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Personality and its Implications in the Workplace

Keywords: personality, job performance, personality traits, OCEAN


What is personality?

"Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychological systems that determine his unique adjustment to his environment." (G. Allport, 1961)

Personality analysis in the workplace when used appropriately helps avoid bias, and increases correlation between the job profile and the employee.

An overwhelming amount of data supports the claim that well-validated personality measures predict job performance better than any other known evaluation method, including interviews and IQ tests. (R. Hogan, 2014)

Over the years there have been multiple ways through which we can assess people’s personalities. So how do these personality traits play into the type of jobs suited for us, and the way we work? In this article, we’ll be talking about how OCEAN or The Big Five personality test specifically relates to various areas in the workplace.

The Big Five Personality Test:

The Big Five has been around since the 1950s, the initial test didn't make it to the academic audience. Although in 1990, J.M Digman pushed the five-factor model, then in 1993 Lewis Goldberg advanced on it. The OCEAN test we know today comes from this version. The Big Five measures personality on 5 dimensions, namely:

  • Openness: sometimes called "Intellect" or "Imagination," this measures your level of creativity and your desire for knowledge and new experiences.

  • Conscientiousness: this looks at the level of care that you take in your life and work. If you score highly in conscientiousness, you'll likely be organized and thorough, and know how to make plans and follow them through. If you score low, you'll likely be lax and disorganized.

  • Extraversion/Introversion: this dimension measures your level of sociability. Are you outgoing or quiet, for instance? Do you draw energy from a crowd, or do you find it difficult to work and communicate with other people?

  • Agreeableness: this dimension measures how well you get on with other people. Are you considerate, helpful and willing to compromise? Or do you tend to put your needs before others?

  • Natural Reactions: sometimes called "Emotional Stability" or "Neuroticism," this measures emotional reactions. Do you react negatively or calmly to bad news? Do you worry obsessively about small details, or are you relaxed in stressful situations?

From Goldberg, L.R., 'The Development of Markers for the Big-Five Factor Structure,' Psychological Assessment, Vol. 4, No. 1, 26-42, 1992, published by American Psychological Association, Inc. Adapted by MindTools.

Vital, A. (2018). Ocean - personality dimensions. Big Five Personality Traits – Infographic. Retrieved from

You get scored on each dimension, and you can either score “high” or “low” which determines which of the traits suits you best. The Big Five is a reliable and valid form of measuring personality. (Dekker and Thiel Research study: Big five personality test) Which is the reason why it’s used so widely and has multiple pieces of research applying it in the workplace.

What does The Big Five tell us about personality and the workplace?

A study was conducted on about 8500 German employees wherein they sought out to examine the effects of a persons’ personality traits and job personality demands on earnings.

The conclusion of the study stated that individuals would be able to earn more than their salary if they held jobs that fit their personalities. “The study also concluded that economic success was not only dependent on having a “successful personality” but also, on finding the best niche for an individual’s personality.”(Denissen et al., 2017).

For example, the top-ranked style attribute for an engineer is analytical thinking (which may relate to the openness to experiences factor (O) in the Big Five) along with dependability, which is an important facet of conscientiousness (C). Whereas the top attribute for someone who works in the business sector is integrity, which is seen as a combination of Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability (Sackett & Walmsley, 2014).

Note: Attributes most frequently assessed in employment interviews. From “Which Personality Attributes Are Most Important in the Workplace?” by P.R. Sackett et al, 2014. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(5), 538-55

The study done in Germany also found that for the traits of, (E) extraversion, (A) agreeableness, and (O) openness to experiences, the greater the similarities between these factors and the job requirements, the greater the income they received compared to their peers. Researchers name this phenomenon the “fit bonus.”

The same data also revealed that having an excess of certain traits (such as Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness), than their particular jobs called for, actually earned less than those whose personalities matched perfectly with the jobs they held.

A longitudinal study done in Canada found that the personality trait Conscientiousness is positively associated with wages. This is due to the fact that this trait is directly associated with work-related tasks. (McLean et al., 2019). Although, the strength of this correlation decreases with jobs that are of high complexity, for example, professions related to law. Although jobs that are lower on complexity such as ones in customer service, fit the Conscientious trait best. (M. Travers, 2019)

It is also found that leaders with high agreeableness traits are said to have a significant positive correlation with work relationships. This is because Agreeableness is a tendency to be altruistic, cooperative, compliant, caring and warm. Colquitt and Le-Pine, 2009).

To conclude, we can see the importance personality plays in identifying what a potential “good match” can be for us. Taking into account the number of researches done, we also understand the importance of being task-oriented, organised and thorough. You can take a free version of the OCEAN test here to better understand your personality traits!


About the Author:

Hey there, I'm Tanvi!

A third-year Psychology student from Fergusson College, Pune, I've had a keen interest in all things psychology right from my school days. I aim to further take up Organisational or Clinical Psychology in the future. In my free time, you'd find me reading, baking, or walking my dog!



Denissen, J. J., Bleidorn, W., Hennecke, M., Luhmann, M., Orth, U., Specht, J., & Zimmermann, J. (2017). Uncovering the power of personality to shape income. PubMed.

Goldberg, L. R. (1993). The structure of phenotypic personality traits. American Psychologist, 48(1), 26–34.

“The Big Five Personality Traits Model and Test.” MInd Tools, 2021,

News, Hogan. “Q& A With Dr Hogan: The Role Personality Plays at Work.” Hogan Assessments, 6 May 2014, .

McLean, D., Bouaissa, M., Rainville, B., & Auger, L. (2019). Non-Cognitive Skills: How Much Do They Matter for Earnings in Canada? American Journal of Management, 19(4).

Sackett, P. R., & Walmsley, P. T. (2014). Which personality attributes are most important in the workplace?. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(5), 538-551


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