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This paper focuses on the role of personality at different stages of people's working lives. We begin by reviewing the research in industrial, work, and organizational (IWO) psychology regarding the longitudinal and dynamic influences of personality as an independent variable at different career stages, structuring our review around a framework of people's working lives and careers over time. Next, we review recent studies in the personality and developmental psychology domain regarding the influence of changing life roles on personality. In this domain, personality also serves as a dependent variable. By blending these two domains, it becomes clear that the study of reciprocal effects of work and personality might open a new angle in IWO psychology's long-standing tradition of personality research. To this end, we outline various implications for conceptual development (e.g., trait stability) and empirical research (e.g., personality and work incongruence). Finally, we discuss some methodological and statistical considerations for research in this new research domain. In the end, our review should enrich the way that IWO psychologists understand personality at work, focusing away from its unidirectional predictivist influence on job performance toward a more complex longitudinal reciprocal interplay of personality and working life. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Personality Across Working Life:
The Longitudinal and Reciprocal Influences of Personality on Work
Stephen A. Woods
Aston Business School
Aston University, Birmingham, UK
Filip Lievens
Department of Personnel Management and Work and Organizational Psychology, Ghent
University, Belgium
Filip De Fruyt & Bart Wille
Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium
Cite as:
Woods, S. A., Lievens, F., De Fruyt, F., & Wille, B. (2013). Personality across working life: The longitudinal and
reciprocal influences of personality on work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34, 7-25.
This paper focuses on the role of personality at different stages of people’s working lives. We
begin by reviewing the research in industrial, work, and organizational (IWO) psychology
regarding the longitudinal and dynamic influences of personality as an independent variable at
different career stages, structuring our review around a framework of people’s working lives and
careers over time. Next, we review recent studies in the personality and developmental
psychology domain regarding the influence of changing life roles on personality. In this domain,
personality also serves as dependent variable. By blending these two domains it becomes clear
that the study of reciprocal effects of work and personality might open a new angle in IWO
psychology’s longstanding tradition of personality research. To this end, we outline various
implications for conceptual development (e.g., trait stability) and empirical research (e.g.,
personality and work incongruence). Finally, we discuss some methodological and statistical
considerations for research in this new research domain. In the end, our review should enrich the
way that IWO psychologists understand personality at work, focusing away from its
unidirectional predictivist influence on job performance towards a more complex longitudinal
reciprocal interplay of personality and working life.
Personality Across Working Life: The Longitudinal and
Reciprocal Influences of Personality on Work
Over the past quarter century, few topics in organizational behavior and work and
organizational psychology have attracted more pages of journal space than personality research.
The centrality of personality in so much organizational behavior theory is all the more
remarkable because it represents for personality trait theory particularly, a dramatic turnaround of
fortune. Beginning in the late 1980s, and consolidating in the now famous meta-analyses of the
1990s (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991; Salgado, 1997; Tett, Jackson, Rothstein, & Reddon, 1994),
research has established the predictive associations of personality with a broad range of
organizational criteria (for an overview, see Judge, Klinger, Simon, and Yang, 2008).
Despite the obvious successes of such research, there are key trends within the literature
that are problematic for further development of theory and understanding of the role of
personality in organizational behavior. These trends stem principally from a persistent
preoccupation of researchers on the question of personality trait validity; the use of personality
trait assessments to predict performance immediately following selection. This topic, while
undoubtedly important, has we feel, detracted from an integrated understanding of how
personality traits relate to organizational behavior across people’s working lives in the longer
In particular, the focus on predictive validity has resulted in two important limitations in
the current literature. First, the relations of personality and criteria are implicitly treated as static.
The vast majority of published studies are either cross-sectional or longitudinal across only two
time points. In a typical longitudinal study of personality and performance, traits are measured at
time 1 and performance at time 2, and prospective associations calculated. Is it reasonable to
assume that these relations remain the same in the long-term? Most people would intuitively
accept that performance demands change over time, and indeed performance theory has
formalized this point (Murphy, 1989). Working lives and the demands and contexts that they
present are dynamic and changeable and so it follows that the relations of traits and criteria may
also dynamically change over time and at different career stages. This perspective is rarely
acknowledged in research.
Second, in almost all studies in organizational behavior, personality is treated solely as a
predictor variable. The literature on the longitudinal stability of personality (Roberts &
DelVecchio, 2000) means that for the purpose of theory building, it is convenient to
conceptualize personality as a stable property of the person that predicts behavioral, emotional, or
attitudinal outcomes. However, in other domains outside industrial, work and organizational
(IWO) psychology, the possibility that personality traits may both affect, and be affected by
work, has been recently considered (e.g., Wille, Beyers, & De Fruyt, in press; Wu & Griffin,
2012). Work is a core part of everybody’s lives, and to purport that the direction of influence
from personality to work is only one way, rather than reciprocal, seems closed-minded.
Therefore, this paper has two aims. First, we adopt a whole-career perspective and review
the role of personality at different stages of people’s working lives. Specifically, we examine the
longitudinal and dynamic influences of personality traits at different career stages. This first part
of the paper is mostly focused on longitudinal research in IWO psychology, although we will also
include relevant studies from developmental psychology. In this body of research, personality
plays its traditional role as independent variable for predicting stable or dynamic criteria across
career stages.
Second, we provide a review of the emerging literature on the influence of changing life
roles on personality. This review is almost entirely based on recent studies outside the IWO
domain as the studies reviewed come from personality and developmental psychology. Here
personality typically serves as the dependent variable, with the focus on the reciprocal effects
between personality and work.
We believe that the blending of insights resulting from these two aims might be extremely
fruitful for enriching the way that IWO psychologists understand personality at work, focusing
away from its simple predictivist influence on job performance, and towards a more complex
longitudinal reciprocal interplay of personality and working life. To this end, the last section of
this paper presents the implications for theory, future research, and methodology that result from
our review.
Note that we conceptualize personality in terms of the five-factor model (FFM). So, our
review concentrates on evidence from studies in which personality is operationalized using the
personality factors of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability (vs.
Neuroticism), and Openness.
Personality and Working Life: Dynamic and Developmental Interactions
In our review of the interactions of personality and work across the lifespan, we adopt a
framework based on Super’s (1980) career stages (i.e., Growth, Exploration, Establishment,
Maintenance, Disengagement). In each case, we review the longitudinal and/or dynamic
associations of personality and outcomes, thereby avoiding simple associative research findings
Working life as described in the Super framework represents a dynamic background for
behavior and personality expression, comprising multiple contexts, demands and challenges.
Social cognitive theories of personality (Mischel & Shoda, 1998) emphasize the contextual
factors that influence behavior. In particular, the work of Mischel on situational strength and
behavior encouraged a focus on the conditions under which traits are likely to manifest in
behavior, leading to the development of Trait Activation Theory (TAT; Tett & Burnett, 2003). In
TAT, behavior results from an interaction between person and situation, with situations acting as
cues to activate certain traits. Specific traits are expressed in behavior when the situation or
context allows freedom of trait expression (i.e. the situation is weak) and the features of the
situation activate those specific traits.
TAT is relevant in the longitudinal examination of personality and its interaction with
work because over time, the demands, contexts, and situational features of work are in a state of
flux. Even over relatively short periods of time, the demands that are placed on workers may
change (Thoresen, Bradley, Bliese, & Thoreson, 2004), such that performance and other
outcomes at two points in time might result from different behavior-in-context combinations and
therefore be related to different traits. More broadly, traits that are activated at one stage of a
person’s career (e.g., career exploration) may be different from those activated at others (e.g.,
career establishment). TAT provides also a framework for understanding person-job fit, whereby
a person’s situational responses make them suitable for specific kinds of work activity. Thus, the
TAT framework enables theoretical modelling of the dynamic effects of personality on work
outcomes across time and in different vocational environments.
Growth: Echoes of Childhood at Work
People’s vocational life commences long before the first job. Although studies of
elementary school children suggest that they do not have well-formulated vocational interests
(Tracey, 2001), Woods and Hampson (2010) proposed that childhood personality traits are a
potential major influence on the development of vocational interests. That is, certain personality
traits (specifically Openness, Conscientiousness, and Extraversion) might lead children to
gravitate toward certain kinds of activity and therefore to acquire certain competencies that in
turn lead to the shaping of vocational interests, and later life vocational choices. So, at an early
age, the natural tendencies of children to be more experimental (Openness), social (Extraversion),
or methodical (Conscientiousness) might lead children to develop the skills and competencies
that contribute to preferences for certain kinds of job activity.
In support of this, Woods and Hampson (2010) reported findings from the Hawaii
personality and health cohort study, examining the prospective associations of personality traits
measured at ages 6-12, with occupation characteristics (classified on Holland’s RIASEC
dimensions; Holland, 1997) at mid-life. Their findings showed prospective associations of
personality and occupations across more than 40 years in some cases, with Openness being
associated with Artistic, Investigative and Conventional (negative), and Conscientiousness
associated with all of the vocational types (negatively with Realistic). Woods and Hampson
(2010) also demonstrated the moderation of the association of Openness and occupational
environments by gender. The proposed theoretical explanation was imagination and
experimentation, and the tendency of children higher on Openness to go against the gender
stereotypic norm, to imagine themselves in a wider rage of potential adult roles and therefore to
develop self-concepts that are less reliant on and consistent with gender stereotypes. In sum, there
appears to be an early interaction of personality and work, with traits pushing children towards
certain activities and preferences. The contexts of exploring activity preferences and
competencies represent weak situations that activate the personality traits and natural preferences
of children. The pathways of working life, and the role of work in identity seem to be set in
“skeleton form” in early years of childhood.
The College Years: Personality and Preparation for Working Life
Personality in adolescence and early adulthood also exerts major influences on later-life
career outcomes through education attainment. The success that people achieve during their
education has a substantial impact on their occupational trajectory, and simultaneously opens up
some career opportunities, while closing others.
Traits such as Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability have been identified as
consistent longitudinal non-cognitive associates of educational attainment (e.g., Chamorro-
Premuzic & Furnham, 2003). Interestingly, several independent studies also point to dynamic
relations of traits with criteria, whereby personality traits assume greater or lesser predictive
power at different stages of tertiary education, and on different indicators. For instance, Zyphur et
al. (2008) analysed the associations of cognitive ability and personality on grade point average
over time. They reported that while both cognitive ability and Conscientiousness were associated
with initial performance, only Conscientiousness related to performance growth. Students higher
on Conscientiousness improved their GPA over time, whereas students cognitive ability did not
predict change in performance.
In another study, Lievens et al (2009) reported the changing validities of personality traits
over seven years of medical school. Their findings pointed to the increasing validity of
personality for predicting performance over time. Specifically, while personality had small or
negligible associations with performance in year 1, by year 7 some effect sizes for personality
traits had risen to above 0.40. Facets of Conscientiousness, Openness, and Extraversion measured
at enrolment were moderately strong predictors of academic achievement and performance in
medical training at year 7.
How can these dynamic effects of personality on academic performance be explained?
Such dynamic effects are often linked to changing educational demands. For instance, in the
medical education study, in year 1, the emphasis was on developing declarative and procedural
knowledge, which was likely to draw more on cognitive ability. By year 7, however, medical
students were required to work more in interpersonal contexts (e.g., internships, clerkships)
wherein being sociable, motivated and open became key assets. This is a clear example of TAT
in action, with traits being associated with outcomes when situations trigger trait-related
behaviors that are likely to result in differentiated performance.
Career Exploration: Becoming the Worker
Entering the working world presents a new context for people’s lives. Becoming a worker
or employee presents a new set of challenges and a platform for growth and development.
Obvious potential influences of personality on career exploration are through its effects on
vocational interests and choices. If personality is indicative of vocational interests, then it should
be possible to observe its effects on occupational choice over time. People’s traits should relate to
their choices of careers over the course of their lives, with people selecting jobs that fit with their
interests, and by extension, their personality traits. Over the years, a large body of research has
found support for this gravitation hypothesis.
In a longitudinal test of this gravitation hypothesis, Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, and Barrick
(1999) examined whether the Big Five traits measured in adolescence were associated with the
RIASEC characteristics of occupational environments later in life. They reported prospective
associations of Openness with Artistic and Conventional (negative) occupations, Agreeableness
with Social and Investigative (negative), and Extraversion and Realistic. These longitudinal
findings are complemented by studies examining the predictive validities of vocational interest
measures for predicting occupational choices in early adulthood (e.g., De Fruyt & Mervielde,
1999). So, in line with our earlier conclusions, it seems that personality traits, through vocational
interests, influence the occupations that people select as they enter work (Woods & Hampson,
Career Establishment and Maintenance
In Super’s framework, establishment and maintenance of a career are treated as distinct
stages, and collectively cover around 40 years of working life. While we acknowledge that this
period constitutes the major part of people’s careers, and therefore comprises a variety of
challenges and diverse demands, for the purposes of our review, we will explore the role of
personality within these stages together. We make a distinction between the effects of personality
on motivation, performance, and motivation on the one hand and the effects of personality on
performance trajectories on the other hand.
Personality and Work Motivation, Performance, and Satisfaction. One of the most well
known findings in the field of personality is that high Conscientiousness and low Neuroticism are
related to job performance (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000) and career success (Judge et al., 1999). It is
noteworthy that meta-analytic research also demonstrated that these same two FFM traits are
related to performance motivation (Judge & Ilies, 2002) and to satisfaction at work (Judge,
Heller, & Mount, 2002). Moreover, these results conform to meta-analytic correlations between
the FFM traits and life satisfaction (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998). So, prior research provides
evidence of relatively robust relations between specific FFM traits (Conscientiousness and
Neuroticism) and motivation, satisfaction, and performance, respectively. Although a full process
model has not been tested, it seems like motivational and core self-evaluative processes serve as
the intermediate mechanisms by which some FFM traits are predictive of performance and
satisfaction (Barrick, Mount, & Strauss, 1993; Bono & Judge, 2003).
Illustrative evidence for this kind of effect may be taken from studies of job
characteristics. Judge, Bono, and Locke (2000) found that people with high core self-evaluations
actually attained more challenging jobs within their careers. This reflects a process by which
people with higher self-efficacy and self-esteem tend to set themselves and accept more
challenging goals and tasks, and be more motivated to achieve them (Bono & Judge, 2003; Erez
& Judge, 2001). The role of Neuroticism in vocational behavior might also be understood in the
context of an approach/avoidance framework (Ferris, Rosen, Johnson, Brown, Risavy, & Heller
2011). Low emotional stability (or high Neuroticism) is associated with an avoidant approach, in
which people select tasks, activities and behavioral strategies with the aim of minimizing threat
of failure. For example, Woods, Patterson, and Koczwara (2013) examined the association of the
Big Five with occupational specialty choice in a sample of junior medics and found that choice of
Realistic (e.g. Surgery) and Enterprising (e.g. Acute Medicine) specialties, which generally have
greater individual responsibility, were associated with low Neuroticism.
Integrating the above with the observation that people higher on Conscientiousness are
more achievement oriented and likely to be committed to delivering on goals and objectives
(Barrick, Mount & Strauss, 1993) suggests that individuals with combined high
Conscientiousness and low Neuroticism are likely to grasp opportunities to work on challenging
and complex tasks, without the demotivating effects of fearing failure or a negative outcome.
Taken together, job characteristics such as job complexity, skill variety, and autonomy represent
mechanisms by which in their working lives, people lower in Neuroticism and higher in
Conscientiousness attain more positive and rewarding jobs.
This research base underlines the importance of longitudinal and developmental
perspectives of the association of personality and organizational behavior. The association of
personality and job satisfaction is most often understood as an affective one (e.g., Heller, Judge,
& Watson, 2002). In such models, Neuroticism and the positive emotional component of
Extraversion are assumed to influence job satisfaction because the effects of negative and
positive affect respectively mean that people attend to and perceive their job characteristics as
either generally more unfavorable or favorable. However, by looking at such associations from a
developmental perspective, incorporating ideas of performance motivation, core-self-evaluative
and approach/avoidance tendencies, and their cumulative effects over careers and working lives
on job decisions, the affective explanation becomes only part of the picture. Rather, in
combination with achievement-related traits such as Conscientiousness, dispositional affective
personality traits such as Neuroticism may have real impact on actual attainment of jobs with
more rewarding and satisfying features and characteristics.
A related, yet somewhat poorly understood area of focus is the relation of personality
with burnout. Meta-analyses (Alarcon, Eschleman, & Bowling, 2009) suggest that all of the Big
Five except Openness are associated with burnout, but the vast majority of studies in the area are
cross-sectional. Longitudinal studies again suggest dynamic associations of personality and
burnout. In a study of nurses, Deary, Watson, and Hogston (2003) found that Neuroticism
measured at entry into a nursing program was a significant predictor of emotional exhaustion at
12 months, but not at 24 months. Openness was positively related to Emotional Exhaustion at 24
months, but not at 12 months. Similarly, Armon, Shirom, and Melamed (2012) reported that
Neuroticism was a negative predictor of future emotional exhaustion, contrary to expectations,
and that Conscientiousness was a positive predictor of Emotional Exhaustion, but a negative
predictor of Cognitive Weariness. One possible explanation is one of dynamic effects by which
people high in Neuroticism withdraw from threatening situations that might lead to Emotional
Exhaustion, whereas people higher in Conscientiousness, while more motivated and invested at
work, may be so focused on work that they are at higher risk of burnout in the long term.
Personality and Performance Trajectories. As noted at the outset of our review, the
treatment of job performance as a stable construct constitutes an important limitation in the
personality and performance literature (Thoresen et al., 2004). This runs counter to evidence
suggesting that for most people, performance increases linearly, then plateaus following a
learning curve, and eventually declines over long periods (Zyphur, Chaturvedi, & Arvey, 2008).
If performance is incorrectly assumed to be stable, then theoretical perspectives on personality
and performance may be likewise incorrect. Longitudinal studies of personality and performance
trajectories address this concern head-on and have uncovered some key relationships and effects
that build understanding of how personality influences performance over time.
Perspectives on individual differences and job performance seem to converge on the idea
that performance results from a combination of ability and motivation (e.g. Zyphur et al., 2008).
The problem-solving advantage given by cognitive ability may be thought of as the “can do” of
performance, with the motivational drive to initiate and persist in goal-directed behavior being
thought of as the “will do” of performance (Gottfredson, 2002). The treatment of performance as
a stable construct assumes that both elements remain equally important over time. However, it is
more intuitively accessible to conceive that “can-do” and “will-do” aspects of performance are
more or less important at different job stages.
Differentiating transitional job stages (where demands are novel, and not clearly defined)
from maintenance job stages (where workers have generally mastered the tasks and activities
associated with their jobs), Murphy (1989) proposed that cognitive ability would be most
predictive of performance at transition stages and that personality factors would become more
important during maintenance stages. Recent research has taken this theorizing a step further to
examine the differentiation of personality associations of performance within different job stages.
Thoresen et al. (2004) examined how personality dimensions of the Big Five model differentiated
sales performance among individuals at two different job stages, and also the association of the
Big Five with performance growth (i.e. performance change over time at different job stages).
They observed differential patterns of prediction in maintenance and transitional employee
samples. Conscientiousness was associated with mean performance and performance growth in
the maintenance sample (see also Zyphur et al., 2008). Extraversion was associated with mean
performance. In the transitional sample, Openness and Agreeableness were positively associated
with mean performance and also with performance growth. Thoresen et al. (2004) reasoned that
in the transitional sample, adaptive behavior (associated with Openness) and interpersonal
network building (associated with Agreeableness) were the most likely reasons for enhanced
sales performance. In a related study, Stewart (1999) showed that the dependability aspects of
Conscientiousness (e.g., self-discipline) were related to job performance at the transitional stage,
whereas the volitional facets of Conscientiousness (e.g., achievement motivation) were linked to
job performance at the maintenance stage.
Openness has also been implicated as influential in performance trajectories. Minbashian,
Earl and Bright (in press) examined performance trajectories of 129 newly employed
professionals. They found that performance plateaued on average at 2.93 years, and then started
to decline. Performance deceleration was slower for those higher on Openness, which reflects the
higher levels of learning orientation for those high on Openness, which may lead them to focus
on mastering tasks that are beneficial for performance in the long term according to Minbashian
et al. (in press). The results of studies that look at the dynamic relations of personality and
performance are compelling, but until recently have lacked a strong theoretical framework for
understanding the pattern of relations. TAT affords such a theoretical lens. Maintenance and
transitional job stages are simply two forms of situational features that act as contexts for job
performance. Work presents people with a wider variety of challenges and a richer palette of
situational variance, to which they must respond in order to facilitate performance and growth
over time.
Taken together, the findings of studies looking at performance trajectories and the
theoretical frameworks used to understand them suggest a clearer picture of how personality traits
influence performance and growth in people’s working lives. Through the course of their careers,
people encounter a variety of different job demands. These demands act as situational cues that
activate personality traits, and trigger responses. The nature of those responses in context
influences their relative effectiveness, with clear implications for performance, advancement and
growth over time. Conscientiousness appears to predict performance growth and general
performance effort over time, Openness rather predicts adaptation and is more important in
transitional contexts. Results such as those of Thoresen et al. (2004) also point to job specificity
in these processes.
Although there is now increasing societal debate about the appropriate age for retirement,
at a certain point of time every worker is allowed or obliged to retreat from the professional
labour market. Given the significance of this key life experience, individuals’ adaptation to
retirement has been a focal point for researchers as well as more popular media (Wang, 2007).
However, we found only one longitudinal study. Löckenhoff, Terracciano, and Costa (2009)
examined the relations between the Big Five personality traits and the retirement transition,
which reported little evidence indicating that personality traits predict future retirement. Clearly,
given the aging workforce more research is needed in this area.
In this section we have reviewed literature on the longitudinal, dynamic and
developmental relations of personality and work outcomes. During childhood and education,
personality traits set people on a career path, the effects of which one can trace over many
decades. Personality traits at this early stage also help people to navigate specific career and
performance challenges, such as education attainment. In exploring the working world, a variety
of traits predict occupational choices, and also occupational specialties. Those choices may have
later effects on job satisfaction through the attainment of more rewarding and complex job roles.
We have argued for the importance of a dynamic model of performance demands, which
change as a function of time, and present changing stages and contexts within which the effects
of personality play out. While some traits, such as Conscientiousness may have more persistent
performance benefits, others such as Agreeableness and Openness may again help people
navigate specific stages of their careers and occupations, which in turn exert prospective effects
on working life outcomes.
Finally, it is important to note that we covered here a selection of work outcomes from
different domains, including occupational selection, work performance and adjustment, and
occupational health. This does not mean, however, that our list of criteria is exhaustive. The
research on work stress, for instance, could only be briefly touched upon in this review.
Similarly, as noted in the introduction, this review was restricted to cover only general
personality studies, while increasing attention is also being devoted to the prospective effects of
more maladaptive or aberrant personality tendencies on various work-related outcomes (e.g.,
Moscoso & Salgado, 2004; Wille, De Fruyt, & De Clercq, in press).
Reciprocal Relations between Personality and Working Life
Complementing the evidence for the relative stability of personality (Roberts & DelVecchio,
2000), there is now increasing consensus that traits also continue to develop throughout adult life
(Roberts, Robins, Caspi, & Trzesniewski, 2003; Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006), and
personality theory also shifts in that direction. Roberts and colleagues (Lodi-Smith & Roberts,
2007; Roberts, Wood, & Smith, 2005), for instance, propose the Social Investment Principle as a
context-driven mechanism that accounts for changes in traits. The central hypothesis in this
perspective is that age-graded social norms, such as entering a committed relationship or the
workforce, drive personality in the direction of functional maturity, that is, greater emotional
stability, dominance, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The underlying mechanism involves
a process of role taking across different life domains, including work (Wood & Roberts, 2006).
When the individual commits to a social role, his/her personality shifts to reflect the expectations
of that role. Behaviors within these social institutions are rewarded or punished based on role
expectations, and personality change is therefore a response to these contingencies. Normative
changes in personality traits are the result of most people engaging in social institutions (e.g.,
careers, marriage) at roughly the same time.
In the next sections, we provide evidence for this perspective on personality by reviewing
studies, mainly from the personality and the developmental literature, which provide evidence for
the reciprocity of personality and work across different stages in vocational development. As far
as possible, we again draw on Super’s (1980) framework. We will use these findings to argue for
a reframing of personality theory in the IWO literature.
Influences of Schooling on Personality
Already in childhood and early adolescence, aspects of vocational identity are formed that
significantly impact later professional life (Hartung, Porfeli, & Vondracek, 2005). Relatively
little is known, however, about the mechanisms behind childhood work socialization, and how
this impacts personality trait development.
In one recent line of research, schooling is examined as a primary source of work
socialization, influencing trait development. School represents an arena in which students
themselves have to take on duties and responsibilities. They are expected to commit to the
particular role expectations and social norms to master the challenges of everyday school life
(Bleidorn, in press). Successful investment in this school role would require students to be task
and goal directed, to be organized, to delay gratification, to follow prescribed norms, and to use
effortful strategies.
In a recent study of 910 German high school students, Bleidorn (in press), examined to
what extent investment in this student role influenced personality trait change, focusing on the
period before high school graduation. This period can be considered a “strong situation” likely to
promote personality trait change, because it includes a press for a new way of behaving while
providing clear information how to behave adaptively (Bleidorn, in press). Results indicated that
the rising goal of a successful graduation stimulated role-congruent behavior, which was in turn
related to increases in Conscientiousness.
The College Years: Personality and Preparation for Working Life
As we have discussed, the college years are important professionally because they
influence future vocational directions. However, for many people, the three, four, or five years at
college also represent an important phase in their personal lives. Often, it is a stage of life in
which people start or intensify the establishment of a personal and independent identity, using the
specific challenges during this life stage (e.g., living independently, creating a new personal
network, etc.) as building blocks. In developmental terms, these college years cover a period of
“emerging” adulthood (Arnett, 2000), when individuals make major decisions concerning the
shape and content of their life course: Will they marry? Will they have children? Which career
will they pursuethe one with high financial rewards or the one that is personally rewarding?
Inspired by these questions, Roberts, O’Donnell, and Robins (2004) examined
developmental trajectories in major life goals (i.e. economic, aesthetic, social, relationship,
political, hedonistic, and religious) over a 4-year period covering the college years. Participants
rated the importance of their life goals six times over a 4-year period and completed a measure of
the Big Five personality traits at the beginning and end of college. The authors found a strong
pattern of correspondence between the concurrent correlational pattern and the across-time
change patterns. For example, Agreeableness was positively correlated with relationship goals
(e.g., desiring a family), and changes in this trait were also positively associated with changes in
this specific life goal. Similar observations were reported by Harms, Roberts and Winter (2006)
who found that the traits that led an individual to fit well with the college environment were
enhanced by the experience of being in that environment and increased over time. According to
Roberts, Caspi, and Moffitt (2003), the major implication of this corresponsive mechanism is that
each person’s developmental path is in part determined by his or her pre-existing personality
characteristics, and most people follow a path that deepens and reinforces those characteristics
over time.
Of course, not everyone going through this period of young adulthood chooses the higher
academic track, rather choosing a vocational track entering the working world somewhat earlier.
Lüdtke, Roberts, Trautwein, and Nagy (2011) reported that these different life paths during
emerging adulthood were predictive for different trait change patterns, particularly for
Agreeableness and Conscientiousness (measured in their sample at 3 time points over 4 years).
Entering some form of vocational training was negatively linked to growth in Agreeableness,
indicating that on average participants who took the vocational track did not increase as fast on
Agreeableness. In contrast, following the vocational track was positively linked to growth in
Conscientiousness. The authors concluded that the changes that occur as a result of following
these different paths reflect the idiosyncratic nature of the types of experiences found for this life
path. Specifically, people embarking on more work-oriented tracks are supposed to be called
upon to show potential employers that they are viable future employees by being hardworking
and industrious. Conversely, the more competitive nature of these activities may lead to an
increased attenuation of agreeableness in this stage of life.
Career Exploration: Effect of Early Work Experiences on Personality
Probably even more than moving from high school to college, the transition from college
to work requires a significant change in mind for many individuals. From a developmental as
well as from a vocational perspective, the initial years on the labour market are extremely
important for future adaptation and adjustment. A handful of studies have examined the effects of
initial work experiences on a broad range of personality-related variables. Roberts, Caspi and
Moffitt (2003) found a broad range of early career work experiences (i.e. occupational
attainment, resource power, work satisfaction, work involvement, financial security, work
autonomy, and work stimulation) to influence changes in affective dispositions such as measured
by the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ; Tellegen, 1982).
More recently, Wille, Beyers and De Fruyt (2012) tracked young adults’ personality and
vocational development across the first 15 years after graduation. In a longitudinal college alumni
sample, these authors specifically examined the reciprocal relations between FFM trait change
and work experiences over this time interval, differentiating between six universal career roles
(Maker, Expert, Presenter, Guide, Director, and Inspirator; Hoekstra, 2011). The results indicated
that change in career role engagement was associated with change in four of the five personality
traits over the same time interval. Only for Openness, no significant associations were found
between trait change and change in career role engagement. Importantly, the results indicated that
increases in career role engagement generally stimulated normative personality trait development.
For example, normative decreases in Neuroticism were more pronounced for individuals showing
stronger increases in director, presenter, and inspirator roles. Similarly, normative increases in
Conscientiousness were more pronounced for individuals showing stronger increases in director,
inspirator, guide, and expert roles. This is consistent with other research demonstrating that
investment in the work role contributes to normative personality development (e.g., Roberts,
Caspi, et al., 2003). However, the results also illustrate how investment in certain aspects of the
work role can contribute to non-normative trait development (i.e., changes in personality traits
that run counter to general trends). Specifically, Wille and colleagues (2012) found that stronger
increases in the director and inspirator role during the first career stage were associated with
smaller increases or even decreases in Agreeableness. Apparently, these two career roles impose
certain behaviors or tendencies to people that buffer or hinder the naturally expected growth in
Agreeableness. Prior research had already demonstrated that non-normative trait change in young
adulthood is associated with de-investment in the work role, like engagement in
counterproductive work behaviors (Roberts, Walton, Bogg, & Caspi, 2006). The results of the
study by Wille et al. (2012) shed a new light on this domain by showing that stronger work role
involvement not necessarily contributes to normative personality development, but that the effect
rather depends on the specific work role content.
Personality Development and Successful Career Establishment
Over the long period of career establishment and maintenance, the social investment
perspective on personality development becomes particularly salient. A key principle in the social
investment perspective is that successful investment in social roles, including the work role,
should be a driving force behind trait development. While the IWO literature has up until now
mainly focused on the validity of traits to predict objective and subjective aspects of career
success, research in the personality domain has started to investigate such reciprocal relations
over the past decade (Roberts, Caspi, et al., 2003; Roberts & Chapman, 2000; Scollon & Diener,
2006; Sutin et al., 2009).
In terms of subjective career success, Scollon and Diener (2006) examined the
associations between change in extraversion and neuroticism on the one hand, and change in
work role satisfaction on the other. They also explored patterns of trait change and reciprocal
relations with work role satisfaction separately for a younger (under age 30) versus an older (age
30 and over) group of adults. Despite impressive rank-order stability of traits (r > .60 over the 8-
year interval), significant within-person changes in neuroticism and extraversion were identified.
Interestingly, individuals over age 30 exhibited just as much change as those under 30, thus
refuting the idea that personality becomes “set like plaster” by age 30 or that development slows
down after young adulthood (Costa & McCrae, 2006). Regarding reciprocal effects, it was first
found that increased work satisfaction accompanied decreases in neuroticism and increases in
extraversion over time. Again, correlations among changes were similar for the older and
younger samples, indicating that transactional influences on development are not limited to
young adulthood or the early years of the career. Although the cross-lagged analyses provided
more evidence for trait effects on (change in) work satisfaction, modest support was also gathered
for work satisfaction leading to increased extraversion, a finding that supports social investment
perspectives on trait development. At least, these findings lend further support for the idea that
the social environment, including the work role, shapes personality and vice versa (Scollon &
Diener, 2006).
More recently, Sutin and Costa (Sutin et al., 2009) considered indicators of extrinsic
career success (i.e. occupational prestige and personal income) as a source of personality trait
change. Cross-lagged models were used to test whether personality predicted change in career
success over a 10-year interval and, likewise, whether these markers predicted change in
personality. The longitudinal analyses provided clear evidence for reciprocal effects, at least
among younger participants. Specifically, earning a higher income at baseline predicted decreases
in Neuroticism across the 10 subsequent years.
Personality Change in Retirement
In contrast to the general consensus that retirement is a major life transition (Theriault,
1994) that might deeply affect patterns of everyday activities and social network composition,
there exists surprisingly little research on retirement in relation to aspects of personality trait
change. One notable exception is the study of Löckenhoff et al. (2009) that we already discussed
in the first part of our review. This study did not only examine longitudinal effects of the Big
Five personality traits but also scrutinized reciprocal relations between personality and the
retirement transition. For most aspects of personality, longitudinal analyses revealed high levels
of stability across the retirement transition. However, a number of significant retirement-related
changes in more specific aspects of extraversion and agreeableness were observed. After
retirement, participants described themselves as less fast-paced and vigorous (decreased E4:
Activity) as well as less competitive and argumentative (increased A4: Compliance) than before.
Although evidence is still scarce, these examples carefully suggest that retirement might come
with a specific set of challenges relevant to personality development.
We here presented studies from the personality and the development field that provide
evidence for reciprocal relations between personality and work across different career stages.
First, graduation from high school was identified as one of the primary transitional experiences in
an individual’s pre-vocational life calling for personality changes in the direction of greater
maturity. In the same line, college experiences are predicted by and predict personality traits, and
different life paths (educational vs. vocational tracks) during this demographically dense period
of emerging adulthood seem to play a significant role therein. When eventually entering the labor
market, occupational choices are made that generally serve to reinforce and deepen those
personal characteristics that got people selected into these work environments in the first place, a
mechanism referred to as the corresponsive principle. Similarly, certain traits, like emotional
stability, predict the establishment of career success, a process that in turn contributes to
normative personality development (e.g., increases in emotional stability).
Findings like these are consistent with the perspective we have previously adopted:
different stages of vocational development present dynamic and specific challenges to individuals
relevant for personality development, and successful work role investment generally elicits trait
changes in the direction of greater functional maturity. However, as we will discuss below, the
relatively small amount of research that is available on this topic at the same time calls for a
number of refinements of this theoretical perspective in order to make it a promising avenue for
future research and theory building in IWO settings
In this review, we first highlighted the ways in which personality contributes to the paths
people take in their working lives, their effectiveness and success, followed by the ways in which
work contributes to establishment, development and change of people’s personality. This final
section is intended to integrate these two separate literatures. One observation from this review is
that research on the longitudinal, dynamic, and reciprocal associations between work and
personality constitutes quite a small literature. This most likely reflects the difficulty and the
strong methodological requirements for conducting such research. That said, it is obvious that
there is an urgent need for more longitudinal studies of personality and work and their reciprocal
effects. Moreover, it is clear that various implications for conceptual development and empirical
research in IWO psychology emerge when blending these two detached research lines. These are
discussed in greater detail in the sections below.
Implications for Theory
The theoretical implications of integrating these separated research streams are manifold,
though concentrate on three major issues at this stage, which have far-reaching consequences for
theories of personality, work and vocational experiences and contexts, and theories on person-
organization fit and dynamics respectively.
Do we Need to Reconsider the Stability of Traits? This question first stems from the
general observation that traits continue to develop throughout adulthood, as evidenced by
normative change patterns established across different raters and cultures (McCrae &
Terracciano, 2005). According to the Five-Factor Theory of personality (FFT; McCrae & Costa,
2003), these normative changes result from a specific genetic predisposition to change,
independent from environmental influences. An alternative explanation, however, is provided by
perspectives emphasizing the role of social contextual factors on personality development, such
as the Social Investment (Roberts et al., 2005) or the Sociogenic (Inkeles & Levinson, 1963)
theories, which posit that investment in social institutions, including the work role, drive
normative personality development.
Our review has shown that personality not only predicts career choices, but that our
experiences in the work role also influence personality change. However, we also showed that
there may be vocation- or occupation-specific effects on individual’s personality development.
Our review of the dynamic associations of personality and work outcomes indicated that traits
that are accommodating in one vocational environment, or at a specific career or job stage, may
be of less use or even a hindrance in others. Therefore, when studying the transactions between
personality development and investment in the work role, it seems crucial to take specific
vocational characteristics into account (see also Wille, Beyers, & De Fruyt, 2012) in order to
adequately model and understand individual personality developmental trajectories.
Our review highlights, for the first time in the IWO psychology literature, evidence
suggesting reciprocal influences between personality and work experiences, which are non-
normative, and rather dependent on vocational characteristics. Although it is unlikely to expect
dramatic personality change, the literature today suggests normative and individual personality
changes, challenging the assumption of traits as constructs that are not malleable or insensitive to
change. Investment in the worker role is the mechanism to explain normative changes according
to the social investment theory, whereas specific elements from the work environment or work
experiences further impact on individual personality development trajectories. The implications
of such findings are that personality theories will have to explain both stability, but also
normative and individual changes, giving work experiences a key position in explaining
individual developmental trajectories.
How to Theoretically Frame these Reciprocal Processes? Although different theoretical
frameworks exist to account for differences in the occupational environment affecting
personality, these have remained largely absent from the literature on personality development
and work experiences. Below, we give a non- exhaustive overview of three well-established
theories prominent in the IWO literature that are worth considering in this context.
A first theoretical perspective from the IWO literature that can be helpful to better frame
and understand reciprocity between personality and work is the Theory of Work Adjustment
(TWA; Dawis & Lofquist, 1984). A basic assumption of this theory is that each individual seeks
to achieve and maintain correspondence with the environment, and work represents a major
environment to which most individuals must relate. In general, this dynamic process entails both
active and reactive adjustment, the latter referring to an individual’s attempts to change his/her
behavioral tendencies, personal priorities, and/or work values in order to better suit the
Second, in Trait Activation Theory (TAT; Tett & Burnett, 2003), behavior results from an
interaction between person and situation, with situations acting as cues to activate certain traits.
Specific traits are expressed in behavior when the situation or context allows freedom of trait
expression, and when the features of the situation activate those specific traits. We proposed that
TAT is relevant in the longitudinal examination of personality and its interaction with work
because over time, the demands, contexts and situational features of work are in a state of flux.
Moreover, repeated activation of certain traits may, over time, stimulate trait changes tuned to the
work environment.
Finally, a review of personality and career development theory would be incomplete
without mentioning John Holland’s seminal contribution to this area (Holland, 1997). To most
OB and career researchers, Holland’s theory is about the selection of personality-congruent
vocational or educational environments. It is far less widely acknowledged, however, that this
theory also explicitly describes reciprocal effects. It is, for instance, argued that people in
Enterprising environments acquire or are reinforced for traits such as ambition, energy,
assertiveness, sociability, etc. (Holland, 1997, p. 47). A central but still heavily underexposed
aspect of Holland’s theory is about the (socialization) effects of vocational environments on those
personality traits that selected people in these environments in the first place.
Discussing these different theories, it is clear that these need to be considered as
complementary rather than competing or mutually exclusive frameworks, since they mainly
differ in the explanatory processes about how traits and elements from the work environment are
intertwined, but are convergent on the central notion of interdependency of traits and work
characteristics that mutually affect each other. The implication is that reciprocal processes
between traits and occupational characteristics (a) can be studied from these different theoretical
frames, (b) that findings from reciprocal research should be integrated in these different theories,
and (c) that elements from all perspectives will have to be incorporated into a dynamic
developmental model of personality and work.
Towards A Dynamic Developmental Model of Personality and Work
We believe that there is sufficient evidence in our review to propose an initial version of a
dynamic developmental model (DDM) of personality and work, which integrates all key
theoretical perspectives we have touched upon. In this DDM, traits should be conceptualized as
being in constant interaction with work-related activities and environments, and are activated in
the context of different career stages and job contexts.
In early life, traits lead children to develop preferences for certain work activity, learn
associated competencies and skills, and establish vocational identities. Collectively, these
processes set people on a pathway of education and training, which in part reflect their interests,
but within which success is dependent on a core set of performance and learning related traits
(e.g. Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability and Openness), which help to motivate people to
work hard, master new things, and approach tasks without fear of failure. The corresponsive
principle proposes that as such traits are activated and used, they are strengthened and deepened,
so that by giving advantage in education, they may give similar advantage in working life,
explaining the longitudinal association of these traits with career and life success.
As people enter the working world, their choices are influenced by personality and
preferences for occupational characteristics. People are attracted to tasks and activities that appeal
to and suit their traits. Sociogenic theory and Social Investment theory propose that the work that
people do influences the development of their traits, and the longer a person works in a particular
career path, the more invested s/he is, and the deeper the dependence of traits on work
experience. From a TAT perspective, this might represent the repeated activation, and
automatization of situational responses. By these mechanisms, the mere participation in the
working world leads to our work becoming a core part of our personality, and while we are on a
stable and established career path, contributing to the long-term stability of our identity and
Longitudinal stability of personality may owe much to the processes of developing
preferences for activities, practising them, applying them in a job, strengthening them, and then
remaining in a career in which they are persistently activated from age 25 through to 65.
Overtime, the dynamic demands of jobs mean that different traits are likely to be relevant to
performance and success, and this perspective helps us to move our understanding on from the
cross-sectional or short term validity of traits for predicting performance, to a richer
understanding of when, how, and in what ways personality traits might help us to understand the
divergences, convergences, twists and turns of people’s working lives.
Avenues for Future Empirical Research
At the backdrop of our review it becomes clear that there are almost no studies that
examine the reciprocal effects of personality and work in the IWO literature. All of the studies we
have reviewed on this issue are more aligned to the personality and developmental literature. We
have positioned work as being arguably the most important institutional contextual influence on
personality in people’s lives, and the absence of a literature on how work affects personality
development may represent one of the biggest oversights in the field. Studies in this area may
more clearly reinforce the centrality of IWO psychology in understanding personality. Below we
highlight some avenues for future research.
Trait Development and Work Congruence. As noted above, one finding from our review
is about how work contributes to trait stability through reinforcing traits in a reciprocal way. The
relationship in this case is one of congruence, by which traits are congruent with work
environments. In this context it is important to know what kind of environmental characteristics
affect and deepen specific traits, and especially how salient such characteristics or how frequent
or intense such work experiences need to be for impacting upon traits. In addition, we do not
know whether some traits are more vulnerable to change than others given specific appropriate
environmental characteristics. We believe that the concept of congruence and deepening of traits
is particularly relevant for selection researchers, selecting for specific personality profiles. The
issue at stake here is how such desirable profiles can be progressively deepened and consolidated,
by exposing new recruits to congruent first work experiences. Research on how such congruence
can be achieved is strongly warranted.
Trait Development and Work Incongruence. Individuals may also experience
incongruence between their traits and the environment. What might the implications be for
personality change in such cases? An example of incongruence would be an introverted person
who decides or finds him or herself in a job that requires them to be more extraverted and
sociable. The traditional perspective would be that such conflict results in strain, and that
behavior would persistently be perceived by the person as in conflict with their personality.
Based on our DDM of personality and work, an alternative outcome might be a real shift in
personality traits as a response to the incongruence. Although it is unlikely that a person low on
Extraversion will suddenly become high on the dimension, modest change might be a possibility.
The concept of incongruence and its consequences is extremely important for IWO psychologists
interested in targeted personality change. Coaching and development, for instance, often involves
helping people to understand strengths and areas of inconsistency between traits and work
requirements. So a further area for new research is on personality trait change in response to
incongruence, and developmental interventions such as coaching, training, or on-job learning.
Career Developmental Transitions in Contemporary Working Life. The contemporary
protean career perspective implies increased career mobility, with more frequent job changes but
also prolonged careers, including new developmental transition points. Whereas the beginning
career phase typically included multiple transition roles (leaving school, start living
independently, entering a job, first stable relationship(s), etc.), the changing career landscape,
involving multiple jobs over an extended time interval ranging from 21 to beyond 65, introduces
new challenges for research. Questions about the role of personality in this new career context
remain unanswered in research.
Moreover, an understudied area uncovered in our review is post-work experience. There
is a lack of literature particularly on the longitudinal personality associates of retirement. Yet next
to entry into the working world, the retirement transition is potentially one of the most important
contexts for adjustment and change. Given the importance of work as a context for behavior
through most of adult life, the sudden removal of that context is almost certain to have
developmental consequences. We believe this constitutes an important area for future research
with far reaching consequences for IWO psychology and society in general.
Methodological Considerations
In developing literature in this area, methodological challenges are presented by the need
for longitudinal designs, and analyses that model change. In depth reviews of these
methodological issues are already available (Ferrer & McArdle, 2010; Ployhart & Vandenberg,
2010), but here we will comment on a selected number of important decisions to be made when
setting up studies intended to address the longitudinal dynamic and developmental interplay of
personality and work.
First, empirical tests of our initial DDM of personality and work require true longitudinal
designs in which both personality and the work aspects of interest are tracked over time. Two
important choices need to be considered in this context. First, the number of assessments needs to
be decided upon, an issue that has also extensively been discussed elsewhere (Ployhart &
Vandenberg, 2010). In the context of the research topic addressed in this review, and keeping in
mind the relative dearth of studies that has investigated reciprocity in work and personality, we
would argue that two assessment points (or waves) is the absolute minimum. However designs
with three or more waves of data offer a number of important advantages with regard to the
statistical modelling of change, including the possibility to examine nonlinear change trajectories
and a closer examination of the directionality in reciprocal effects. Nevertheless, valuable
insights in this relatively young field of research on the reciprocity of work and personality have
already resulted from excellent studies that adopted the right statistical techniques to study
change using two-wave designs (e.g., Wu & Griffin, 2012).
A second, related decision concerns the length of the time intervals, which should be
guided by relevant theory. When studying reciprocal effects between work and personality, it is
important to bear in mind that personality change is modest in nature. Typically, individuals do
experience dramatic transformation, but rather gradually develop over long periods of time (e.g.,
10 years; Roberts & Wood, 2006). Many of the studies that we reviewed here indeed drew on
longitudinal data collection projects that spanned over 5 to 10 years. However, some studies also
adopted a different strategy, focusing on theoretically critical development points (e.g. Bleidorn,
in press; examining high-school graduation). We see this as a good example of how to study the
effects of important transition moments in the professional career on aspects of personality
without having to invest in a 10-year longitudinal design.
Analytical Considerations
Alongside appropriate longitudinal study design comes the selection of appropriate
statistical models for examining dynamics. One such approach is latent change score (LCS)
models (McArdle, 2009). This technique has remained rather absent from the IWO literature.
LCS models combine assessment of change (i.e. growth or decline) and dynamics among
multiple processes, and are therefore particularly appropriate to evaluate hypotheses involving
both interrelations among various constructs, and changes in those constructs over time (Ferrer &
McArdle, 2010).
However, a limitation of LCS is that no causal inferences are justified. While LCS models
enable analyses that attenuate ambiguities in the directional effects between interrelated
processes, this is not equivalent to establishing causal inferences. For those, researchers would
need to combine the dynamic longitudinal methodology described above with experimental
designs that can rule out third variable effects. Clearly, such studies are challenging to carry out
in the context of reciprocal effects between personality and work. However, we invite scholars to
come up with creative research that combines the strengths of longitudinal approaches with more
experimental approaches. We further encourage IWO scholars to be inspired by research from
other disciplines in psychology, such as developmental psychology, where such methodologies
are more widely adopted.
Just like this review has demonstrated not only longitudinal but also reciprocal influences
between traits and occupational characteristics, its discussion should be seen as a call for IWO
and personality psychologists to join research lines that mutually fertilize each other’s discipline
with real impact on their respective professional fields. In the nineties, trait psychology got a
strong boost via the meta-analytic work done in IWO psychology underscoring the validity of
traits to predict various occupational criteria. We hope that our review of some challenging
research findings in the area of developmental personality psychology and the identification of
some promising research lines has a similar effect on research in IWO psychology.
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... Research on personality traits in the context of work and organizational psychology has rested on the foundations of taxonomic research into personality structure (e.g., Goldberg, 1990). The emergence and gathered consensus around the Big Five structure from the lexical approach to personality structure research (Goldberg, 1990) and Five-Factor Model (FFM;McCrae & Costa, 2008) of personality traits enabled renewed inter est and examination of the criterion effects of traits via seminal meta-analyses and a growing research literature since, in turn providing greater understanding of the role of personality traits in work and organizational settings (Woods et al., 2013). The utility of alternative taxonomic models in organizational assessment has typically been judged based on incremental prediction of criteria. ...
... The preceding review of the foundations and state-of-the-art of research literatures on the conceptualization and assessment of personality at work highlight examples of the mutual, and often interdependent progress of, what might be thought of as pure personality science, and applied research in organizational psychology (Woods et al., 2013). Such examples illustrate how historically, personality researchers and organiza tional psychologists have greatly benefited from advancements in each other's research domains, reciprocally enriching their respective contributions to psychological science. ...
... Finally, variability in personality can also be approached from a long-term perspective whereby the focus lies on change in traits over several years rather than on fluctuations in states over minutes or hours (Woods et al., 2013). The study of personality trait development in relation to work is a good example of two research disciplines joining forces: Personality science making a case for trait development throughout adulthood, and organizational science providing the necessary insights into the (multi-layered and multi-faceted) nature of work (Woods et al., 2019). ...
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Studies of personality at work have made significant contributions to theory and applied practice in work and organizational settings. This review article proposes that there are also reciprocal influences between core personality science and research on personality in work and organizations, each drawing on insights from the other. Following this tradition, the objective of this article is to review key foundations of research in a way that informs and critically reflects on state-of-the-art evidence in four main themes: (1) conceptualization and structure of personality at work, (2) personality assessment in work settings, (3) personality processes and dynamics at work, and (4) impact of situations on personaliy at work. Critically reflections on key implications, and directions for future research are presented, anticipating how the field may adapt to the changing nature of work and society.
... The corresponsive principle tends to focus on the fi t between personality and environment and the reinforcing eff ect of environment on existing personality, while suggesting that a misfi t between personality and environment will result in alienation such that individuals will attempt to escape a prolonged exposure to such an experience (Roberts et al, 2003 ). However, it is important to recognise that even when a misfi t occurs, rather than taking an avoidant approach, people can choose to transform their job experiences, such as by modifying their environment, shifting their attention or reappraising their experiences so that their environment better suits their needs and the personality-environment misfi t can be reduced (Denissen et al, 2013 ;Stoll & Trautwein, 2017 ;Roberts, 2006 ;Woods et al, 2013;Woods et al, 2019 ). A number of theoretical models of personality change at work, as we discuss in the following section, provide a more detailed elaboration on such a process. ...
... However, studies -especially those conducted more recently -tend to employ a proper cross-lagged design, with measurements of both personality and work-related factors collected at multiple time points Li et al, 2014Li et al, , 2019Roberts, 1997 ;Sutin & Costa, 2010 ;Wille et al, 2012Wille et al, , 2019Wille & De Fruyt, 2014 ;Wu, 2016 ;Wu & Griffi n, 2012 ;Wu et al, 2015Wu et al, , 2020. It is important to highlight that only the latter type of study, which represents true longitudinal design, can yield accurate fi ndings about the relationship between personality change and work (Woods et al, 2013 ). Ideally, we need studies that include multiple measurement occasions rather than relying on only two waves of data collection -such a design is limited in unpacking change trajectory, investigating non-linear eff ect, validating continuity and change patterns, and examining directionality in the reciprocal eff ects (Caspi et al, 2005 ;Woods et al, 2013 ). ...
... It is important to highlight that only the latter type of study, which represents true longitudinal design, can yield accurate fi ndings about the relationship between personality change and work (Woods et al, 2013 ). Ideally, we need studies that include multiple measurement occasions rather than relying on only two waves of data collection -such a design is limited in unpacking change trajectory, investigating non-linear eff ect, validating continuity and change patterns, and examining directionality in the reciprocal eff ects (Caspi et al, 2005 ;Woods et al, 2013 ). ...
... Subjects intuitively select occupations that suit their personality, which strengthens and reinforces those personality attributes which led to the occupation being chosen in the first place. 41 We cannot assume that the same environment will precipitate identical changes in all individuals. Different employees may see their personalities change in differing directions because of working in the same role. ...
... Employees who see both these pressures to change personality as positive and welcome any changes they perceive their occupation to have caused may report greater job satisfaction. 41 It would be valuable for future research to identify personality profiles that are most likely to see the greatest positive temporal change in personality by working in a given occupation for a prolonged period. ...
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Introduction: Despite its influence on occupational performance and team dynamics, there has been little research into the personality of dental professionals. Existing research does not typically use the prevailing five-factor model of personality. We aimed to measure the personality of dental professionals in the United Kingdom and investigate differences among groups. Methods: The sample (n = 906) comprised dental nurses (n = 475), general dental practitioners (GDPs) (n = 182), orthodontists (n = 201), and oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMFSs) (n = 48). Recruitment was via email and social media. The questionnaire collected data on demographic variables and contained the Big Five Inventory, a validated self-report personality test. Participants scored on extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness neuroticism, and openness. A one-way analysis of variance and post-hoc tests with Bonferroni correction were used to identify significant differences in personality between occupations. Hierarchical multiple regression determined the influence of occupation over and above demographic variables. Results: On a 5-point scale, orthodontists had a mean conscientiousness score 0.23 points higher than GDPs (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.10-0.36). Dental nurses had a mean conscientiousness score 0.28 points higher than GDPs (95% CI, 0.17-0.39). Dental nurses had a mean agreeableness score 0.16 points higher than orthodontists (95% CI, 0.05-0.27) and 0.30 points higher than OMFSs (95% CI, 0.10-0.50). For neuroticism, orthodontists had a mean score 0.21 points lower than dental nurses (95% CI, 0.06-0.36), and OMFSs had a mean score 0.43 points lower than dental nurses (95% CI, 0.16-0.70). GDPs had a mean neuroticism score 0.43 points higher than OMFSs (95% CI, 0.14-0.71; P = 0.001). Differences were small to moderate in size (d = 0.35-0.45) and occupation was associated with personality after accounting for demographic variables. Conclusions: The personalities of dental nurses, GDPs, orthodontists, and OMFSs differed. Occupation was associated with differences in personality after accounting for demographic characteristics.
... However, given the mainly correlational study designs, clear empirical evidence for the causal ordering among the variables in the nomological net of goal orientation is sparse (VandeWalle et al., 2019). However, research has shown that working in a particular environment can lead to changes in dispositional traits (e.g., Woods et al., 2013). With regard to goals, specifically designed interventions have also been shown to alter goal orientation (e.g., Wang et al., 2018). ...
... On the other hand, we found that a workplace that is directed towards personal growth and provides opportunities to learn, also seems to stimulate learning goal orientation in employees. Our finding supports the idea that goal structures at work can alter (rather stable) variables (Woods et al., 2013) and might stimulate future practical approaches to promote learning goal orientation among employees (Liu & Xiang, 2020;Wang et al., 2018). This relationship is in line with findings from the educational context (e.g. ...
A workplace that emphasizes personal learning and task mastery fosters employee development and performance. However, it is yet unclear which specific factors support such a learning goal-oriented workplace. Based on research in the educational domain, we investigated the reciprocal effects of dispositional learning goal orientation, supervisor's appraisal behavior, and a learning goal-oriented workplace. In a study with a repeated measurement design (N = 144 employees), we did not find support for an effect of supervisor's appraisal behavior (operationalized by the perceived use of self-reference norms and constructive handling of errors by employees) on workplace learning goal orientation over time. However, we found that a dispositional learning goal orientation of employees supports a learning goal-oriented work environment. Furthermore, workplace learning goal orientation had a cross-lagged effect on dispositional learning goal orientation and supervisor's appraisal behavior. By comparing our results from work to findings from the educational context, our results convey important theoretical implications about the construct of workplace goal orientation and suggest practical applications to foster a learning goal-oriented workplace in terms of personnel development and performance management.
... Similarly, in applied psychology, increasing attention for dynamic aspects of personality has led to a better understanding of how work and personality are reciprocally intertwined (e.g., Podsakoff et al., 2019;Woods et al., 2013). On a conceptual level, the TAT (Tett et al., 2021) is particularly relevant in this regard, and posits that personality traits are expressed as valued (work) behaviour in response to trait-relevant situational cues. ...
Narcissism is heavily investigated in psychology, including work and organizational psychology. Despite research underscoring that narcissism has a meaningful state component, there is currently no research available on within-person fluctuations in narcissism at work. The current study explores the role of particular activities that can either enhance or reduce narcissism states while at work. Specifically, the effects of agentic (i.e., directing and achieving) and communal (i.e., relating and coaching) work activities on state narcissism are examined in a sample of 121 supervisors. We assessed the work activities and supervisors’ state of narcissism two times a day over a 10-day period. Concurrent and lagged associations were examined using Dynamic Structural Equation Modelling (DSEM). The results first indicated a substantial amount of momentous fluctuation in narcissism, with up to 12% of the variability in supervisors’ narcissism scores being situated at the within-person level. Further, two types of work activities (i.e., achieving and coaching) were found to have a positive (enhancing) effect on supervisors’ state narcissism. None of the work activities emerged as a factor reducing state narcissism in this study. Implications and future research directions are discussed.
... However, some issues concerning personality's role in the workplace are still unresolved, remaining dormant throughout the past decades. First, one of the most severe criticisms regarding personality in the workplace has to do with its relatively low validity in predicting various work-relevant outcomes, personality traits typically accounting for less that ten percent unique variance in job performance (Woods et al., 2013). This issue remains one of critical unresolved challenges understanding the actual importance of individual differences in the workplace (e.g., Morgeson et al., 2007;Ones et al., 2007). ...
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This study analyzes grit's validity in predicting several work-relevant outcomes (in-role performance, counter-productive work behaviors, job satisfaction) over the Five-Factor Model, and core self-evaluations. Hierarchical regression analyses were used in order to estimate grit's incremental validity over the canonical five-factor dimensions and core-self-evaluation. Findings indicate that grit does not explain significant amounts of variance in job-related outcomes.
... Amennyiben a személyiségjegyek változását az idő múlásával kapcsolatosan vizsgáljuk meg, akkor ki kell emelnünk, hogy az egyének személyisége előrejelzi a pályaválasztásukat és a munkaszerepben szerzett tapasztalatok befolyásolják az egyén személyiségének változását. Woods et al. (2013) kiemeli, hogy léteznek hivatás-vagy foglalkozásspecifikus hatások a munkavállalók személyiségfejlődésére: azok a tulajdonságok, amelyek egy adott hivatásos környezetben vagy egy adott karrier-vagy munkaszakaszban előnyt jelentenek, máshol kevésbé hasznosak vagy akár akadályozóak is lehetnek. ...
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A munka és vele együtt a karrier kulcsfontosságú szerepet tölt be az egyének életében, hiszen a sikeres hivatás, illetve a kedvezően fejlődő pályafutás meghatározó eleme a beteljesült és boldog életnek. A karrierutakkal foglalkozó szakirodalom egyik lényeges kérdése, hogy léteznek-e konkrét személyiségjegyek, amelyek előrevetítik, befolyásolják a sikeres karriert. A szerző tanulmányában a szisztematikus szakirodalmi áttekintés módszerével meghatározza és csoportosítja azokat a személyiségjegyeket, amelyek hatást gyakorolnak a szakmai mindennapokra és a pályafutás sikerességére. A tanulmány kiemelendő és új értéke, hogy az irodalomkutatás eredménye szerint nem csak a pozitívnak, de a korábban negatívnak hitt személyiségjegyek is előnyösek lehetnek az eredményes karrierút építése során. A szisztematikus szakirodalmi áttekintés összefoglalója rámutat arra is, hogy a csoportosításban szereplő személyiségjegyek milyen további hatással lehetnek a munkavállaló és a munkaadó kapcsolatára és a karrierfejlesztési beavatkozásokra.
Personality has been considered as a driving factor for work engagement, which significantly affects people’s role performance at work. Although existing research has provided some intuitive understanding of the connection between personality traits and employees’ work behaviors, it still lacks effective quantitative tools for modeling personality traits, job position characteristics, and employee work behaviors simultaneously. To this end, in this article, we introduce a data-driven joint Bayesian learning approach, Joint-PJB, to discover explainable joint patterns from massive personality and job-position-related behavioral data. Specifically, Joint-PJB is designed with the knowledgeable guidance of the four-quadrant behavioral model, namely, DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness). Based on the real-world data collected from a high-tech company, Joint-PJB aims to highlight personality-job-behavior joint patterns from personality traits, job responsibilities, and work behaviors. The model can measure the matching degree between employees and their work behaviors given their personality and job position characteristics. We find a significant negative correlation between this matching degree and employee turnover intention. Moreover, we also showcase how the identified patterns can be utilized to support real-world talent management decisions. Both case studies and quantitative experiments verify the effectiveness of Joint-PJB for understanding people’s personality traits in different job contexts and their impact on work behaviors.
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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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This longitudinal study provides an analysis of the relationship between personality traits and work experiences with a special focus on the relationship between changes in personality and work experiences in young adulthood. Longitudinal analyses uncovered 3 findings. First, measures of personality taken at age 18 predicted both objective and subjective work experiences at age 26. Second, work experiences were related to changes in personality traits from age 18 to 26. Third, the predictive and change relations between personality traits and work experiences were corresponsive: Traits that "selected" people into specific work experiences were the same traits that changed in response to those same work experiences. The relevance of the findings to theories of personality development is discussed.
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This personal historical article traces the development of the Big-Five factor structure, whose growing acceptance by personality researchers has profoundly influenced the scientific study of individual differences. The roots of this taxonomy lie in the lexical hypothesis and the insights of Sir Francis Galton, the prescience of L. L. Thurstone, the legacy of Raymond B. Cattell, and the seminal analyses of Tupes and Christal. Paradoxically, the present popularity of this model owes much to its many critics, each of whom tried to replace it, but failed. In reaction, there have been a number of attempts to assimilate other models into the five-factor structure. Lately, some practical implications of the emerging consensus can be seen in such contexts as personnel selection and classification.
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In 3 prior meta-analyses, the relationship between the Big Five factors of personality and job criteria was investigated. However, these meta-analyses showed different findings. Furthermore, these reviews included studies carried out only in the United States and Canada. This study reports meta-analytic research on the same topic but with studies conducted in the European Community, which were not included in the prior reviews. The results indicate that Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability are valid predictors across job criteria and occupational groups. The remaining factors are valid only for some criteria and for some occupational soups. Extraversion was a predictor for 2 occupations, and Openness and Agreeableness were valid predictors of training proficiency. These findings are consistent with M. R. Barrick and M. K. Mount (1991) and L. M. Hough, N. K. Eaten, M. D. Dunnette, J. D. Kamp, and R. A, McCloy (1990). Implications of the results for future research and the practice of personnel selection are suggested.
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This study proposes and tests an alternative methodology to conceptualize and assess aberrant personality tendencies at work beyond the dark triad. A sample of college alumni (N= 247) were administered the NEO PI‐R prior to entering the labor market and 15 years later when their professional careers had unfolded. Drawing on the dimensional perspective on personality functioning, 6 five‐factor model (FFM) aberrant compounds were computed as indicators of aberrant personality tendencies. As expected, FFM aberrant personality tendencies were highly stable across time, with test–retest correlations ranging from .61 (Narcissistic) to .73 (avoidant). With regard to predictive validity, borderline, schizotypal, and avoidant tendencies were negatively associated with extrinsic and intrinsic career outcomes. The obsessive‐compulsive tendency was largely unrelated to career outcomes, whereas individuals with antisocial and narcissistic characteristics tended toward higher hierarchical and financial attainment. In addition, relative importance analyses indicated that (a) FFM aberrant personality tendencies showed incremental validity in the prediction of career outcomes beyond FFM general traits, and that (b) both FFM general and FFM aberrant personality tendencies are important predictors when considered jointly. It is concluded that FFM aberrant personality tendencies suggest interesting avenues for personnel psychologists to form new linear combinations of FFM facets, complementing FFM general domains.
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.
This study tested a model of the relationship between core self-evaluations, intrinsic job characteristics, and job satisfaction Core self-evaluations was assumed to be a broad personality concept manifested in 4 specific traits: self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and low neuroticism. The model hypothesized that both subjective (perceived) job characteristics and job complexity mediate the relationship between core self-evaluations and job satisfaction. Two studies were conducted to test the model. Results from Study 1 supported the hypothesized model but also suggested that alternative models fit the data well. Results from Study 2 revealed that core self-evaluations measured in childhood and in early adulthood were linked to job satisfaction measured in middle adulthood. Furthermore, in Study 2 job complexity mediated part of the relationship between both assessments of core self-evaluations and job satisfaction.
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.
A central problem in social psychology concerns the relevance of individual (and modal) personality for the functioning of sociocultural systems. This problem is of especial interest in the case of the large-scale organization. However, little progress has been made despite the growing literature in this field. Empirical work is often overly narrow or conceptually sectarian. Greater attention should be given, we believe, to the development of a more comprehensive analytic scheme encompassing three major domains: (a) the individual personality; (b) the organization as a collective enterprise; and (c) the interrelations and reciprocal impact of individual and organization. We propose several areas of analysis (sets of variables) within each domain, and we cite two studies that indicate needed directions of further investigation.