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«MASTER THESIS MAY 2007 MASTER’S DEGREE PSYKOLOGISKE INSTITUTT UNIVERSITY OF OSLO Elizabeth Le Thi ABSTRACT The aim of the present study is to ...»

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ADVERSITY QUOTIENT IN PREDICTING

JOB PERFORMANCE VIEWED THROUGH

THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE BIG FIVE

MASTER THESIS

MAY 2007

MASTER’S DEGREE

PSYKOLOGISKE INSTITUTT

UNIVERSITY OF OSLO

Elizabeth Le Thi

ABSTRACT

The aim of the present study is to theoretically and empirically investigate a theory labeled the Adversity Quotient (AQ). Its claim of being able to predict all facets of human capacity and performance is being tested by comparing it with the more established Five Factor Model (also known as the Big Five). Data for this study were obtained from Det Norske Veritas and from CORE Learning. A total of 98 participants were recruited (41 females, 57 males). Results indicate that the total score of AQ’s measurement tool (ARP) does not predict job performance better than the BFI, a measurement of the Big Five. However, there seemed to be theoretical support for the AQ framework. Implications for the AQ measurement and its practical use as well as the AQ theory overall will be presented.

ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would, first and foremost, like to thank my supervisor, Hallvard Føllesdal, for infinite patience and for helping me throughout the entire process. A special thank you goes also to Yngvar Sjoner at DNV and Lars Terje Pedersen at CORE Learning for making this project possible. It has been interesting. And to Linda Nyheim; thank you for fellow support. And last but not least, a huge thank you to my family for much needed encouragement.

Elizabeth Le iii

ADVERSITY QUOTIENT IN PREDICTING JOB PERFORMANCE VIEWED THROUGH THE

PERSPECTIVE OF THE FIVE FACTOR MODEL

THE BIG FIVE

EMOTIONAL STABILITY AND CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

ADVERSITY QUOTIENT

Measuring AQ

THE CONCEPT OF AQ IN VARIOUS PERSONALITY DISPOSITIONS

A CLOSER LOOK AT AQ

How to solve the mounting adversities

Quitters, Campers and Climbers

COMPARING AQ WITH THE BIG FIVE

Conscientiousness and AQ’s Mountain metaphor

Emotional Stability and AQ’s Mountain metaphor

THE BIG FIVE AND JOB PERFORMANCE

THE CORE MODEL

CORE AND AQ-RELATED PERSONALITY CONSTRUCTS

Control

Learned Helplessness and Control

Implications for job performance

Hardiness and Control

Self-Efficacy and Control

Implications for job performance

Ownership

Locus of Control and Ownership

Implications for job performance

Reach & Endurance

The Attributional Style theory, Explanatory Style and Reach and Endurance

Implications for job performance

Summary

HOW IS CORE LINKED TO BIG FIVE?

Does AQ provide anything new?

Aim of the present study

METHOD

SAMPLE AND PROCEDURE

MEASURES

Adversity Quotient.

AQ-related personality traits

Job Performance.

RESULTS

ARP AND PSYCHOMETRIC ISSUES

Factor structure of ARP

Reliability.

CONVERGENT AND DISCRIMINANT VALIDITY

AQ and AQ-related personality traits

AQ and the Big Five

AQ-related personality traits and performance

AQ and performance

The Big Five and performance

INCREMENTAL VALIDITY

iv DISCUSSION

ARP AND PSYCHOMETRIC ISSUES

CONVERGENT AND DISCRIMINANT VALIDITY

ARP and performance

The Big Five and performance

AQ and AQ-related personality traits

AQ and the Big Five

AQ-related personality traits and performance

INCREMENTAL VALIDITY

LIMITATIONS

CONCLUSION

REFERENCES

TABLES

TABLE 1

TABLE 2.

TABLE 3.

APPENDIX

APPENDIX A

GENERAL PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT

GENEREAL PERSONALITY MEASUREMENT

THE BIG FIVE INVENTORY (BFI)

APPENDIX B

Scree Plot C

Scree Plot O

Scree Plot R

Scree Plot E

SCATTER DIAGRAM

APPENDIX C

REQUEST TO PARTICIPATE IN A RESEARCH PROJECT

v

ADVERSITY QUOTIENT IN PREDICTING JOB PERFORMANCE VIEWED

THROUGH THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE FIVE FACTOR MODEL

For several decades industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists have been trying to find answers to the use of personality measurement in organizational contexts. Clearly, such personnel assessment methods have their practical value. Being able to predict future job performance have important implications for selection method as this, in turn, would lead to overall increased employee performance “as measured in percentage increases in output, increased monetary value of output, and increased learning of job-related skills” (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998, p. 262). Along this body of research is the assumption that the knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes (KSAO’s) required in a given organizational role can be identified and subsequently that these KSAO’s can be measured on individuals in order to assess and thereby predict job performance (Kierstad, 1998). Indeed, research have repeatedly shown that particularly personality - that is, one of the “O’s” in KSAO – is an essential predictor of job performance, most notably contextual performance and person-organization fit. Most instruments used to assess these qualities relates to aspects of the individual’s personality (Kierstad, 1998). As such, a fundamental concern has been the ability to identify the relations between personality dimensions and job performance (Barrick & Mount, 2003). However, this has proven to be a daunting task. Researchers have not been able to agree as to how well personality measures can actually validly predict real world performance. This could be traced back to the fact that research findings prior to 1990 had turned out rather inconsistent. It was not until the emergence of the Five Factor Model (Big Five), a now widely accepted taxonomy, and the use of meta-analysis, that significant progress was made and research results revealed personality to have a predictive relationship with job performance (Barrick & Mount, 2003).





Personality measurements based on the Big Five as tools for predicting job performance, however, are not the only means. Other examples of personnel measures include general mental ability, structured employment interviews, and job knowledge and work sample tests (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). In other words, a number of personnel measures have been developed to this purpose, which tests to its significance. However, a near decade of research on this subject has produced general agreement that the one personnel measure demonstrating highest validity 1 concerning the hiring of employees without prior experience in the job is general mental ability (GMA). GMA can be assessed using commercially available tests (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Nevertheless, GMA is not exhausting; it does not cover the entire scope of possible ways to measure job performance, which leaves researchers to keep developing new measures to use.

This study will revisit some of the past literature on personality and job performance with the purpose of reviewing a newly developed theory for predicting performance developed by Paul Stoltz. A theory he has labeled the Adversity Quotient (AQ). It will focus on the theory’s background material and its use of certain aspects of personality as predictors of job performance.

In addition, the study will examine AQ in view of the more well known and established Big Five dimensions. More specifically, it will explore the potential relationships between the underlying facets of the Big Five and the different personality aspects thought to play a huge role within the AQ theory. It will examine the degree to which some of these variables differ in predicting performance and how there may also be potential overlap between them.

THE BIG FIVE In terms of industrial-organizational psychology, being able to predict behaviour, and thereby performance, through personality measures could have important implications for organizational productivity (Hogan et al. 1996). However, early research in personality assessment and its predicted value did not bode well as researchers were unable to identify a comprehensive taxonomy of human behaviour. Prior to the early 1990’s there was a general agreement among researchers that personality testing in employee selection did not hold ground and thus should not be utilized. The pessimistic conclusion derived in large part from research results by Guion and Gottier (1965) and Schimtt et al. (1984) which subsequently led to the decreased optimism regarding the utility of personality tests in personnel selection (Barrick & Mount, 2003).

However, due to the convergence of two developments in the literature of psychology the recent years the use of personality variables in personnel selection experienced resurgence. These were the development of meta-analytic methods and a common personality framework for organizing the traits which was labeled the Big Five (also known as the Five Factor Model).

2 Using meta-analytic methods Barrick and Mount (1991) and Tett et al. (1991) presented results that demonstrated personality as important for the prediction of job performance (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000). Consequently, the confidence in the robustness of the Big Five increased and researchers in the early 1990s began to take on this Big Five framework for selection research (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000).

The Big Five is used to organize the many personality traits into a controllable number of personality dimensions. As the personality traits used to reach the Big Five were drawn from everyday language its personality dimensions are also to capture lay-persons descriptions of personality fairly well (Kierstead, 1998). The five dimensions in the Big Five are labeled Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability (sometimes also referred to as Neuroticism, but essentially they are to measure each pole of the same dimension), Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience. Each of these personality dimensions relates to a specific aspect of human behaviour that is relatively independent of others. They are also found to be quite stable over time. Furthermore, they have been found to be applicable in many different cultures. In addition, research is pointing to a possible genetic basis for the dimensions in which its heritability is thought to be fairly significant (Judge et al., 1999).

The numerous studies conducted using the Big Five reveal that Conscientiousness most often reveal to be most relevant in predicting performance outcomes in most jobs than its other four dimensions (Behling, 1998). These other four, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, and Emotional Stability are found to be more contingent predictors of performance.

That is, they relate to success only in some jobs or with a few criteria (e.g. leadership). It has been demonstrated, for instance, that Extraversion is more related to performance in jobs containing a strong competitive component (Barrick & Ryan, 2003). The Extraversion dimension is thought to consist of sociability, but also includes factors like gregariousness, talkativeness, activeness, and assertiveness. These are factors that are often seen to contribute to success in jobs like managers and sales representatives (Dunn, Mount & Barrick, 1995). According to Judge et al. extraverts are frequently seen as socially oriented, but they are also surgent - that is, dominant and ambitious - and active people (Judge et al, 1999). Agreeable people are typically seen as cooperative and likeable, they are thus often viewed as good-natured and gentle individuals. It thus seems intuitive that the cooperative nature of these individuals may lead to success in jobs 3 where teamwork or customer service is relevant (Judge et al. 1999). Accordingly, it has been found to be more predictive of performance in jobs that demand cooperation. For example, teams with members scoring high on Agreeableness seem to be more effective than teams with members scoring low on Agreeableness. The last of the five factors, Openness to Experience, has been found to be related to customer service jobs (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000).

Because Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness are the two traits of the Big Five which seem most related to the Adversity Quotient theory, they will be discussed in somewhat more detail.

EMOTIONAL STABILITY AND CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

According to Costa and McCrae Emotional Stability is evident in nearly every measure of personality as it appears in almost every personality measures. The dimension describes how a person handles negative life events. Scoring high on this dimension translates into an individual with lack of positive psychological adjustment and emotional stability (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen & Barrick, 1999). With respect to work relations, being low on Emotional Stability or high in Neuroticism, would generally not bode well as such people can be easily distracted by everyday stresses and strains (Larsen & Buss, 2007).

Conscientiousness defines the hard working and achievement oriented individual, and is the one dimension which has yielded most consistent results in relation to job performance (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen & Barrick, 1999). The lower order facets of Conscientiousness are competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation (according to the NEO-PI-R). High in this dimension results in punctual and reliable behavior, and in turn this may lead to greater success at work. It is thus not surprising to find that there is a strong link between this dimension and job performance (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen & Barrick, 1999). People scoring high on Conscientiousness are defined as industrious individuals, intent on getting ahead in life (Larsen & Buss, 20007).

ADVERSITY QUOTIENT



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