I am fascinated by human behavior and attitudes, and what underlies how and why these manifest. So it was with deep interest that I read the thorough dissertation by ehowton on the subject over the last year or so. He hit the subject from all angles, researching the topic from a psychological, sociological, and philosophical perspective. My current class, Organizational Behavior, reviews how personality, attitudes, behavior, and values coupled with corporate culture play out in the workplace - and how this interplay affects the bottom line.
It should come as no surprise that increasing employee satisfaction correlates positively with increased profit. The big question therefore becomes how to increase employee satisfaction. While there are some obvious considerations like job security, adequate pay, and how managers' treat employees, companies are also concerned with matching an employee's temperament to the job requirements. Consequently a number of companies do personality testing on prospective employees.
Myers-Briggs personality testing was one of the first tests used. However, while it turned out that Myers-Briggs is incredibly helpful for achieving personal understanding, it does not predict employee attitudes and behavior well. Enter "The Big Five," a measure of core personality traits that holds true across cultures with a strong degree of biological origin. Twins separated at birth have been found to have more similarity in personality than siblings raised together in the same household.
How is personality defined? According to the textbook, practically speaking, personality is the sum total of the ways one reacts and interacts with other individuals. And the Big Five?
From Wikpedia (since I can't copy and paste from my text):
Openness to experience – (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called "intellect" rather than openness to experience.
Conscientiousness – (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior; organized, and dependable.
Extraversion – (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.
Agreeableness – (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
Neuroticism – (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control, and is sometimes referred by its low pole – "emotional stability".
It is easy to see how the interplay of these traits would make one more or less suited to a particular job position or working environment. To be a good accountant or banker, a high degree of conscientiousness would be required. For sales, extraversion would be a must. In fields that continually undergo change, those open to experience are going to cope more effectively than their lower scoring counterparts. And so on.
However, the textbook indicated that given that employee satisfaction is a factor in profits, and those who score low in neuroticism tend to be happier and more optimistic in general, those employees with a low neuroticism score are desirable regardless of position.
Naturally I had to see how I scored
Open to experience: 70
Curious about your own scores? You can take the test here.
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