The big five personality traits

The big five personality traits

In today's complex working environments in organizations where a plethora of behavioural and leadership activities and learning such as motivation,...

In today's complex working environments in organizations where a plethora of behavioural and leadership activities and learning such as motivation, communication, employee relations, etc are critical, it helps immensely to know which process and method works for whom; how one individual's motivation differs from how it works for another, since the levels of self-awareness and self-development of each individual varies to the extent of how much one needs to be motivated and how one needs to be communicated to by others.

Thus, understanding self and one's own personality traits can be the key to unlocking the various aspects and potential of human behaviour and enhance performance. To avail this, psychologists have, time and again, worked to create many theories which help define one's personality under certain major diverse traits and characteristics.

One such popular personality theory is the 'Big Five' factors which have been researched and validated by many different psychologists, the prominent ones whose test is run today being McCrae & Costa. Created to simplify Cattell's 16 Personality Factors, the Big Five Factors have been replicated in studies across the world and are at the core of many other personality questionnaires.

'The Big Five' is the commonly used term for the model of personality which describes the five fundamental factors of our personality. For reasons explained below the model is commonly referred to as OCEAN, being an acronym for names often used for the five traits. These traits are represented as the following scales and often characterized by the acronym OCEAN:

Openness to experience: this trait signifies the ability and interest to be creative. When one is over-conforming, then one tends not to be very open to experience. A high score in openness to experience indicates a lower score in conformism. It includes behaviours, such as enjoys challenging the status quo, having a variety of interests, can be unconventional in discussions and ideas, can be an effective creative problem-solver, risk taking and likes to improvise by thinking on one's feet. A low score in openness to experience indicates that one prefers to follow rules and procedures and chooses to stay with tried and tested ways with a practical and down- to-earth approach towards work. When one has high openness to experience, we can be experimenting in approaching work with that person; and when one has low openness to experience, we need to be more focused and conforming in one's approach with them.

Conscientiousness: this trait signifies the need of the individual for being detail-conscious. A high score indicates that the individual is quality-conscious and prefers a structured approach to work. This person can be persevering and dutiful while being committed to the job and constantly strives to achieve goals with high levels of accuracy. A low score indicates that the person is more flexible and does more of big picture and strategic thinking while doing multiple tasks and striving towards big goals. When one has high conscientiousness, we can be specific and detailed with the individual, and when one has low conscientiousness, we need to be big picture bullet pointed with the individual.

Extraversion: this trait signifies the person is open and talkative. A high score indicates that the individual enjoys fast-paced work, is gregarious and socially active in small and large groups. This individual enjoys praise and attention and can be impulsive many a time in decision- making. A low score indicates that the individual prefers a calmer working environment, and chooses to concentrate for long on tasks and avoid limelight as much as possible. As opposed to one with a high score, those with a low score may not be natural communicators and choose to reflect on things before they speak. Pace of words and work needs to be quick when speaking with one with high score and slow when speaking with one with low score

Agreeableness: this trait indicates the level to which an individual can be agreeable in a team and correlates that with being tough-minded on the other extreme. A high score indicates that the individual is more empathetic and tolerant of others, and is considered more a team player who handles others with patience and kindness. A low score indicates that one is goal-oriented and determined to drive through obstacles and can make tough calls and unpopular decisions. Talking to someone with a high score can be a pleasant and patient and longer conversation whereas talking to someone with a low score needs to be a straightforward, specific and result- centric conversation.

Neuroticism: this trait is indicative of the levels of sensitivity and confidence the individual may possess. A high score may indicate someone who is unsure of self and more prone to anxiety and stress, especially during difficult decision-making or when confronted with sudden changes, etc. A low score indicates that one is relaxed and calm under pressure and has a higher level of self-esteem. An individual with a low score is considered more emotionally stable and confident and comfortable in a range of situations. Those with high scores are helped to learn to balance any emotional duress they go through and need to be handled carefully in any such situation.

The Big Five model is a modern, widely replicated and validated methodology for understanding, explaining and measuring personality. Used appropriately, BIG Five and other similar personality traits can be very useful in improving one's knowledge of self and that of other people also. They help immensely to increase levels of motivation, leveraging strengths, overcoming weaknesses, analysing preferred thinking and working styles, as well as awareness of preferred styles for communications, learning, management, being managed, and team-working.

Understand your personality traits... Learn, adapt and grow! You have the power!

(The writer is an international trainer and inspirational speaker.

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