Five-Factor Model or ‘Big Five’ of Personality

Five-Factor model follows the Traits approach to personality and experts agree that it is valid and it effectively captures the salient aspects of personality that are stable. The five-factor  structure is designed to take care of cultural differences in socialization and allows self, peer, observer and stranger ratings to measure personality.

The Big Five factors of Personality are:

(a) Emotional Stability (Opposite  of Neuroticism)

Accepting the function of personality of helping us adjust with our environment, we would agree that a well-adjusted person might be comfortable in dealing with issues and problems, and would be able to make and maintain positive relationships. It is not valid to say that a well-adjusted person does not have powerful feelings, especially negative ones.

Conversely, a person scoring high on neuroticism may show hostility, self-consciousness, low confidence, pessimism, and impulsiveness. People with high neuroticism have also been described as depressed, insecure, nervous and worried. A high level of neuroticism blocks awareness  and manage­ment of one’s own emotional states. Research links high neuroticism with the following organizational outcomes:

Stress Safety and Health

Combined  with Negative Affectivity, Neuroticism explains how well a person can handle painful, unpleasant and stressful stimuli. People high in neuroticism make significantly more work accidents, report greater dissatisfaction and have lower mental health.

Attitudes at Work

Neuroticism is significantly related to Life and Job Satisfaction. Persons high on neuroticism are less likely to form positive attitudes towards their work because of their tendency to interpret experiences under a negative light. Neuroticism can also cause lower self-esteem, lower self-efficacy, an external lo­cus of control, and lower job satisfaction. When organizational change is introduced, high neuroticism induces increased stress and insecurity, and causes negative attitudes and resistance towards change

Job Performance, Motivation and Quality or Work Relationships

Emotional stability is strongly correlated to higher job proficiency and performance motivation.  High Neuroticism is not likely to facilitate effective job performance. Higher the neuroticism, lower would be the goal-orientation, leading to low possibility that such a person will devote himself to his work.

Bozionelos (2004) reviewed  that due to lack of confidence and optimism,  those who score high on neuroticism may not develop career ambitions, and suitable  performance goals. Emotional stability can significantly  predict turnover intentions. High levels of emotional stability contribute to social cohesion in teams, and high neuroticism predicts anger and neglect in relationships

(b) Extraversion (High to Low): Opposite of Introversion

Jung (1921) first introduced the concept of introversion-extraversion as a measure of personality. As a factor, Extraversion can be found in most personality inventories and is measured by facets such as sociability (gregariousness), energy (activity), and assertiveness (dominance).  Individual scale  items measure each of these extraversion facets. Extraverted individuals are expressive and talkative, gener­ally positive, energetic and joyful, and they show a preference for and enjoyment of others’ company.

Performance. Rewards and Well-being

Extraversion, characterized  by personalities with a need for stimulation and high externally-oriented activity levels, is a very important dimension for effective job performance for managers, since man­agers work with and through others most of their time. Though not guaranteeing  better performance directly, extroverted behavior is perceived by others as cooperative behavior, leading to favorable ratings.

Motivation and Well-being

Extraverts are often motivated for improved performance by external rewards and recognition  in the form of status and rewards at work. Typically, an introvert would report having fewer friends or contacts. While an extrovert can also possibly have few close friends, when compared  to introverts, the extrovert would have more social contacts. When left with some spare, unstructured time, an in­trovert might prefer to spend it reading or doing some other similar ‘solo’ activity, while an extrovert might seek the company of others.

By way of a very general observation, therefore, we might say that introverts may be Jess attracted to social rewards like status and approval of others, compared to extroverts. We can also infer that when faced with a situation that threatens their well-being, an extrovert might more easily approach others and seek their help. So, this other-orientation may act as a buffer against the impact of negative influence of, let’s say, a workplace conflict.


(c) Openness to Experience  (High or Low)

Openness  to experience  is a disposition to be imaginative, artistic, non-conforming, curious, origi­nal, broadminded and  autonomous. People high on openness can be expected to be proactive, tolerating and willing  to explore the unfamiliar. High scores on openness to experience  mean that the individual is original, has an active imagination, enjoys variety, is attentive to inner feelings, and demonstrates intellectual curiosity. Those who score low on openness to experience tend to act more conventionally.

Training and Learning

A high score on openness is found to be related to training proficiency, and a positive disposition towards learning. So, in organizations interested in creating learning and adaptation-oriented environ­ments, the implementation of change might benefit from a workforce high on openness. But if the task and environment are routinized, where compliance is critical, the imaginative, curious and unconventional individuals may be more liable to break rules, experiment and improvise and may show emergent leadership behavior in groups.

Attitude and Motivation

Individuals who score high on openness may be more involved and motivated in their work, especially if the work requires them to self-set goals. One of the recent discoveries is that there is a link be­tween Openness and Organizational Citizenship Behavior, suggesting that creative and imaginative employees are more willing to participate in extra-role activities of OCB.

(d) Agreeableness: (Compassion to Antagonism)

The basic features of agreeableness as a personality trait are altruism, friendliness and modesty, while low agreeableness indicates antagonism and selfishness. These features represent the tendency of agreeable people to be courteous, soft-hearted, flexible, nurturing, and cooperative. At work, agreeable people avoid disagreement and are generally easy to get along with.

They are found to be compli­ant, tolerant, tactful, not defensive, trusting, tender, and modest. Two major needs of people high on agreeableness are ‘the need for affiliation’ a stable preference for establishing, maintaining, and restoring a positive affective relationship-and ‘the need for intimacy’-a stable preference for warm, close, and communicative interactions with others.


Agreeableness is useful in situations that require cooperation with others. Agreeable individuals need to make themselves valuable to a group by bringing the group closer together, and other group members value agreeable individuals more than those who are not agreeable

Involvement and Performance

Individuals low on agreeableness are likely to be more involved in their work, as it may provide an escape from having to relate to others, and give an opportunity of advancement through their work. On the other hand, those who score high on agreeableness might prioritize relationships over work and career success.

(e) Conscientiousness

This factor represents the traits of achievement, organization, task-focus, and dependability. Its definition includes aspects of competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline and thoroughness in decision-making style. Literature reviews suggest that conscientiousness corre­lates well across performance criteria.

Conscientious individuals are more likely to be orderly and decisive, autonomous and persevering in goal-setting behavior, show greater ability to cope with time management issues and stress, and generally strive for continuous performance improvement.


Conscientiousness is most strongly linked to performance outcomes, not only as a Big Five dimen­sion, but also as its constituent individual trait. Perhaps that is why it can predict performance motivation strongly and consistently in a wide range of settings such as studies, sales outcomes and manufacturing teams.

In a study, the sales representatives who scored high in conscientiousness were more committed than their less conscientious counterparts, brought greater sales volume and earned higher supervisory ratings of job performance. Moreover, the supervisors of highly conscientious sales persons are likely to see them as dedicated to their jobs.

Attitudes Towards Change

Employees with a high score on consciousness are dutiful and they strictly follow the principles and obligations initiated by the management. So, conscientious employees can be expected to have positive attitudes toward change. However, conscientiousness is also negatively correlated with creativity so valuable in times of change.


Photo by: CyberPhysics
Sonia Kukreja

Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.
Sonia Kukreja

Latest posts by Sonia Kukreja (see all)