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Blog>Guides>How Personality Traits Play a Role in Today’s Work Landscape

How Personality Traits Play a Role in Today’s Work Landscape

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Highlights

  • Based on the Five-Factor Model, survey respondents who classified as highly conscientious people were the most likely to earn a salary of $75,000 or more per year.

  • Highly agreeable individuals were the most likely to be in a job aligned with their career path.

  • People scoring high for neuroticism were the most likely to be looking for a new job in the next three to six months.

Introduction

We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. As individuals, when it comes to how we perform in our work environments, our personalities play a crucial role. The Big Five personality traits — otherwise known as the Five-Factor Model — comprise a personality theory that’s widely accepted among psychologists today. The traits can be easily remembered by the acronym OCEAN or CANOE, which stands for:

  • Openness

  • Conscientiousness

  • Extroversion

  • Agreeableness

  • Neuroticism

Openness refers to one’s willingness to try new things and imagination. Conscientiousness assesses our ability to control impulses, namely when engaging in goal-directed behavior. Extroversion is all about the level in which people interact with their environment, particularly in a social context. Agreeableness determines how they treat their relationships with other people, and lastly, neuroticism describes our level of emotional stability through our perceptions of the world around us.

Each trait represents a continuum, and everyone falls somewhere along each of them.

To learn more about how our personalities can shape all things work-related — including our career path, preferred job activities, and peer interactions — we’ve surveyed 1,011 employed people across the country. Depending on your Five-Factor alignment, certain work situations might be more or less appropriate for you. For example, a highly neurotic individual (someone who can get easily overwhelmed) may not be best suited to work in a team environment, whereas an extrovert might thrive in this situation. Also, while we’ll pick up on some key differences between personality types, some common ground exists as well; namely regarding which work tasks people enjoy and which they tend to avoid. Keep reading to learn more about the intricate correlation between our mind and our employment reality.

Who’s Working Where?

Do our respondents’ scores for each of the Big Five personality traits have anything to do with the kind of job they’re drawn to?

Infographic on the impact of personality traits on industry and job level

Conscientiousness was the prevailing character trait of employees in all of the above-mentioned industries. People with a high level of conscientiousness tend to be organized, determined, and focused on long-term success rather than instant gratification. Clearly, this is a favorable mindset to have in relation to career outlook, regardless of industry. Also, highly agreeable people were the most likely to land a job that fit their intended career path, whereas highly neurotic respondents were the most likely to deviate from that path.

Furthermore, highly neurotic people were the least likely to hold senior or executive positions. This could be because this personality trait is associated with a higher susceptibility to negative emotions, irritability, and overall dissatisfaction — making those defined by it unlikely to make the best leaders. Interestingly, this was also the respondent group most likely to earn an annual salary of $34,999 or less, whereas highly conscientious people had the best odds of making $75,000 and above.

Callout on extroversion and neuroticism traits likelihood to receive a promotion

On the Move

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many of us a curveball in terms of where and how we work. How do personality traits relate to our respondents’ current work sites?

Infographic on how personality type can impact work site and perseverance

Half of the people who identified as highly neurotic were working on-site, while just under a third were fully remote. People who experience neurotic tendencies are more likely to find stress in frequent changes to their work life and environment, so sticking to one type of work site may be more desirable. Meanwhile, highly extroverted people dominated the hybrid lifestyle, which makes sense given their natural ability to perform well in dynamic roles. Working well with people in any type of setting is a powerful tool extroverts have at their disposal. Job fields that would suit this personality type well include sales, customer service, or public relations (PR).

Neurotics tend to exhibit lower levels of happiness than other people, and these negative feelings seem to affect their job satisfaction as well. They were the most likely group to search for a new job in the next three to six months and the group most likely to have quit at least one job in the past two years. Highly neurotic individuals generally do well in environments that offer security, safety, and an outlet for self-expression. Some appropriate jobs for them may include those in the fields of writing, art, and design.

Roles and Personalities

The pandemic has changed the way folks think about their profession. Due to shifts in priorities, more and more people are becoming hyper aware of what they enjoy about work, as well as what they don’t. Ideally, people like most parts of their job, but there are inevitably some elements they aren’t crazy about.

Infographic on preferred job elements of the different personality types

Problem-solving was the most popular job aspect for everyone except neurotics, who we know are especially susceptible to getting overwhelmed. This group was happiest when helping others; however, they were still the least or joint-least likely to enjoy the vast majority of listed job elements.

Otherwise, there wasn’t much variation in the responses of the five different personality types. However, some activities were generally less desirable than others. For example, physical labor and/or working with one’s hands appealed to only roughly a fifth of people across the board, with extroverts the least likely to be impressed by this particular job aspect.

Getting Along

No two personalities are exactly the same. As a result, some people work better in a team, while others thrive on their own. Does personality type influence preference?

Infographic on the work relationships of personality types

Unsurprisingly, extroverts were by far the most likely to enjoy working with a team. Open, conscientious, and agreeable people preferred a mix of both team and individual work, whereas neurotics greatly preferred to work on their own. The previously suggested job fields for neurotics — including writing, art, and design — all happen to be perfect tasks for solo individuals.

People who ranked high for extroversion also led the way in terms of overall co-worker relationships. In particular, they had great chemistry with their subordinates and/or immediate superiors. Conscientious and agreeable respondents scored next in terms of positive workplace relationships, followed by those with a high level of openness. Neurotics generally had no problem with their co-workers or subordinates, though some had trouble establishing a harmonious dynamic with their superiors, perhaps because a greater level of emotional sensitivity may make it difficult to take criticism.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

To round out our survey, we asked our respondents to assess their happiness regarding four key elements of their working life. We also queried how long they plan on sticking around at their current job.

Infographic on job satisfaction of different personality types

Not many of our respondents found themselves twiddling their thumbs during the workday, as most said their productivity levels were good. For job satisfaction, work-life balance, and especially mental health, highly open or neurotic people were much less satisfied. At this point, it’s no surprise to see that neurotics struggle more in certain areas than others. In this case, those with a high level of openness — defined as creative, imaginative, and adventurous — were also significantly affected. This could be due to this personality type’s propensity to make decisions based on gut feeling over reason. Perhaps respondents in these categories should reflect further into their unique situations and consider a career change.

On this topic, the same two personality groups (neurotics and high level of openness) were the most likely to see themselves leaving their current job within the next two years, or felt the most unsure about their next move. Conversely, respondents with a high level of conscientiousness, agreeableness, or extroversion were more likely to see themselves in their current jobs for the long run.

From Dream to Reality

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that personalities play a major role in determining the kind of career path one might pursue. For example, while it may be easy for extroverts to be team players and interact with others all the time, neurotics might find it difficult to operate in a work environment where people depend on them and where they depend on others. More independent jobs would be better suited to their needs and strengths.

Neurotics aren’t the only ones who need to consider their career choices carefully, though. People with a high level of openness were also prone to poor job satisfaction and issues with work-life balance and mental health due to their tendency to have higher levels of emotional sensitivity than other personality types. Regardless of your personality, finding work you love isn’t always easy, but Joblist is here to help. All it takes is answering a few questions on our platform, and we’ll provide personalized results for jobs that fit your detailed criteria. Head over now to find the fresh start you’ve been looking for!

Mentioned In This Article

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,011 employed people about their personality and work experience. Respondents were 47% women, 52% men, and 1% nonbinary. In terms of determining personality types, respondents with a score of 4 or higher (out of 5) were defined as scoring high for that trait. Out of all our respondents, 483 scored high for conscientiousness, 338 scored high for agreeableness, 294 scored high for openness, 155 scored high for neuroticism, and 149 scored high for extroversion. Respondents could score high for more than one trait.

For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed.

To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question.

Survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We didn’t weight our data or statistically test our hypothesis. The margin of error was +/-3% with a 95% confidence level.

Fair Use Statement

We hope that people of all personality types enjoy reading our findings, including you. If you’d like to send this article to anyone, feel free to do so. We just ask that you do so for non-commercial use only and to provide a link back to the original page so contributors can earn credit for their work.

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