The Impact of Big Five Personality Traits on Work Engagement

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Theoretical aspect of a study provides further information about the impact of Personality traits on work engagement. When conducting a research, it is important to know each theory behind that and previous researcher’s view to that. In accordance with that, this chapter focuses on theoretical aspect of the Impact of Personality traits on work engagement the study on Sri Lanka Transportation in Balangoda. Further, it explores previous researcher’s consideration about them.

Various literatures regard Personality traits and work engagement. However, limited literatures are found in related to public transportation sector. This chapter consists of past research articles which are related to Personality traits, work engagement, relationship between Personality traits and work engagement. At the same time literature are provided different opinions regarding independent and dependent variables of particular researches.

The concept of work engagement.

Schaufeli and Bakker review definitions of work engagement in the business context and in academia as a basis for considering the instruments assessing engagement. While the popularity of engagement in organizations confirms the concept’s practical dimension, business consultants have applied the term to a range of concepts and measures that depart from those used in scientific research. Schaufeli and Bakker’s analysis shows that consultants use the word “engagement” as a novel, attractive label that covers traditional concepts, such as effective commitment, continuance commitment, and extra-role behavior.

They share our focus on the subjective experience of work, but fail to capture the different value added by the new concept of work engagement. Schaufeli and Bakker (2003) found that Engagement is a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption. The work engagement is the opposite of the burnout. Burnout is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism and reduced professional efficacy (Maslach et al., 2001).

The concept of personality

Personality concerns the most important, most noticeable parts of an individual’s psychological life. Personality concerns whether a person is happy or sad, energetic or apathetic, smart or dull. Over the years, many different definitions have been proposed for personality. Most of the definitions refer to a mental system a collection of psychological parts including motives, emotions and thoughts. The definitions vary a bit as to what those parts might be, but they come down to the idea that personality involves a pattern or global operation of mental systems. Personality has a significant influence on the way of think, feel and relate to other people. This report is intended to give a general idea about how personality might be described and to stimulate to think about the implications for work and personal life.

Personality traits tend to be fairly stable in adulthood and lead people to act in certain preferred ways. At work, employees’ personality will sometimes help to carry out work roles effectively and at other times get in the way. Leading meetings, fronting presentations and organizing social occasions will come more easily to individuals with extravert traits. By contrast, people with low scores on the agreeableness scale may take time to acquire skills in areas such as team building, coaching and mentoring because they are more self-sufficient and self-absorbed.

Personality has been considered as an important factor in the personality related studies specifically for predicting the job performance. It is a behavior which differentiates one person from another (Beer & Brooks, 2011) and provides acumen whether a person will do some specific job, in comparison to others (Sackett et al., 2002). Personality traits hold specific components in an organizational structure and have dynamic features, which will react differently to the changes of the environment (Lin & Chiu, 1999). So, different personality traits can cause different thinking and influence an individual to make different decisions (Chu, 2003).

Big five personality

Subsequently, several different psychologists working independently and on different samples concluded that personality traits can be organized into five super ordinate dimensions. These five factors have been known as the big five since Goldberg (1971).

The big five factors are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism (also called emotional stability) and openness to experience (also called intellect or culture). A convenient acronym for these factors is “OCEAN”. These factors represent personality at the broadest level of abstraction. Each factor summarizes a large number of distinct, more specific, personality characteristics. John (1990) and Costa and McCrae (1992) present evidence that most of the variables used to assess personality in academic research in the field of personality psychology can be mapped into one or more of the dimensions of the big five. They argue that the big five may be thought of as the longitude and latitude of personality, by which all more narrowly defined traits (often called “facets”) may be categorized (Costa and McCrae, 1992).

The big five traits can be found in almost any measure of personality (McCrae and John, 1992), including the analysis of trait adjectives in many languages and these data strongly suggest that personality trait structure is universal (McCrae and Costa, 1997). Research evidence also indicated that the big five traits are highly stable over time (Gosling et al., 2003) and appear to be shaped by biological (genetic) factors (Digman, 1989; Polmin et al.,1990), although the environment also plays its role.

Finally, McCrae and John (1992) concluded that long history, cross-cultural replication, empirical validation across many methods and instruments make the five-factor model a basic discovery of personality psychology.

In recent times, organizational researchers in the area of personality unanimously concluded that the understanding of personality facets is entirely captured by the by the five super-ordinate factors – the big five model.


Extraversion is a prominent factor in personality psychology as evidenced by its appearance in most personality measures and its important role in major taxonomies of personality. Extraversion is thought to consist of sociability (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1999).

According to Leung (2009) noted that extraverts are more sociable, but are also described as being more active and impulsive. Extraversion is related to the experience of positive emptions and extraverts are more likely to take on leadership roles and to have a greater number of close friends.

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Extraversion is associated with spontaneity, activity and intimacy in social interactions. Furthermore, the characteristics of extraversion are related to inter-personal competence and experimental work indicates that protégé show a preference for imaginary mentors who demonstrate high levels of interpersonal competence (Olian, Carroll, Giannantonio & Feren, 2018as cited in Bozionelos, 2004).

Characteristic of extraversion includes dominant, expressive, outgoing, chatty energetic, active, talkative, and enthusiastic. Employees have high level on extraversion tend to be cheerful, like people and large groups, and seek excitement and stimulation. Someone is low level on extraversion prefer to spend more time alone and are characterized as reserved, quiet, and independent. Extraversion may be a valuable trait for managerial work (Bozionelos, 2004).


Agreeableness represents one’s interpersonal orientation. This characteristic associated with this dimension includes being courteous, flexible, trusting, good natured, forgiving, soft hearted and tolerant (Barrick & Mount, 1991). High agreeableness should be especially useful in the context of military leadership, where caring for subordinates and giving “selfless service” are highly valued (Bartone, Eid, Johnsen, Lagerg, & Snook, 2009).

An agreeable person is fundamentally altruistic, sympathetic to others and eager to help them, and in return believes that others will be equally helpful (Rothmann & Coetzer, 2003).

Agreeableness include care and concern for others as agreeable individuals should be more inclined towards providing advice, help and support for less experiences and less powerful organizational members (Bozionelos, 2004).


Costa et al. (1995) said that conscientiousness indicates an individual’s degree of organization, persistence, hard work, and motivation diligent and responsibility in the pursuit of goal accomplishment. Some researchers have viewed this construct as an indicator of volition or the ability to work hard.

Barrick and Mount (1991) said that high level conscientiousness personalities are logical, reliable, determined, and thorough, who focus on success which is also very significant characteristic for performing work tasks. Conscientiousness encompasses sense of duty and adherence to moral principles. Conscientious individuals should be prone to provide advice and developmental support for less senior colleagues (Bozionelos, 2004).


Neuroticism is the most universal trait across personality measures. It is prominent in nearly every measure of personality neuroticism leads to at least two related professions, one dealing with anxiety the other addressing one’s well well as this characteristic discuss generally to a lack of positive psychological adjustment and emotional stability (Cocta & Robert, 1988).

Neuroticism includes individual differences in adjustment and emotional stability. Person high level on Neuroticism tends to experience a number of negative emotions including anxiety, hostility, annoyed, stressed, sulky, nervous, doubtful, unconfident depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, and vulnerability. Furthermore, workers have low on neuroticism can be characterized as self-confidence, calm, even tempered and relaxed (Costa & McCrae, 1995).

Neuroticism encompasses characteristics that include excessive worry, pessimism, low confidence, and tendencies to experience negative emotions. Because of their tendency to interpret experiences under a negative light, individuals who score high on neuroticism should be less likely to develop positive attitudes towards their work. Furthermore, due to lack of confidence and optimism, those who score high on neuroticism should be less likely to develop ambitions regarding their careers and to set performance and career goals accordingly. Characteristics of neurotic include anxiety, inhibition, negative mood and a tendency focus on the self. Neuroticism is associated with hostility, impatience and low confidence. This characteristic s should make the individual less attractive as mentor (Bozionelos, 2004).

Openness to Experience

Costa et al. (1995) said that Openness to Experience is a personality dimension that characterizes employees are intellectually curious and tends to seek new experiences and explore novel ideas. Someone is high level on Openness to experience can be described as creative, innovative, imaginative, reflective, and untraditional. Someone is low level on Openness can be characterized as conventional, narrow in interests, and un-analytical. Even in the most rapidly changing organizational environments, the managerial role is likely to place more emphasis on following established policies and implementing strategies developed at a higher level (Mount, Mk, Barrick, & Scullen,182005). Openness to Experience refers cognitive and emotional flexibility and receptivity to new experiences and ideas. Those who score high on openness should be more likely to develop interest in the views of subordinates accept their idiosyncrasies and find interest in the relationship (Bozionelos, 2004).

Work Engagement and Personality factors

Historical literature has done some research to find a relationship between some of the Big Five traits and work engagement. Macey and Schneider (2008) found that personality may play an important role in work engagement (Macey and Schneider, 2008), becouse individuals with a specific personality profile can be better able to activate their job resources than persons with a diverse outline. Makikangas, Feldt, Kinnunen and Mauno (2013) stated that the Big Five factors-emotional stability, extraversion, and conscientiousness were consistently related to higher work engagement. As well as several studies found a positive relationship between lower-order individual factors and work engagement. Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti and Schaufeli (2007, 2009) confirmed self-efficacy, optimism, and self-esteem are related to work engagement. Christian, Garza and Slaughter (2011) showed that conscientiousness, positive affect, and proactive personality were all positively related to engagement.

According to Kim, Shin and Svanger (2009) awareness was an important factor in forecasting commitment at work because of employees with a high degree of awareness, characterized for a great responsibility, organizational capacity and sustainability, they are more likely to increase their energy at work, complete their work and, finally, feel a strong sense of professional performance. ‘ Kim, Shin and Svanger (2009) also hypothesize that consent may be a predictor of commitment, which was not significant. Although consent did not predict work commitment, it had a slightly positive impact on commitment, while awareness had a positive impact on three dimensions of commitment (vigor, commitment and absorption), and neurotics negatively influenced vigor. In the study by Langelaan et al (2006), following a methodology that differed from uncommitted workers, their hypotheses were confirmed: emotional stability (under neuroticism) and great extraverts were considered significant when they were involved in the work envisaged, which means that committed employees showed high levels of both properties in relation to those who are not engaged. However, Langelaan et al (2006). The study did not prove any of the other characteristics and, therefore, it was not possible to establish other conclusions. In addition, Inceoglu and Varr (2012) have discovered through three different online surveys that Emotional Stability and Consciousness are responsible regardless of a greater degree of participation in the work, because the workers who participate in their work tend, in terms practical, to be emotionally stable., socially proactive and performance oriented, all attributes of these traits.

Another study used by the South African police officers assumed that the five traits could be related to commitment at work, concluding that only the conscience, the low neurotics and the extraverts were positively related to him (Mostert and Rothmann, 2006). According to the metaanalytical review of Judges and Layles (2002), extraversion, neuroticism and consciousness are the most relevant features that are related to motivational processes. Christian, Garza and Slaughter (2011) investigated the properties that allowed the control of thoughts and emotions in order to actively communicate with the environment (Bandura, 2001), considering that they are likely to lead to commitment (Hirschfeld and Thomas, 2008): high awareness, reflecting individual responsibility and commitment to tasks and high extraction, because people are more active, awake and excited about their work.

There is no empirical evidence that Openness to experience or Coherence affects participation in the work, although they may be related to other constructions. Acceptability is positively related to job satisfaction (Lian et al, 2013), professional success (Judge et al, 1999), prosocial work behavior (Chiaburu, Oh, Berri, Li and Gardner, 2011), the impact on services that require tiaras. Commercial relations (Mount et al, 1998) and work related to disadvantaged people (Judge and Zapata, 2010). Openness to experience had a positive impact on occupations that required creativity, innovation and divergent thinking (McCrae, 1987), professional success (Judge et al, 1999), tasks that required independence (McCrae and Costa, 1997) and general adaptation to new situations. (Huaug et al, 2005).

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