Personality is not destiny…but our personality traits strongly influence our work preferences and choices for our careers, and our behavior on the job. We can learn new skills and behaviors, but the structures of our personalities are our factory settings.
There is a professional consensus that personality can be accurately described by five broad factors. The Five Factor Model, or Big Five, has evolved over fifty years through real world observation and scientific research. These are stable traits that affect our behavior consistently over time and in a broad range of circumstances.
The Big Five:
• Emotional Reactivity
• Behavioral Control
Below are some observations about these traits in relation to work-related and general behavior. There will be more to say about each of these factors in upcoming posts.
Extraversion is associated with traits such as being sociable, gregarious, assertive, talkative, persuasive, spontaneous, and driven.
Extraverts are oriented towards the external world and usually enjoy being around people. They typically lean towards jobs that allow a high level of interaction with others. They are often assertive, outgoing and sociable. At the extreme, they can be overly assertive and socially insensitive or aggressive.
Low scores on this factor suggest social introversion and a more quiet, low-key social style. Introverts are more internally focused and tend to assume their work will speak for them, rather than to actively sell themselves and their ideas. The exaggerated state of this trait may result in a socially passive, nonassertive, overly cautious and under-communicative social style.
Emotional Reactivity is related to emotional stability and patience. It includes such traits as security versus anxiety, happiness versus stress-proneness and restraint versus impulsivity.
High scores on this factor suggest tendencies to be emotionally expressive and intense. They may also be associated with higher wariness, vigilance and energy, as well as with tendencies to be anxious and easily frustrated. Extreme scores here may indicate stress-proneness and a tendency to be overly reactive.
Low scores are usually associated with an even temperament and a tendency to be unflappable, even-keeled and self-secure. Very low scores sometimes indicate over-confidence and passivity.
Behavioral Control is associated with conscientiousness and is represented by traits such as being careful, thorough, responsible, traditional, conforming, procedural, organized, planful, and detail-oriented.
People with high scores on this measure are usually disciplined, deliberate, determined and conscientious. They typically attend to detail and follow through on tasks until complete. They are likely to be timely, organized and dependable in their work. At their worst, they can be rigid, inflexible and overly structured or procedure-oriented.
Low scores suggest a looser, more flexible and spontaneous style. They also may indicate a tendency to let details slide and to be undisciplined. People with very low scores may be unstructured, unconventional and lax on follow-through.
Agreeableness consists of characteristics such as being courteous, flexible, good-natured, easygoing, cooperative, forgiving, and soft-hearted.
High scores are associated with an easygoing, accepting, approachable and tolerant demeanor. People with high scores are usually non-demanding and easy to get along with. They value harmonious relationships and may try too hard to avoid conflict and confrontation. At their worst, they can be passive and too nice for their own good.
People with low scores here often have a driven, energetic, intense and direct style. They are often highly achievement motivated, but they can also come off as impatient and demanding. Extremely low scores suggest insensitivity, bluntness and intolerance.
Complexity is sometimes referred to as openness to experience, and is associated with traits such as being imaginative, innovative, broad minded, analytical, and academically inclined.
People with high scores on this factor are usually open to new information and ideas, and they gravitate towards intellectual complexity and challenge. Very high scores may indicate an overly academic or theoretical approach.
Low scores are more likely to be obtained by people who are focused on the immediate task at hand and who have more of a practical, applied or operational orientation. Very low scores are more typical of people who are tactically focused, possibly to the point of missing the strategic viewpoint.
There is no “best” personality. There are potential strengths and liabilities associated with extreme high or low scores on any trait. Personality assessment has no right or wrong answers. The challenge is to understand personality and its most likely expression on the job, and to use that knowledge in the most effective and helpful way to select and develop people who will help build the culture you want in your organization. The eTest® Technical Manual presents an in-depth description of these primary factors and their secondary sub-factors.