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Fifty Shades of Personality: Integrating Five-Factor Model Bright and Dark Sides of Personality at Work

Authors:
FIFTY SHADES OF PERSONALITY 1
Fifty Shades of Personality: Integrating FFM Bright and Dark Sides of Personality at
Work
Bart Wille & Filip De Fruyt
Ghent University, Belgium
Please cite as:
Wille, B. & De Fruyt, F. (2014). Fifty shades of personality: Integrating Five-Factor Model bright
and dark sides of personality at work. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on
Science and Practice, 7, 121-126.
Address correspondence to: Bart Wille, Department of Developmental, Personality, and
Social Psychology, Ghent University. H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent. Belgium. Phone: +32
9 264 64 19. Email: Bart.Wille@ugent.be
Co-author information: Filip De Fruyt, Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social
Psychology, Ghent University. H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent. Belgium. Phone: +32 9 264
64 73. Email: Filip.Defruyt@ugent.be
FIFTY SHADES OF PERSONALITY 2
Guenole (2013) makes a strong case for considering the recent developments in the
abnormal personality literature concerning the conceptualization of maladaptive personality
traits. We specifically applaud his effort in bringing the development of the DSM-5
maladaptive trait model under the attention of applied researchers, as this is an issue that has
until now remained under the radar of work and organizational psychologists. In light of the
increased research attention for maladaptive, aberrant, and/or dysfunctional personality traits
in the work context, his plea is certainly timely. Moreover, given the prevalence of personality
related problems in the population in DSM-5 it is estimated that approximately 15% of U.S.
adults qualify for at least one personality disorder (APA, 2013, pp. 646), which implies that
subclinical tendencies are even much more common maladaptive traits should be of great
interest to all HR professionals involved in employee assessment.
In this commentary, without compromising the importance of the new DSM-5
maladaptive trait model, we will take a closer look at some of his arguments to prefer the new
maladaptive trait model above other, more established conceptualizations of maladaptive
personality at work. A key issue in this regard is whether normal and abnormal trait models
are best conceptualized independent from each other rather than under the umbrella of one
overarching personality model. The historical and artificial distinction between research on
normal and abnormal trait models leads us to reflect on how different normal (bright side) and
abnormal (dark side) traits really are. This commentary is substantiated with the most recent
evidence that comes from the personality literature, reporting significant overlap between the
Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality and personality disorders (Widiger & Costa, 2013).
In a second section, we evaluate whether the new maladaptive trait model is indeed ready to
replace previous conceptualizations of maladaptive personality in the work context as argued
in the focal article. Lastly, we highlight some critical research questions that need to be
FIFTY SHADES OF PERSONALITY 3
addressed in order to substantiate the relevance of the new maladaptive trait model for applied
researchers and, eventually, practitioners.
How Many Personalities Do We Have?
The new DSM-5 maladaptive trait model is presented in Section 3 of DSM-5 as a
model for further evaluation and research, in addition to categorically conceptualized
personality disorders. As Guenole (2013) indicates, this maladaptive trait model is presented
as a maladaptive equivalent of the Big Five. Those who are not well acquainted with the
broad personality literature may now raise the question: How many personalities do we have?
How do these maladaptive or abnormal traits differ from the normal or general traits that we
already know relatively well?
At present, there are three studies that empirically examined the relationship of the
new maladaptive trait model with the Five-Factor Model of general personality (De Fruyt et
al., 2013; Gore & Widiger, 2013; Thomas et al., 2012). De Fruyt et al. (2013) examined the
relationships between the maladaptive personality inventory for DSM-5 (i.e., the PID-5;
Krueger et al., 2012) and a comprehensive operationalization of the FFM (i.e., NEO-PI-3; De
Fruyt & Hoekstra, 2013) in a Belgian undergraduate sample. A joint factor analysis of the
NEO domains and their facets with the PID-5 traits showed that general and maladaptive
traits are subsumed under an umbrella of five to six major dimensions that can be interpreted
from the perspective of the FFM. In order to further test the generalizability of these findings
across cultures and FFM measures, Thomas et al. (2012) tested the correspondence between
the higher-order domains of the new maladaptive trait model and FFM trait models in
American young adults, using a brief 30-item FFM rating form. The use of a brief rating scale
is important because traits, both adaptive and maladaptive, are often rated in applied contexts
were brief inventories are often preferred. The results of a conjoint EFA indicated five higher-
order factors that reflect the domains of the FFM. Finally, Gore and Widiger (2013) examined
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the associations between PID-5 maladaptive trait scores and three measures of alternative
FFMs of general personality. Their analyses provided further support for the idea that the
structure of the DSM-5 traits corresponds to the structure of the FFM, with DSM-5 Negative
Affectivity aligning with FFM Neuroticism, DSM-5 Detachment with low FFM Extraversion,
DSM-5 Antagonism with low FFM Agreeableness, DSM-5 Disinhibition with low FFM
Conscientiousness, and DSM-5 Psychoticism with FFM Openness.
This overlap between the structure of normal and abnormal personality has important
implications. Specifically, this indicates that broad personality trait domains, defined within
the FFM, capture salient aspects of both adaptive and maladaptive personality functioning that
can be measured within the same conceptual space. In his focal article, Guenole (2013)
indicates that previous calls for more research into maladaptive personality in the workplace,
and the paper by De Fruyt and Salgado (2003) in particular, lacked in advocating an
overarching framework to study maladaptive personality. However, already ten years ago
these authors stated that a spectrum conceptualization of normal and abnormal traits
suggests that personality psychopathology and the normal range of differences can be
described on a common set of dimensions, with the FFM as a powerful candidate to account
for adaptive and maladaptive variance” (p. 129). In light of the recent literature on the
convergence between the FFM and the new maladaptive trait model, this call to consider the
FFM as a unifying framework for understanding maladaptive personality at work can only be
repeated. We further believe that this may lower the barriers for IO psychologists to start
considering the maladaptive trait model in their research, given its clear convergence with the
general personality model which is already well-established in this domain.
The structural overlap between normal and abnormal personality models does not
imply that we do not need a maladaptive trait model like the one presented in DSM-5, nor that
there is no need for adequate operationalizations of maladaptive personality traits.
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Specifically, it can and it has been argued that general trait measures such as the NEO-PI-R
do not include enough maladaptive personality content to adequately describe abnormal
personality, even at a subclinical level. The question at hand is whether the personality
inventory for DSM-5 is the right, let alone the only tool, to expand the FFM predictor space
for work and organizational applications. Guenole (2013) indicates that items measuring the
maladaptive trait model, such as “I break agreements”, have high relevance to the workplace.
However, other items, such as “seems to have trouble telling the difference between dreams
and waking life” are probably much less related to workplace functioning. Clearly, this brings
up the issue of instrument contextualization (see further on in this commentary).
Taken together, what we wanted to illustrate here is that this new maladaptive trait
model shows strong convergence with the existing general personality model that applied
personality researchers already know well: different assessment instruments complement each
other in assessing various parts of the broader FFM framework.
The End of Dimensionalized DSM-IV Research?
As Guenole (2013) indicates, much of the previous work on maladaptive personality
traits in work contexts has used a dimensionalized DSM-IV conceptualization of abnormal
personality. These studies either used contextualized measures that were derived from the
DSM-IV disorder prototypes (e.g., The HDS; Hogan & Hogan, 2001) or, more recently,
aberrant personality compounds based on a general FFM trait measure (Wille, De Fruyt, & De
Clercq, 2013). It needs to be stressed that this line of dimensionalized DSM-IV research has
drastically augmented our knowledge on maladaptive and/or aberrant personality tendencies
in the work context, and still has a lot of potential. Although the dimensionalized DSM-IV
approach has its limitations, we believe that those discussed in the focal article are not as
critical as they are portrayed.
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Guenole (2013) first notes that dimensionalized DSM-IV traits are essentially
compound traits that are underpinned by two or more personality traits, and that measuring
the compound trait does not allow us to reduce a profile to its constituent elements. This is, in
most cases, true, although we do not think this is necessarily problematic. Dimensionalized
DSM-IV trait measures are designed to assess maladaptive personality profiles (e.g.,
Narcissistic or Bold, Borderline or Excitable, Antisocial or Mischievous, etc.) that are
characterized by a specific and recognizable pattern of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that
is relatively well described in the literature. Moreover, as research on dimensionalized DSM-
IV traits in the work context accumulates, the concrete manifestations of these maladaptive
personality profiles, with attention for both negative and positive aspects, will be further
delineated. Thus, although the underlying personality profile of these dimensionalized DSM-
IV traits may consist of a broad array of traits, what we are primarily interested in is the
resulting manifestation at work in terms of maladaptive/aberrant patterns of behavior,
thinking, and feeling. This does not mean, however, that we should be completely blind for
the variability between persons that score high on a certain DSM-IV compound. Therefore,
the compound technique that was recently presented by Wille et al. (2013) allows the
inspection of the individual’s standing on each of the contributing traits, the NEO PI-R facets
in this particular case, which are readily observable from the general personality profile.
Further, it is important to keep in mind that the new DSM-5 maladaptive trait model
will also be used to recapture the DSM-IV personality disorders. For example, Wright et al.
(2013) recently investigated how narcissism, a frequently investigated maladaptive
personality tendency in the IO literature, can best be represented in terms of the DSM-5
maladaptive trait model. Results pointed to strong associations with PID-5 Antagonism scales
across narcissism measures, consistent with the DSM-5’s proposed representation of
Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, for some measures, notable associations also
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emerged with PID-5 Negative Affectivity and Psychoticism scales, which further indicates
that maladaptive trait tendencies, relevant for the work context, are compound traits, even
within the framework of the new maladaptive DSM-5 trait model. Although it is true that all
three aspects of the Dark Triad (i.e., Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy) will
probably demonstrate the highest loadings on the Antagonism factor, it is clear that we will
also need additional trait information to be able to further differentiate between these clearly
different dark side tendencies.
In a similar vein, Guenole (2013) notes that research into narrow aspects of
maladaptive personality, including measures of the Dark Triad, does not offer “the promise of
a complete understanding of maladaptive personality at work” (p. 12). Our suggestion would
be to continue studying these and other narrow maladaptive personality tendencies, using both
normal and maladaptive trait models. The fact that the FFM can serve as an overarching
framework can help to better understand the precise meaning of the different compound
scales. If there is one thing that personality research in the applied domain has taught us, it is
that narrow predictors are necessary to predict specific work behaviors (e.g., Tett, Steele, &
Beauregard, 2003). In sum, the availability of a broad maladaptive trait model has the
potential to enrich this intriguing line of research, rather than that it will replace the study of
dimensionalized DSM-IV traits in the work domain. Below, we provide some concrete
avenues for future research through which the new maladaptive trait model can find its way
into the IO literature on maladaptive/aberrant personality traits and resort true added value
there.
Avenues For Future Research
At least six important directions for future research on the maladaptive trait model can
be identified to further illuminate the dark side of personality at work. First, it is essential to
gain further insight into how exactly the maladaptive trait model relates to existing
FIFTY SHADES OF PERSONALITY 8
conceptualizations of dark side and aberrant personality tendencies at work. As indicated
above, the personality literature has recently started investigating the associations between
this maladaptive trait model and the general FFM model. Work and organizational
psychologists could significantly broaden this line of investigation by adding work-related
Dark Triad tendencies, dimensionalized DSM-IV traits, and/or FFM aberrant compound traits
to the research scope.
Second, more inquiry is needed on how to best operationalize the maladaptive trait
model in applied contexts. In order to stimulate research, the APA has made the PID-5 freely
available on their Web site (http://www.psychiatry.org/practice/dsm/dsm5/online-assessment-
measures#Personality) and also provides a 25-item short form that assesses only the domains
at the five-level. However, in connection with our call to consider the FFM as an overarching
framework to integrate adaptive and maladaptive trait models, one could also consider
departing from general FFM instruments, and use IRT methodology in order to extend such
instruments with additional items that capture more maladaptive variance. In other words,
drawing on the conceptual basis of the new maladaptive trait model researchers could start to
focus their attention on the development of new instruments that span the full range of
adaptive and maladaptive personality functioning at work.
Third, building on the perspective that the DSM-5 traits are extreme and maladaptive
variants of general FFM traits, tapping into unique variance of day-to-day functioning, it
follows that the criterion domain also needs to be expanded. Guenole (2013) singles out
counterproductive work behavior as an area of research where the maladaptive trait model
could be particularly promising, but we should also look beyond that. In order to be
maximally valuable for work and organizational psychologists, applications of the
maladaptive trait model should be deployed in settings where the focus is on identifying
FIFTY SHADES OF PERSONALITY 9
employee’s weak spots and developmental needs, for instance in training and coaching
contexts.
Fourth, this new line of research on the maladaptive trait model should keep track of
and incorporate important insights from the existing personality literature applied in IO
psychology. For instance, there is now consensus that observer ratings of normal personality
yield incremental validity above self-ratings (Connelly & Ones, 2010), and this could also be
explored for maladaptive trait variants. Markon, Quilty, Bagby, and Krueger (2013) recently
reported on the development, psychometric properties, and external validity of an informant-
report form of the Personality Inventory for DSM-5 (the PID-5-IRF). The PID-5-IRF
replicated the factor structure of the self-report form and demonstrated relationships with
other measures (including the PID-5 self-report form and a widely used Big Five measure)
that are consistent with theory. In general, the self-informant scale correlations were similar in
magnitude or slightly larger than what is typically observed in the personality literature
(Connelly & Ones, 2010), and comparable with what is typically observed in the
psychopathology literature (Achenbach, Krukowski, Dumenci, & Ivanova, 2005). To date, we
have no knowledge on the relative importance of self versus informant ratings of these
maladaptive personality traits with regard to pertinent criteria, let alone with regard to
organizationally relevant outcomes.
In a similar vein, IO investigators interested in adopting the new maladaptive trait
model in their research are recommended to consider issues concerning instrument
contextualization. As indicated earlier, there is room for debate on whether all the items in the
DSM-5 operationalization of the new maladaptive trait model are appropriate for the work
context. Future research could experiment with contextualizing PID-5 items by (a) clearly
indicating in the instructions and/or in the items that the presented behaviors, thoughts, and
feelings need to be rated in the context of work, or (b) by writing an alternative set of items
FIFTY SHADES OF PERSONALITY 10
that are specifically formulated in a work context and that are designed to tap into the
proposed maladaptive variants of the FFM.
Finally, we cannot disregard the role of the situation in our research on the new
maladaptive trait model in organizational settings. First, more knowledge is needed on the
specific situational characteristics that may trigger maladaptive or aberrant tendencies, for
instance using trait-activation theory as a guiding framework. As a first step in that direction,
De Fruyt, Wille, and Furnham (in press) recently examined the distribution of aberrant
personality tendencies across different employment sectors. Second, the situation always
needs to be taken into account when assessing the value of a given behavior associated with
certain personality tendencies. To give one example, eccentricity and unusual beliefs,
characteristic for Psychoticism in the new maladaptive trait model, will be valued differently
in bureaucratic, conventional work environments compared to highly unconventional, artistic
occupations. Finally, given the increasing evidence that specific occupational characteristics
are related to personality trait change (e.g., Wille, Beyers, & De Fruyt, 2012), future research
might investigate whether toxic work conditions might also contribute to the development of
maladaptive personality tendencies.
Conclusion
In sum we agree with Guenole (2013) that the DSM-5 maladaptive trait model has
considerable potential to enrich our thinking about personality at work. Recall however, that
also for clinical assessment and decision making, it is still a model considered to require
additional research and evaluation. This current status should not be seen as a handicap, but
rather be considered as an opportunity for clinical and IO psychologists to join forces in
exploring the model’s potential to understand how people feel and function in their daily jobs,
a key life domain in both disciplines.
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... The previous review made it clear that interest in the dark side has steadily been growing in the past years (Wille & de Fruyt, 2014). A tentative agenda is outlined below describing the key themes that deserve the attention of both practitioners and academics to move this field further. ...
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The convergent and discriminant validity of two methods to assess a broad spectrum of aberrant personality tendencies was examined in a large sample of managers who were administered the NEO-PI-R (N = 11 862) and the Hogan Development Survey (N = 6774) in the context of a professional development assessment. Five-Factor Model (FFM) aberrant compounds, defined as linear combinations of NEO-PI-R facets, converged for the antisocial, borderline, histrionic, avoidant and obsessive–compulsive tendencies with their respective Hogan Development Survey counterparts. Alternative linear FFM combinations did improve convergent results for the schizoid and obsessive–compulsive pattern. Risk for various aberrant tendencies was roughly equal across different employment sectors, with a higher prevalence of borderline, avoidant and dependent tendencies in the legal and more histrionic tendencies in the retail sector. Adopting FFM aberrant compound cut-offs developed for coaching purposes to flag at risk individuals showed that 20% to 25% of all managers qualified for at least one and 10% to 15% were flagged as at risk for two or more aberrant tendencies. The theoretical implications and the repercussions of this research for the design of professional development and coaching trajectories are discussed. Copyright © 2013 European Association of Personality Psychology
Article
The current study tests empirically the relationship of the dimensional trait model proposed for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) with five-factor models of general personality. The DSM-5 maladaptive trait dimensional model proposal included 25 traits organized within five broad domains (i.e., negative affectivity, detachment, antagonism, disinhibition, and psychoticism). Consistent with the authors of the proposal, it was predicted that negative affectivity would align with five-factor model (FFM) neuroticism, detachment with FFM introversion, antagonism with FFM antagonism, disinhibition with low FFM conscientiousness and, contrary to the proposal; psychoticism would align with FFM openness. Three measures of alternative five-factor models of general personality were administered to 445 undergraduates along with the Personality Inventory for DSM-5. The results provided support for the hypothesis that all five domains of the DSM-5 dimensional trait model are maladaptive variants of general personality structure, including the domain of psychoticism. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
Article
The relationships between two measures proposed to describe personality pathology, that is the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-3) and the Personality Inventory for DSM-5 (PID-5), are examined in an undergraduate sample (N = 240). The NEO inventories are general trait measures, also considered relevant to assess disordered personality, whereas the PID-5 measure is specifically designed to assess pathological personality traits, as conceptualized in the DSM-5 proposal. A structural analysis of the 25 PID-5 traits confirmed the factor structure observed in the U.S. derivation sample, with higher order factors of Negative Affectivity, Detachment, Antagonism, Disinhibition, and Psychoticism. A joint factor analysis of, respectively, the NEO domains and their facets with the PID-5 traits showed that general and maladaptive traits are subsumed under an umbrella of five to six major dimensions that can be interpreted from the perspective of the five-factor model or the Personality Psychopathology Five. Implications for the assessment of personality pathology and the construction of models of psychopathology grounded in personality are discussed.