded participants’ jobs at Time 1 (first author) and at Time 2 (second co-
author). Substantial variability in occupations was observed at both measurement occasions,
with jobs ranging for instance from Construction Manager to Computer Systems Analyst.
More importantly, inspection of job titles across time indicated substantial stability in
professions. Specifically, 20.8% of this subsample had exactly the same job title at T2
compared to T1. Moreover, further comparisons revealed that 43.2% of this sample occupied
jobs at T1 and T2 that stayed within the same O*NET job family. In spite of this evidence for
stability in job titles, most participants also experienced a number of transitions during this
15-year time interval. The total number of professional moves - internal and external - ranged
between zero and nine, with 92% of this sample having at least one job move during the entire
time interval. Moreover, 73.1 % of those respondents that had the same job title at T1 and T2
also reported at least one switch, for instance to the same type of job but in a different
organization. Together, this descriptive information points to a relatively complex picture of
both stability and change in participants’ individual career trajectories, consistent with what
can be expected for the specific career stage participants were in.
Personal dispositions. At both measurement occasions, participants were
administered the Dutch authorized adaptation of the NEO PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 1992;
Hoekstra, Ormel, & De Fruyt, 1996). The NEO PI-R is a comprehensive personality
questionnaire, measuring five global and 30 more specific traits (six facets for each of the Big
Five domains).
Work attitudes. The Dutch translation of the Career Attitudes and Strategies
Inventory (CASI; De Fruyt, 2002; Holland & Gottfredson, 1994) was used to measure work
attitudes at T1 and T2. The CASI provides a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s
views and strategies concerning his or her career by means of nine scales (i.e. Job
Satisfaction, Work Involvement, Skill Development, Dominant Style, Career Worries,
Interpersonal Abuse, Family Commitment, Risk Taking, and Geographical Barriers). For the
purpose of the present study, the two CASI-scales were selected that measure work attitudes
common in the OB literature. The Job Satisfaction scale contains 21 items that assess
contentment with one’s current occupation, with high scores indicating more positive work
evaluations. Example items include ‘I love my job’ and ‘My job does not lead to anything I
want (reverse-scored). The Work Involvement scale consists of 12 items that assess an
employee’s level of devotion to his or her work, with high scores indicating greater
commitment and identification. Example items include ‘Work is the major part of my lifeand
I am very involved in my work’. All items were presented as declarative statements to which
participants responded on a five-point scale ranging from totally false (1) to totally true (5).
Internal consistencies (Cronbach alpha), intercorrelations, and sample sizes are reported in
Table 2. Pairwise sample sizes indicate a large amount of missing values, with only 125 out of
504 (= 24.8%) complete cases. The way these missings are handled is discussed below.
Statistical Analyses
Latent Change Models (LCMs; McArdle & Nesselroade, 1994) were used to model changes
in personality traits and work attitudes over time. These longitudinal factor models consist of
a relatively standard specification of factors at two or more occasions of measurement
(Hertzog & Nesselroade, 2003). For each variable, occasion-specific factors are first specified
using a set of observed indicators. The model typically assumes that the same configuration of
relationships between observed variables and latent variables exists at both points in time (i.e.,
measurement invariance across time; see the Preliminary analyses section). For the present
study, latent variables were constructed at each time point to represent individuals’
personality and attitude scores. Specifically, for each of the seven variables (five traits and
two work attitudes), first order factor measurement models were established using item scores
(for attitudes) and facet scores (for personality traits) as observed indicators of the occasion-
specific latent factors (see Figure 1). The latent change model was then used to restructure the
occasion-specific factors in terms of latent level and change factors. To that end, each latent
variable is extended by a fixed-1 regression coefficient to its corresponding level factor, and
each latent variable at the second occasion of measurement is used to define a latent change
variable. The residual variance of the occasion-specific factor is fixed to zero. In the case of
Job Satisfaction (JS),
JS1 = 1 JS Level
JS2 = 1 JS Level + 1 JS Change,
where JS1 is the Job Satisfaction latent variable at wave 1 and JS2 is the Job Satisfaction
latent variable at wave 2. These equations implicitly define the latent change variable as the
difference between the two waves, that is, JS2 JS1.
This alternative measurement specification has several advantages. Difference scores
for the empirical measures, like job satisfaction, are not computed. Instead, the covariance
matrix of the observed variables is analyzed according to the latent change specifications.
This avoids problems associated with measurement error, which is known to create a problem
for simple difference scores. More critically, the covariance matrix of the latent level and
change factors is estimated rather than the covariance matrix of the occasion-specific factors.
The advantage of directly specifying the latent change factors is that one can directly test the
hypothesis that the variance in latent change is greater than zero for a given latent variable.
Rejecting the null hypothesis of zero variance indicates that there are inter-individual
differences in trait or attitude change between both measurement occasions (Hertzog &
Nesselroade, 2003). Furthermore, one directly estimates covariances of latent change between
different latent variables (along with associated standard errors). Thus, one can evaluate in a
straightforward way whether changes in two latent variables are significantly correlated
(Hertzog, Dixon, Hultsch, & MacDonald, 2003). In the more frequently used cross-lagged
panel models, by contrast, change is not directly specified as a variable. As a result, these
models are not sensitive to growth and decline in the data, and their parameters representing
influences across variables are not always meaningful, due to scale differences (Ferrer &
McArdle, 2010). Finally, LCMs are tolerant of missing data, thereby allowing researchers to
use more of the available data, rather than only complete data. In the present study, missings
in our sample of 504 college alumni almost exclusively reflected wave nonresponse (Schafer
& Graham, 2002). At T1, personality and attitude data were gathered with a 1-year time
interval in between; and survey participation at T2 was allowed even if participants had not
completed the initial attitude-assessment. To examine the exact nature of the nonresponse in
our data, we ran Little’s (1988) multivariate test implemented in the SPSS Missing Value
Analysis module (Howell, 2007). When applied to the observed indicator scores (i.e., attitude
item scores and personality facet scores) of the 504 participants included in this study, Little’s
test revealed missingness to be completely at random (χ2 =1163.89, df = 1118, p > .05),
showing that the probability of nonresponse (or dropout) in this subsample is unrelated to any
of the assessed study variables. This allowed us to conduct the LCM-analyses for the entire
sample of 504 participants, while using Full Information Maximum Likelihood (for the
models with only continuous indicators) or pairwise present analysis (for the models with
categorical indicators) to deal with the missing data.
Latent change analyses were done in three steps. First, the first order measurement
models for each of the personality traits and work attitudes were specified and tested using
standard confirmatory factor analysis procedures. These formed the basis of the univariate
LCMs that were established in a second step. Finally, a total of ten multivariate structural
equation models (two attitudes x five traits) were tested to simultaneously estimate the latent
correlations between levels at T1 of personality and work attitudes, the simultaneous latent
change between personality and work attitudes, as well as the prospective effects of levels at
T1 on subsequent change over time. All latent variable analyses were conducted in MPlus
version 7.1 (Muthén & Muthén, 2012).
Preliminary Analyses: Testing for Measurement Invariance
In a first preliminary analysis we tested whether our measurements were invariant
across both time points. To this end, we performed a measurement invariance analysis for
each personality dimension and work attitude separately. In particular, we first examined
whether the same factor configuration held across time (i.e., configural invariance) by
estimating a single CFA model in which all model parameters not required for identification
purposes were estimated freely at both time points. Second, metric MI was tested by
constraining the factor loadings to be equal across time, in addition to the constraints from the
configural invariance model. Finally, scalar MI was evaluated by constraining the item
intercepts (for the Big Five dimensions) or item thresholds (for the attitude scales) to be equal
across time
, in addition to the factor loadings and the identification constraints.
After each step of this stepwise procedure, the change in model fit was evaluated. The
traditional way to do so is by performing a χ²-difference test (Bollen, 1989; Cheung &
Rensvold, 2002). However, because χ² is susceptible to sample size and non-normality,
Cheung and Rensvold (2002) suggested to rely on the CFI. That is, if the difference in CFI
is lower than .01, and the fit of the more highly constrained model does not differ from that of
the less-constrained one, than the more highly constrained model (with fewer parameters) is
preferred. Conversely, if the CFI exceeds .01, at least one of the constrained parameters is
non-invariant. In case of CFI exceeding .01, possible sources of misfit (i.e., non-invariant
parameters) were identified by inspecting the modification indices (MIs; see Byrne,
Shavelson, & Muthén, 1989). Non-invariant parameters were identified in a one-by-one
fashion, that is, the parameter constraint found to contribute most to model misfit was
removed and the model was subsequently re-estimated and re-evaluated. This procedure was
repeated until CFI dropped below .01.
Overall, the results revealed that for the five personality dimensions and the two work
attitudes, few violations of measurement invariance were encountered (for a detailed
overview of the results of the invariance tests, see Table A1). To explicitly account for the
non-invariant parameters, the growth models were estimated using exactly the same pattern of
parameter constraints as the final (partial) strong invariance models.
As the factor indicators in the CFA models for the personality dimensions were
continuous (i.e., the facet scores), we estimated these models using a robust maximum
likelihood estimator (MLR). For job satisfaction and work involvement, however, the factor
indicators were categorical in nature (i.e., likert scores). We explicitly accounted for this by
testing CFA models with categorical indicators using the Weighted Least Squares Mean and
Variance adjusted (WLSMV) estimator (Flora & Curran, 2004).
Latent Changes in Personality and Attitudes
As can be seen in Table 3, the LCMs for each of the seven focal variables showed excellent to
acceptable fit indices (.04 ≤ RMSEA ≤ .08; all CFI ≥ .90; Browne & Cudeck, 1993). The
results further revealed a number of important basic characteristics of the latent changes in
personality traits and work attitudes over the 15-year interval. In accordance with our
expectations, significant mean-level increases in Conscientiousness (M = .15, p < .001) and
Agreeableness (M = .10, p < .01) were observed, whereas participants on average decreased in
Neuroticism (M = -.29, p < .001). A significant mean-level decrease in Openness to
Experience over time was also found (M = -.27, p < .001). Finally, the mean change in
Extraversion was nonsignificant (M = -.02, p > .05). Turning to the work attitudes, our results
indicated no significant mean changes across 15 years, although there was a general tendency
for individuals to increase in work involvement (M = .11, p = .072). In addition to these
mean-level changes, Table 3 also shows significant variances (s2) in the latent change
parameters associated with each of the personality traits and work attitudes, indicating
interindividual differences in change. Finally, the negative correlations between level and
change factors indicate that higher scores on trait and attitude levels at the beginning of the
career are associated with smaller increases or larger decreases (depending on the mean level
change tendency) over the next 15 years.
Previous research has demonstrated systematic differences between men and women
in terms of both personality traits (e.g., McCrae & Terracciano, 2005) and work attitudes
(Lyness & Thompson, 2000). We tested for these differences by regressing the latent factors
(level and change of traits and attitudes) on gender. With regard to the initial levels, we found
women to score significantly higher than men on Neuroticism (β = .29, p < .001),
Extraversion (β = .09, p < .05), Openness (β = .20, p < .001) and Agreeableness (β = .13, p <
.001). No significant gender differences were observed in levels of Conscientiousness, job
satisfaction, or work involvement. Furthermore, gender did not significantly predict latent
changes in any of the traits or work attitudes. Gender effects were accounted for in all ten
multivariate structural equation models by adding sex as a variable that simultaneously
predicted personality level and change and attitude level and change (see Figure 1).
Associations between Personality and Attitudes over Time
The results of the ten multivariate structural equation models are reported in Table 4.
Consistent with our expectations, a number of significant relationships were found between
initial personality levels and work attitudes at the beginning of the career (see columns
PA”). As expected, job satisfaction levels were positively associated with initial levels of
Extraversion (r = .14, p < .05), Agreeableness (r = .20, p < .01) and Conscientiousness (r =
.23, p < .001), and negatively with initial Neuroticism (r = -.24, p < .001). For early career
work involvement, only the positive association with initial Conscientiousness (r = .31, p <
.001) and the negative one with initial Agreeableness (r = -.10, p < .05) were significant.
These structural equation models further provided substantial evidence for correlated
change between traits and attitudes, particularly with regard to job satisfaction (see columns
“∆↔∆”). The results specifically demonstrated that changes in job satisfaction were
negatively associated with changes in Neuroticism (r = -.44, p < .001) and positively with
changes in Extraversion (r = .35, p < .001) and Conscientiousness (r = .43, p < .001). Stronger
increases in job satisfaction were, thus, associated with stronger decreases in Neuroticism and
stronger increases in Extraversion and Conscientiousness. Regarding work involvement, it
was found that stronger increases in this attitude were associated with stronger increases in
Extraversion (r = .22, p < .05) and smaller increases in Agreeableness (r = -.23, p < .01).
Importantly, these patterns of correlated change between personal dispositions and attitudes
largely mirrored the pattern of associations between the respective level factors, as was
expected. Nonetheless, for three trait-attitude combinations, the patterns of correlated change
diverged from the established correlations between level factors. First, although early career
job satisfaction was positively associated with levels of Agreeableness, no significant
correlation between the change factors was found (r = .07, p > .05). Similarly, although early
career work involvement was positively associated with levels of Conscientiousness, change
in Conscientiousness was not significantly related to change in work involvement (r = .13, p >
.05). Finally, it was found that changes in Extraversion were positively associated with
changes in work involvement (r = .22, p < .05), while there was no significant association
between these respective level factors (r = .03, p > .05).
Inspection of the reciprocal effects in the multivariate structural equation models
indicates that more evidence was found for traits affecting change in attitudes (columns
P→∆A”) than vice versa (columns “A→∆P”). Increases in job satisfaction were positively
predicted by initial levels of Extraversion (β = .19, p < .01) and Agreeableness (β = .17, p <
.01), and negatively predicted by initial levels of Neuroticism (β = -.16, p < .01). Increases in
work involvement were negatively predicted by initial levels of Agreeableness (β = -.16, p <
.05) and Openness (β = -.14, p < .05). However, we also found a stronger effect of early
career job satisfaction on subsequent change in Agreeableness than vice versa (β = .23, p <
.001 vs. β = .17, p < .01), indicating that reverse effects (i.e. from attitude levels on change in
dispositions), could not be ruled out entirely.
Reviews of the literature have indicated that age-related differences exist for some of the most
prominently studied work-related attitudes, including job satisfaction and work involvement
(Ng & Feldman, 2010). However, there is limited knowledge as to why these differences
exist. Do these age-attitude correlations truly reflect intraindividual changes; and, if so, can
these changes be better understood in terms of underlying psychological developmental
processes? The main reasons for this lack of understanding stem from the fact that issues
regarding aging effects on attitudes have been almost exclusively examined indirectly, that is,
by relying on cross-sectional associations between attitudes and chronological age. Although
there are general life-span theories, including perspectives on personality maturation (e.g.,
Roberts & Wood, 2006), that can account for (at least some) within-individual changes in
attitudes, there is a lack of innovative studies that examine and explain intraindividual
changes in work attitudes and its antecedents across longer periods of time. The present study
was specifically designed to address these gaps in the literature.
We first attempted to replicate the dispositional source of both work attitudes as
reflected in the concurrent associations at the beginning of the career. For job satisfaction, the
associations with the Big Five traits were entirely in line with what has been demonstrated by
previous research (e.g., Judge et al., 2002). For work involvement, two of the five
hypothesized associations with Big Five traits were significant. Highly agreeable individuals,
demonstrating high levels of altruism and modesty, also reported lower levels of work
involvement. Highly conscientious individuals, on the other hand, characterized by strong
ambition and perseverance, indicated higher levels of work involvement.
Next, we inspected the within-individual changes in traits and attitudes over the 15-
year time interval. With regard to Big Five traits, LCMs clearly demonstrated changes that are
in accordance with the literature on personality development (e.g., Roberts & Wood, 2006).
As individuals grow older, they become more emotionally stable (decrease in Neuroticism),
milder (increase in Agreeableness), and more conscientious. On average, we also found
participants in our sample to decrease in Openness to Experience during the transition from
young to middle adulthood. Whereas such a decline has also been observed in other studies, it
typically occurs later in adulthood (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008).
It has remained an unanswered question up until now if the previously reported
associations between age and job attitudes (e.g., Ng & Feldman, 2010) reflect true within-
person changes. When examined at the mean-level, our results failed to indicate significant
changes in work attitudes. Importantly, however, the latent change analyses also indicated
significant variation between individual employees with regard to intraindividual changes, and
these inter-individual differences can nullify or attenuate changes at the mean-level. The fact
that there was significant variation in intraindividual changes in traits and attitudes opened the
door for examining patterns of correlated change between both sets of constructs. Consistent
with what we expected, most of the associations between personality and attitude level factors
were also reflected in the correlations between the respective change factors.
To further clarify these patterns of correlated change, we also examined the
prospective effects of initial personality levels on changes in attitudes and vice versa. Most
evidence was found for traits influencing subsequent change in attitudes, with increases in job
satisfaction being predicted by initial levels of Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Agreeableness.
These findings are consistent with earlier theorizing about the role that employee dispositions
play in the development of work attitudes. Specifically, individuals with pleasant dispositions
are expected to seek out, be sensitive to, and remember the positive aspects of their work
environment (Bowling et al., 2006). Despite the fact that Openness has been shown to be
positively related to work drive (Lounsbury et al., 2003), our results indicate that individuals
high on Openness, who are characterized by broad interests (also outside the work domain),
have smaller increases in work involvement compared to people low on Openness. Finally,
our results also show that highly agreeable individuals, who tend to prioritize relationships
with others over attaining work and career success (e.g., Judge et al., 1999), demonstrated
smaller increases in this work attitude over time. Note that of the ten trait attitude
combinations, we only found one significant effect of attitude-levels (i.e., job satisfaction) on
trait changes (i.e., Agreeableness). This directional information is an important indication that
maturation of work attitudes is dispositionally induced, although reciprocity cannot be fully
Theoretical Contributions and Implications for Research
Reviews of the relationship between worker age and work-related attitudes suggest that
chronological age serves as a proxy indicator for a broad constellation of age-related
processes that exert diverse and indirect effects on these work outcomes (Kanfer &
Ackerman, 2004; Ng & Feldman, 2010). Nonetheless, relatively little is known about these
age-related processes, and how they can be understood in a broader context of adult
psychological development. The present study looked at aging from a personality perspective,
a choice that was based on the fact that work-related attitudes have been shown to be
substantially dispositionally based. We specifically conceptualized psychological aging in
terms of (functional) maturation of personality traits, a principle that has been extensively
documented in the current personality literature and that can be traced back to prominent
psychological theories on adult development (Hogan & Roberts, 2004). As Roberts and
colleagues (Caspi et al., 2005; Hogan & Roberts, 2004; Roberts & Wood, 2006) summarized,
this functional perspective on maturity aligns with the observed tendency of people to
increase in Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, and certain aspects of
Extraversion across young to middle adulthood, changes that were also found in this study.
Given the well-known dispositional source of work attitudes, we hypothesized that the
principle of personality maturation would also be reflected in the long-term changes in work
attitudes, a principle we labeled maturation of work attitudes. We specifically theorized that
these maturational tendencies would exert their influence on work-related attitudes through
their impact on two central components in the attitude formation process, namely work
evaluation and work identification. Our results indicated that, at least for job satisfaction,
greater changes in the direction of maturity were indeed reflected in more positive work
evaluations. As individuals became more optimistic and emotionally consistent (increases in
Extraversion and decreases in Neuroticism) and acquired a more responsible and reliable
mind set (increases in Conscientiousness), they simultaneously increased in job satisfaction.
For work involvement, it was indicated that attitude changes in response to personality
maturation could be the result of two opposing processes. On one hand, increases in
Conscientiousness could enhance work involvement; on the other hand, increases in
Agreeableness could diminish it. The observed pattern of dynamic associations between
personality traits and work involvement indeed proved to be complex. Although we identified
a positive relation between the levels of Conscientiousness and work involvement at the
beginning of the career, this association was not significant for the respective change factors.
Instead, we found that changes in work involvement were primarily related to changes in
Agreeableness, whereby stronger increases in this trait were related to smaller increases (or
even decreases) in work involvement. Does this mean that personality maturation cannot
account for the earlier observed age effects on indicators of work involvement (Ng &
Feldman, 2010), which suggested increases in involvement over time? We believe the answer
is more nuanced. Specifically, functional maturity involves successful investment in work and
non-work (e.g., romantic) domains, and it needs to be acknowledged that our measure of work
involvement not only assesses identification with work but also taps into the trade-off
between both life domains. Higher scores on items such as “My work is more important to me
than my nonwork life”, Work is the major part of my life”, and “My work comes before my
family or partner” may not only signal high levels of identification with work, but also
“unsuccessful” or restrained investment in other important life domains, such as family life.
Conversely, individuals scoring lower on these items indicate or at least pursue a better (i.e.,
more successful) balance between work and nonwork life domains. From this perspective, our
finding that stronger increases in Agreeableness are associated with smaller increases in work
involvement (as we measured it), can be considered consistent with the idea of functional
maturity after all. As individuals evolve from a competitive toward a more accommodating
interpersonal mindset, work also becomes less predominant in their lives, and this would not
necessarily indicate lower levels of identification with work an sich. Specifically, based on
this line of reasoning, our prediction would be that increases in both Agreeableness and
Conscientiousness could augment work involvement, at least when identification with work
does not directly conflict with identification and investment in non-work roles.
Our findings also extended theory on aging and work-related attitudes by indicating
the importance of interindividual differences in long-term changes. Over the past 10 years, a
growing number of researchers have placed the concept of individual differences in change -a
cornerstone of lifespan-developmental theory (Baltes & Nesselroade, 1973)- front and center
in the study of personality development (Roberts & Wood, 2006). This new perspective holds
that personality change (and stability) is an individual-differences variable and that a
complete understanding of personality development is only possible if individual differences
in trait-change are examined alongside more traditional indices of development. The present
study shows that this perspective is important in enhancing our theoretical understanding of
long-term changes in work attitudes. While we could not find significant mean-level increases
in satisfaction and involvement, change varied substantially between individuals; variation
that was also related to variation in trait change.
The present study also extends the traditional dispositional perspective on work
attitudes, a topic that has received a lot of attention in the OB literature over the past decade
(e.g., Staw & Cohen-Charash, 2005). To date, empirical evidence for the dispositional source
of work attitudes has been derived from two categories of studies (Judge & Larsen, 2001). In
a first, indirect series of studies, a dispositional basis of work attitudes has been derived from
findings on the long-term stability of attitudes (e.g., Staw & Ross, 1985; Steel & Rentsch,
1997). A second, more direct series of studies argued for a dispositional basis of work
attitudes by actually measuring personal dispositions and testing cross-sectional and
preferably prospective associations with work-related attitudes (e.g., Bowling et al., 2006;
Judge et al., 2008). The present study took this direct approach a step further and introduced
the issue of change into this line of research and thinking. In essence, our results demonstrated
that attitudinal instability does not necessarily plead against the dispositional perspective on
work-related attitudes, as change in dispositions and change in attitudes can be related.
A final theoretical contribution of this study pertains to the fact that we also found
evidence for work experiences (i.e., job satisfaction) to influence change in personal
dispositions (i.e., Agreeableness). Although personal dispositions are typically conceptualized
as stable traits by organizational researchers, personality theorists are paying increasing
attention to the way that traits change over time through their interaction with life experiences
(Roberts & Mroczek, 2008; Roberts & Wood, 2006). One of the central ideas in the neo-
socioanalytic theory of personality development is that investment in social institutions,
including establishing a successful and satisfying career, is one of the driving mechanisms of
personality development (Lodi-Smith & Roberts, 2007). Further evidence for this contextual
perspective on personality has also been provided by Wu and Griffin (2012), who
demonstrated reciprocal associations between job satisfaction and core self-evaluations.
Together, these findings suggest that theory in organizational research would benefit from an
alternative perspective on personality in which traits are more considered as open and
dynamic systems that can be influenced at any age in response to and together with
environmental experiences.
Implications for Practice
Accompanying the increased research attention for age-related issues, HR practitioners are
also increasingly investing time and energy in developing strategies for managing the age-
diverse workforce. Where the focus of these interventions used to be on dealing with
generational differences between workers within organizations, there is now increasing
evidence that age and not generational membership per se causes differences in work-related
outcomes (Costanza et al., 2012). The present study is informative for practitioners because it
informs them on how to better understand these age-differences. Specifically, one important
lesson to be learned is that change happens, including change in personality traits. Maturity
entails movement toward some ideal endpoint, and it remains an open question when that
point is reached. In the present study, changes in personality traits in the direction of greater
maturity were observed between the ages of 22 and 37 years, and other research suggests that
traits continue to change later in adulthood even up until old age (Allemand et al., 2008). This
implies that personality traits are not necessarily destiny, although they can cause significant
problems if left unevaluated (Hogan & Roberts, 2004).
Moreover, uncovering that long-term changes in work-related attitudes are driven by
changes in personality traits does not imply that organizations have no responsibility over
managing employees attitudes as they mature and grow older. As was argued in the
introduction, (changes in) Big Five personality traits exert their influence on (changes in)
work-related attitudes through processes of work evaluation and identification, and we believe
it is well possible to ask people about these intermediary processes, and to intervene when
necessary. In some cases, suboptimal attitudes can probably be altered by focusing directly on
these intermediary processes, for instance by correcting unfavorable perceptions of certain
work characteristics. In other cases, such interventions will need to focus on changing certain
aspects of the work environment that cause less positive work evaluations or that hinder
optimal levels of identification with work. This second strategy is in line with recent calls to
increasingly consider job design from a lifespan perspective as a way to improve worker
satisfaction and involvement (Truxillo et al., 2012). The present work suggests aligning such
job design and organizational policy interventions with more general maturational personality
changes as well as taking into account individual personality change trajectories. The final
aim of attitudinal monitoring within organizations should be to have satisfied and involved
collaborators experiencing a work/life balance that they consider optimal for a particular time-
point in their careers.
The findings concerning the reciprocal effects between personality traits and work
attitudes may also inform HR practices interested in long-term career management. First, trait
effects on change in attitudes are relevant for programs of career planning and career
coaching. Knowing, for example, that employees who score high on Openness at the
beginning of the career may gradually develop lower levels of work involvement relative to
low scorers may be useful knowledge when outlining individual career paths. Probably, these
individuals may not be looking for career trajectories characterized by steep increases in
corporate responsibilities, as opposed to for instance individuals lower on Agreeableness. We
would encourage personnel managers to discuss these options during career planning
programs organized at the start of the career.
The reverse mechanism, that is, the potential for work experiences to influence
personal dispositions also holds important implications for personnel development in
organizations. In addition to the traditional dispositional perspective that it is appropriate to
select employees with valuable personality traits (e.g., Judge, 2009), these kinds of results
support the potential to cultivate employees’ dispositions by enhancing positive work
experiences. It may be important, for instance, for organizations to identify employees
experiencing negative attitudes or emotions at work, as this might pervade their dispositional
make-up. Together with other recent work (Wu & Griffin, 2012), this study informs personnel
practitioners about the potential malleability of important personal dispositions in conjunction
with and in response to work experiences. We therefore propose tracking and monitoring
employees’ dispositions, needs, expectations, and work experiences at intermediate time
points, for example in the context of career coaching programs. Hereby, we would argue for
an idiographic approach: Just as all employees are unique individuals, they also demonstrate
distinctive change patterns across the life course, including vocational life. When the focus is
on work attitudes, a valuable approach may be to conduct needs assessments that address
observed differences among individuals and develop interventions based on characteristics
identified through this process. This evidence-based strategy is a proven way to deal with
individual differences rather than relying on generalizations about entire groups of employees
solely identified by age (Costanza et al., 2012).
Limitations and Future Research
A number of study limitations and directions for future research should also be noted. First,
LCMs in two-wave panel designs implicitly assume linear change between both measurement
occasions. Three-wave studies would also allow the inspection of nonlinear patterns in trait
and attitude change. Second, the availability of more than one repeated measurement of traits
and attitudes would have allowed more grounded inferences regarding the precise reciprocal
effects between both sets of variables (Ferrer & McArdle, 2010).
Second, this study was limited in that no “external mechanisms” were considered,
such as environmental changes over time. As employees grow older and progress through
their careers, their jobs may be characterized by a greater degree of autonomy, skill variety,
and task significance; objective job conditions that are positively related to such work-related
attitudes (Fried & Ferris, 1987). However, although we acknowledge the possibility that long-
term changes in attitudes can also be caused in part by changes in situational
characteristics, this does not imply that our results concerning the correlated change between
attitudes and dispositions are spurious. Changes in job conditions may cause work attitudes to
change, but their capability to induce trait change is far less supported. Sutin and Costa
(2010), for example, examined the reciprocal relations between Big Five traits and job
conditions and found none of the job conditions to predict change in personality. We
encourage future research to continue investigating long-term changes in work attitudes,
hereby testing alternative explanatory mechanisms, including situational perspectives. We
would like to stress that dispositional and situational effects should not be seen as competing
hypotheses, as both dispositional and situational factors can have substantial effects
simultaneously on (change in) work-related attitudes (Gerhart, 2005).
Finally, it has to be noted that all variables in this study were assessed using self-
reports, which may have induced common method bias. The fact that we used a longitudinal
design partially alleviates such concerns (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003).
There was a one-year lag between the measurements of initial personality and attitudes. Only
at Time 2, these focal constructs were assessed completely concurrently, but these
intercorrelations were not used directly when testing any study hypotheses because T2-ratings
were reformulated as latent change factors over 15 years.
To more accurately test potential theoretical mechanisms regarding change, it is essential to
examine actual change in variables by means of longitudinal research designs. This has,
however, proven to be a daunting task for organizational researchers in the domain of aging.
This study addressed this gap in the literature by examining intraindividual maturation of
employees’ attitudes and personality traits across 15 years. It is concluded that longitudinal
designs are challenging to carry out, but that they also open the door for innovative
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Table 1
Summary of how Big Five personality traits affect work evaluation and identification
Direction of effects on Work
Nature of these effects (direct / indirect) and underlying
Big Five traits
Direct effect on Evaluation due to generalized negative affect
Direct effect on Identification due to lower performance and career goals
Direct effect on Evaluation due to generalized positive affect
Direct effect on Identification due to stronger work performance motivation
Indirect effect on Evaluation through satisfying work rewards
Direct effect on Identification due to stronger sense of duty and need for
Direct effect on Evaluation due to mild and forgiving nature
Indirect effect on Evaluation through satisfying interpersonal relations
Direct effect on Identification due to weaker achievement orientation
Unclear effects on Evaluation
Direct effect on Identification due to stronger work drive
Table 2
Correlations between all study variables at both measurement occasions (T1 and T2)
1. Gender
2. Neu (T1)
3. Ext (T1)
4. Ope (T1)
5. Agr (T1)
6. Con (T1)
7. Neu (T2)
8. Ext (T2)
9. Ope (T2)
10. Agr (T2)
11. Con (T2)
12. JS (T1)
13. WI (T1)
14. JS (T2)
15. WI (T2)
Note. Gender is coded 0 for men and 1 for women. Neu = Neuroticism; Ext = Extraversion; Ope = Openness
to Experience; Agr = Agreeableness; Con = Conscientiousness; JS = Job Satisfaction; WI = Work
Involvement. (T1) indicates that the variables are assessed at Time 1; (T2) indicates that the variables are
assessed at Time 2. Pairwise sample sizes are indicated between parentheses. Internal consistencies
(Cronbach alpha) are reported on the diagonal. * p < .05; ** p < .01; p < .001.
Table 3
Summary statistics of Latent Change Models (LCMs) for dispositions and work attitudes
Model fit
Latent Change
Gender effectsa
Personality traits
Work Attitudes
Job Satisfaction
Work Involvement
Note. a Gender effects are reported for latent variable levels (before the /) and latent variable
changes (after the /). * p < .05; ** p < .01; p < .001.
Table 4
Static associations, correlated change and reciprocal effects between Personality traits (P)
and Attitudes (A)
Job Satisfaction
Work Involvement
Personality traits
Note. P↔A = the concurrent associations between initial Personality and Attitude levels;
P→∆A = the prospective effect of initial Personality levels on change in Attitudes; A→∆P =
the effect of initial Attitude levels on change in Personality; ∆↔∆ = correlated change
between Personality and Attitudes. Gender is included as a control variable in these analyses.
Standardized estimates are reported. RMSEA fit indices of these multivariate latent change
models ranged between .030 and .044. * p < .05; ** p < .01; p < .001.
Table A1
CFA-models testing measurement invariance across time
1. Configural Invariance
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + μ4 free
1. Configural Invariance
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + μ3 free
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + μ5 free
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + μ2 free
3d. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3c + μ4 free
1. Configural Invariance
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + μ5 free
1. Configural Invariance
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + μ4 free
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + μ5 free
1. Configural Invariance
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
2a. Partial Invariance of the factor loadings - Model 2 + λ4 free
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + μ1 free
Job satisfaction
1. Configural Invariance
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
3. Invariance of item thresholds
3a. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3 + δ10-3 free
3b. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3a + δ20-3 free
3c. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3b + δ4-4 free
Work involvement
1. Configural Invariance
1a. Configural Invariance + error covariance items 4 and 5
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
3. Invariance of the item thresholds
3a. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3 + δ6-1 free
3b. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3a + δ6-2 free
3c. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3b + δ6-3 free
3d. Partial Invariance of the item thresholds - Model 3c + δ11-3 free
Note. CFI refers to the Comparative Fit Index, and RMSEA to the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation.
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This study aims to explore the association between a leader's State of Core Self-Evaluation and the complexity of tasks assigned to them. Previous research on this topic has established a strong foundation for the conceptual framework and hypotheses used in this study. A quantitative approach was employed, utilizing an adapted questionnaire to gather data from 141 organizational leaders holding various positions in the banking sector. Statistical analysis of the data demonstrates that a leader's core self-evaluation is positively linked to task complexity. This implies that when leaders believe they possess the necessary abilities and skills to handle a task, their cognitive skills improve, leading to efficient task completion. Conversely, when leaders perceive a task as complex, they may exhibit avoidance behaviour and refrain from attempting to complete the task. These findings are useful in assessing leaders' performance under different levels of task complexity, particularly in a demanding work environment. Policymakers can also benefit from this research in understanding what triggers leader behaviour when task complexity increases. The results of this study align with previous research, indicating that a leader's State of Core Self-Evaluation and task complexity are crucial considerations in the field of management.
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Meta-analytic evidence has shown that personality is one of the strongest correlates of global and domain-specific satisfaction. The main goal of the present study was to examine whether the associations between personality traits and satisfaction differ across the adult lifespan. We used bivariate latent growth curve models and local structural equation modeling to study correlations between levels and change of Big Five personality traits and satisfaction with life, satisfaction with work, and satisfaction with social contacts. Data came from a large representative longitudinal Dutch sample (N = 9,110; age range 16-95). Across age, emotional stability showed the strongest associations with both global and domain-specific satisfaction. After emotional stability, conscientiousness was the strongest correlate of work satisfaction (WS), and extraversion and agreeableness were the strongest correlates of social satisfaction (SS). Longitudinal changes in personality and satisfaction across the 11 years covered in this study were moderately correlated, suggesting codevelopment between these constructs. Most correlational patterns were stable across the lifespan, indicating that personality traits are similarly relevant for satisfaction across different phases in adult life. We discuss the theoretical implications for the foundations that may underlie the link between personality and satisfaction in various life phases. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).
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Objectives: Work is an important developmental context in adulthood, yet little is known about how it contributes to personality trajectories in midlife. The present study examines how subjectively perceived work environment (autonomy, innovation, social integration, stress) and objectively measured work activities (activities related to information and people, physical/manual activities) are related to levels of Big Five personality traits at age 44 and to change over 20 years. Methods: We analysed four-wave longitudinal data from N = 374 participants (born 1950-1952; Mage T1 = 44 years, SD = 1; 44% women) from the Interdisciplinary Longitudinal Study of Adult Development and Aging (ILSE) within the structural equation modeling framework. Results: At baseline, subjective perceptions of work environments showed a higher number of significant associations with personality than objective work activities. Over time, small declines in neuroticism and extraversion and small increases in agreeableness and conscientiousness were observed, which were largely independent of work characteristics. Conclusions: Our findings show slight changes in most Big Five traits from age 44 to 64, which were mostly unrelated to work characteristics. More research is needed to uncover the sources and dynamics of personality trait change in midlife and the role of work for personality trajectories.
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Meta-analytic evidence has shown that personality is one of the strongest correlates of global and domain-specific satisfaction. The main goal of the present study was to examine whether the associations between personality traits and satisfaction differ across the adult lifespan. We used bivariate latent growth curve models and local structural equation modeling to study correlations between levels and change of Big Five personality traits and satisfaction with life, satisfaction with work, and satisfaction with social contacts. Data came from a large representative longitudinal Dutch sample (N = 9,110; age range 16-95). Across age, emotional stability showed the strongest associations with both global and domain-specific satisfaction. For work satisfaction, conscientiousness was the strongest correlate after emotional stability. Extraversion and agreeableness were most strongly associated with social satisfaction. Longitudinal changes in personality and satisfaction across the 11 years covered in this study were moderately correlated, suggesting co-development between these constructs. Most correlational patterns were stable across the lifespan, suggesting that personality traits are similarly relevant for satisfaction across different phases in adult life. We discuss the theoretical implications for the foundations that may underlie the link between personality and satisfaction in various life phases.
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This study compares the careers of matched samples of 69 female executives and 69 male: executives try examining perceived barriers and facilitators of advancement, self-reported developmental experiences, and career histories. Consistent with tokenism theory, women reported greater barriers, such as lack of culture fit and being excluded from informal networks, and greater importance of having a good track. record and developing relationships to facilitate advancement than did men. Career success, measured by organizational level and compensation, was positively related to breadth of experience and developmental assignments for both genders, but successful women were less likely than successful men to report that mentoring facilitated their advancement. Developmental experiences and career histories were similar for female and male executives, but men bad more overseas assignments and women had more assignments with nonauthority relationships.
To test hypotheses about the universality of personality traits, college students in 50 cultures identified an adult or college-aged man or woman whom they knew well and rated the 11,985 targets using the 3rd-person version of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. Factor analyses within cultures showed that the normative American self-report structure was clearly replicated in most cultures and was recognizable in all. Sex differences replicated earlier self-report results, with the most pronounced differences in Western cultures. Cross-sectional age differences for 3 factors followed the pattern identified in self-reports, with moderate rates of change during college age and slower changes after age 40. With a few exceptions, these data support the hypothesis that features of personality traits are common to all human groups.
Chronological age (time since birth) is the most frequently used operationalization of the effects of aging. However, researchers in various disciplines have expressed dissatisfaction with the chronological age's inherent atheoretical nature. Chronological age is essentially a measurement of time, not a reflection of age-related changes and development. This chapter will identify what conceptual weaknesses of chronological age can limit the value of empirical and theoretical work and provide possible alternatives. Concepts from sociology, gerontology, marketing, anthropology, and developmental psychology are used to identify possible alternatives to chronological age. Functional, subjective, cognitive, and contextual age are presented and explained and an overarching taxonomy is presented that compares these age concepts. Special focus is on the contribution of adult developmental psychology as a basis for theory building.
The authors used 91 sales representatives to test a process model that assessed the relationship of conscientiousness to job performance through mediating motivational (goal-setting) variables. Linear structural equation modeling showed that sales representatives high in conscientiousness are more likely to set goals and are more likely to be committed to goals, which in turn is associated with greater sales volume and higher supervisory ratings of job performance. Results also showed that conscientiousness is directly related to supervisory ratings. Consistent with previous research, results showed that ability was also related to supervisory ratings of job performance and, to a lesser extent, sales volume. Contrary to expectations, 1 other personality construct, extraversion, was not related to sales volume or to supervisory ratings of job performance. Implications and future research needs are discussed.
Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in the behavioral sciences. Despite this, a comprehensive summary of the potential sources of method biases and how to control for them does not exist. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which method biases influence behavioral research results, identify potential sources of method biases, discuss the cognitive processes through which method biases influence responses to measures, evaluate the many different procedural and statistical techniques that can be used to control method biases, and provide recommendations for how to select appropriate procedural and statistical remedies for different types of research settings.