A broad spectrum of occupations is looked at: professionals including engineers, architects, accountants, attorneys, police, managers, sales people and semiskilled and skilled employees. Job performance was defined in terms of performance ratings, training proficiency (performance during training programs), and personnel data such as salary level. The results showed that conscientiousness predicted job performance for all occupational groups. The preponderance of evidence shows that individuals who are dependable, reliable, careful, thorough, able to plan, organized, hardworking, persistent and achievement oriented to have higher job performance in most if not all occupations. In addition, employees who score higher in conscientiousness develop higher levels of job knowledge, probably because highly conscientious people exert greater levels of effort on their jobs. The higher levels knowledge them contribute to higher levels of job performance. Consistent with these findings, evidence also finds a reactively strong and consistent relationship between conscientiousness and organizational citizenship behavior. This however, seems to be the only Big Five personality dimension that predicts OCB.
For the other personality dimensions predictably depended on both the performance criterion and the occupational group. For instance, extraversion predicted performance in managerial and sales positions. This finding makes sense because those occupations involve high social interaction. Similarly openness to experience was found to be important in predicting training proficiency, which seems logical. What wasn’t so clear was why positive emotional stability was not related to job performance. Intuitively it would seem that people who are clean and secure would do better on almost all jobs than people who are nervous and depressed. The answers might be that some aspects of negative emotional stability such as nervousness might actually help job performance. Think about animals. A deer that wasn’t easily startled by noises would not last long near a major highway. Consider a Stock trader at a Wall Street firm. If she fails to research all of her options thoroughly and is never nervous about making the wrong transaction, she may fail to see the danger in, say, purchasing stock in a volatile young company. The other aspect of negative emotional stability – a depressive outlook – is bad for every job. Because when you are depressed it is difficult to motivate yourself, to make a decision or to take a risk. So, it may be that negative emotional stability has aspects that both help and hinder performance.
Now that we have dealt with performance, you will be interested to know that the Big Five have other implication for work and for life. Let’s look at the implications of these traits one at a time.
Compared to introverts, extroverts tend to be happier in their jobs and in lives. They usually have more friends and spend more time in social situations than introverts. But they also appear to be more impulsive, as evidenced by the fact that extroverts are more likely to be absent from work and engage in risky behavior such as unprotected sex, drinking and other impulsive or sensation seeking behavior.
You might expect agreeable people to be happier than disagreeable people, and they are, but only slightly. When people choose romantic partners, friends of organizational team members, agreeable individuals are usually their first choice. Agreeable children do better in school and as adults are less likely to get involved in drugs or excessive drinking.
Interestingly, conscientious people live longer because they tend to take better care of themselves (eat better, exercise more) and engage in fewer risky behaviors (smoking. drinking /drugs, risky sexual of driving behavior). Still there are downsides to conscientiousness. It appears that conscientious people, probably because they are so organized and structured don’t adapt as well to changing contexts. Conscientious people are generally performance oriented. They have more trouble than less conscientious people learning complex skills early on because their focus is on performing well rather than on learning. Finally, conscientious people are often less creative, especially artistically.