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Personality Psychology and Job Performance

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Personality psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on defining and explaining personality as well as identifying individual differences between people. It has been heavily critiqued over the years as many psychologists believe that trait theory (which is the study of human personality through the inspection of thoughts, emotions and habitual patterns of behavior) is an invalid form of measurement. It wasn’t until the 90s that personality psychology re-emerged and started to be taken seriously as a branch of psychology. The inception of the Five Factor model was what helped legitimize this as a science, along with the Selection and Classification Project (Project A), a US military personnel selection project. During personality psychology’s resurgence in the 1990s its usefulness towards Industrial/Organizational psychology was investigated.

Industrial/Organizational psychology- mainly referred to as Occupational or Organizationalpsychology, focuses on human behavior in a work or organizational context. The aim of the field is to better understand work hierarchies, as well as find psychological solutions to work problems. As mentioned before, it was not until the 1990s that personality psychology was considered as a helpful tool to assist in the expansion and validation of  I/O psychology. Especially when it came to testing and measurement, personality psychology helped in diverse ways.

Expanding Horizons

Before personality psychology came into the picture, organizational psychologists’ view of job performance was very limited. The field mainly focused on predicting overall job performance and never considered to look at the different components that contributed to it. They also mainly paid attention to cognitive ability as the only measuring factor. The inclusion of personality psychology theories and constructs helped expand that point of view regarding the types of competencies that were considered to measure job performance. Since then, wider and more expansive types of competencies, that are related to personality, have been examined, such as, human ability which consists of interpersonal and emotional intelligence.

When we start looking at job performance as multifaceted, we see personality variables becoming more and more apparent. Personality factors, therefore, become indispensable indicators to measuring different areas of job performance. An example of that was present in in the 90s when the O*Net, a database that contains hundreds of definitions that are related to occupational psychology, was released. In this database, personality variables such as interpersonal relationships were considered as one of 3 main variables of measurement of job performance. Other personality variables like, conscientiousness, social influence, interpersonal orientation, practical intelligence, adjustment independence, achievement orientation were considered as variables of measurement to determine employees’ work style types.  The inclusion and recognition of personality variables (as contributing indicators to job performance in the O*Net,) helped showcase the significance of personality variables in accurately measuring job performance.  This new view of competencies helped develop the way in which job performance was measured. As these new indicators were being considered, personality variables emerged as new predictors to job performance.

Personality Validates Predictions

The addition of personality indicators to cognitive ability has also aided in increasing the accuracy of predicting overall job performance. In some instances, it had proven to produce more accurate results. This increased the accuracy of the prediction and helped moderate the validity of the measurements.  

Personality variables have also increased the accuracy of predictors by decreasing their discrimination with aspects like race and socio-economic status. In some cases, personality psychology was significantly less discriminate than cognitive ability variables.

To Sum it up

Personality psychology has expanded the parameters of job performance, understanding of competencies, and contributing variables. This new understanding sponsored the creation of more valid and accurate job performance predictors. Additionally, it helped psychologists realize that job performance predictors are complex and intricate, therefore, more diverse variables are to be considered. This increased the measurement’s accuracy and widened the field of research into job performance, the factors that affect it, and how it can be improved. We now know that to accurately measure and assess job performance you need to measure more than just the cognitive aspects.