Nowack, K. (1997). Personality Inventories: The Next Generation. Performance in Practice, American Society of Training and Development, Winter 1996/97

In the last few years many industrial/organizational psychologists (I/O) and career development practitioners concur, there has been a resurgence of interest in use of personality assessment and a greater number of organizations turning to personality inventories to both develop and select employees. Across employment sectors, concerns about employee integrity have bred the development of honesty and integrity testing, one version of personality assessment. And the current corporate emphasis on teamwork, communication and cooperative problem solving paves the way for how personality affects people's ability to work together. For example, many organizations routinely use personality-based instruments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), as a tool for conducting team building and communications/interpersonal effectiveness training.

Over the last 25 years, a number of researchers have investigated the validity of personality measures for personnel selection purposes. The overall conclusion is that the validity of personality as a predictor of job performance is fairly low and probably not much better than the unstructured interview. In general, personality inventories are only modest predictors of diverse measures of job performance across all job families (e.g., managerial, sales, clerical/administrative). However, at the time these validity studies were done, no well-accepted model existed for classifying the diversity of personality traits related to human behavior. As such, it wasn't really possible to determine whether there were consistent and meaningful relationships between particular aspects of personality and performance in different occupations.

In the last 10 years, the views of many personality psychologists have converged regarding the concepts of personality. During the past decade, an impressive body of literature has accumulated which provides compelling evidence for a 5-factor model of personality across different theoretical frameworks and using different instruments. It should be pointed out that while there is general agreement among researchers concerning the number of personality factors, there is some disagreement about their precise meaning. The newer generation personality inventories are all based on this 5-factor concept (FFM) and commonly referred to as the "Big Five." A brief description and some examples of these next generation personality inventory measures are summarized below.

It is widely agreed that the first "Big Five" personality "factor" is generally known as "Extraversion." Traits associated with it include being assertive, sociable, expressive, gregarious, adventurous and reward-seeking. There is also general agreement about the second factor most frequently called "Emotional Stability." Common traits associated with it are being even-tempered, self-confident, calm, resilient, tolerant of stress, and well-adjusted. The third factor has generally been interpreted as "Agreeableness" or likeability. Common traits associated with this factor include being courteous, sympathetic, good natured, cooperative, forgiving, helpful, flexible, trusting and softhearted. The fourth factor has been most frequently called "Conscientiousness." Some researchers suggest that this factor reflects dependability, that is, being careful, thorough, responsible, hardworking, planned and organized. Others suggest that this factor also includes achievement orientation, efficiency, perseverance and a hard working orientation. The last factor is most frequently called "Openness to Experience" or "Intellect." Traits commonly associated with this dimension include being curious, perceptive, broad-minded, imaginative, creative, intelligent, artistically sensitive and cultured.

A large body of research now exists utilizing the FFM as a predictor of diverse work outcomes, including job performance. In recent meta-analytic studies, Conscientiousness shows the most consistent and robust associations with performance across all jobs and occupational settings. Emotional Stability has also consistently been found to be significantly correlated with overall performance across many, if not all jobs. These two FFM constructs can be considered as "universal" or generalizable predictors given their significant association with such a large number of jobs in diverse settings. The other three Big Five factors (Extraversion, Agreeableness and Openness to Experience) have been found to be almost as predictive as Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability for select occupations and performance outcomes. These three factors are considered as "contingent predictors" depending on the exact requirements of the job in question. Hogan and Holland (2003) demonstrated that when interacting and working collaboratively with others is required for successful job performance, Agreeableness was a significant predictor. When job performance depended on leading, influencing and getting ahead of others (e.g., sales and managerial positions), Extraversion was a significant predictor. Research by Barrick et al. (2001) and George & Zhou (2001) have demonstrated that Openness to Experience emerges as an important predictor of performance in positions that require creative and artistic tasks and activities. As such, a growing literature is clearly establishing that these "Big Five" models have numerous implications for the practice of organizational psychology, especially in the areas of executive coaching, career development, personnel selection and promotion, training and development and talent management. These FFM traits can be valid predictors of job success and performance when the job demands fit the behavioral tendencies associated with the traits based on a systematic analysis of the position in question.

Three relatively newer "Big Five" personality inventories that appear to be promising based on their empirical development and recent use include FACET5 (Buckley, 1984), the Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI; Hogan, 1985) and the NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO; Costa, P. and McRae, R., 1989). Practitioners for both individual counseling and organizational interventions are increasingly utilizing these newer generation FFM personality inventories for diverse interventions.

Ordering and relevant technical information about the Facet 5 is available at; the Hogan Personality Inventory is available from Hogan Assessment Systems and the NEO from Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR) at


Greene, R. and Nowack, K. (1996) Stress, hardiness and absenteeism: Results of a 3-year longitudinal study. Work and Stress, 9, 448-462

In this 3-year longitudinal study of 229 full-time employees, the authors investigated the association between hassles, two measures of personality hardiness, and absenteeism verified from medical personnel records and self-reported hospitalization owing to injury and illness.

Using stepwise multiple regression analyses, hassles, but neither of the hardiness measures, significantly predicted absenteeism when controlling for psychological well being and other relevant demographic variables over the 3-year period. The alternate measure of hardiness (Cognitive Hardiness Inventory, Western Psychological Services) but not any of the original Kobasa personality hardiness scales predicted self-reported hospitalization for injury and illness.

Little evidence for the predictive validity of the Kobasa personality components, or composite hardiness score, existed for either absenteeism or self-reported hospitalization in this longitudinal study. These findings support the concept that current conceptualization, measurement, and use of the original Kobasa hardiness scales should be re-evaluated. The Cognitive Hardiness Inventory appears to be a promising measure worthy of futher investigation.

Nowack, K. (1996). Is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator the Right Tool to Use? Performance in Practice, American Society of Training and Development, Fall 1996, 6

Personality measures are typically included in many career counseling and development programs. Personality inventories can assist employees in several ways related to career development including:

  1. Increasing self-insight and self-understanding;
  2. Clarifying suitable work/occupational environments to best match one's abilities;
  3. Increasing awareness about effectively managing interpersonal relations with others; and
  4. Increasing understanding about one's own behavior and style.

To be useful, personality inventories must be based on sound theory and have established research supporting their use (e.g., reliability, validity, and effectiveness). One of the most popular personality inventories being used today by many career practitioners is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The MBTI uses four indices which represent personality tendencies: "extraversion-introversion" (E-I), which is the distinction between whether a person prefers the external world of people and things or the internal world of ideas; "sensing-intuition" (S-N) which distinguishes between whether a person pays more attention to realistic, practical data or to one's imagination and possibilities of a situation; "thinking-feeling" (T-F) which is the distinction between whether a person prefers valuing logic or personal emotions and values when processing information and making decisions; and "judgment-perceiving" (J-P) which distinguishes between analyzing and categorizing the external environment or responding to it in an unplanned and spontaneous manner. The combination of these four indices is a "type" or representation of how one operates in the world (e.g, INFJ or ISFP). The MBTI type typically serves as a basis for guided discussions related to either interpersonal relations or career planning and decision-making processes.

A recent review of the literature on the MBTI with regards to its use in career development was recently conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 and published in a recent book (National Research Council, In The Mind's Eye, 1991, Washington, DC: National Academy of Science). The special committee reviewed existing publications and focused on the use of the MBTI in organizational and individual career development applications as well as its reliability, validity and overall effectiveness. A brief review and critique of the major committee findings are summarized below (See also critical reviews by Pittenger, D. (2005). Cautionary comments regarding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 57, 210-221; Caparo, R. & Caparo, M. (2002). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator score reliability across studies: A meta-analytic reliability generalization study. Educational & Psychological Measurement, 62, 590-602.).

Reliability of the MBTI. Although different types of reliability exist (e.g., internal consistency, stability over time, equivalence etc.) test re-test reliabilities are most relevant to personality inventories used in career development. In general, the National Academy of Sciences review committee found that the test re-test reliability of the MBTI appears to be weak in most previous research (e.g., only 47% of respondents retained their initial type designations over a period of 5 weeks in one major review study). These findings suggest that caution should be used when MBTI classifications (i.e., "types") are used to facilitate career decision making or planning processes with employees. Additionally, some limited research also suggests that the "judgment-perception" (J-P) scale is not completely independent from the "sensing-intuition" (S-N) scale with correlations between these scales ranging from .23 to .48 (i.e., sensors tended to be judgers, while intuitors tended to be perceivers in the research samples studied). Although adequate reliability is essential for all personality instruments, they must also be valid if they are to be useful.

Validity of the MBTI. Although there are various types of "validity" the most important ones are related to construct validity (i.e., does the MBTI relate to other scales measuring similar concepts?) and criterion-related validity (i.e., does the MBTI predict specific outcomes related to interpersonal relations or career success/job performance?). The National Academy of Sciences committee reviewed data from over 20 MBTI research studies and concluded that only the I-E scale has adequate construct validity (i.e., it has high correlations with comparable scales of other instruments and low correlations with instruments designed to assess different concepts). In contrast, the S-N and T-F scales show relatively weak validity. No mention is made in this review about the J-P scale. Overall, the review committee concluded that the MBTI has not demonstrated adequate validity although its popularity and use has been steadily increasing by career practitioners.

Effectiveness of the MBTI. Overall, there appears to be a lack of systematic research on the effectiveness of the MBTI and much of what is published is based on weak methodological designs. However, it may be that a more complete picture would be presented by taking into account the unpublished literature (e.g., technical reports, and dissertations). The review committee concluded that, although popular, the overall effectiveness of the MBTI has not been adequately demonstrated.

Conclusion. Although the MBTI is one of the most commonly used personality instruments used in career and organizational development interventions, the 1991 National Academy of Sciences review committee concluded that: "at this time, there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs" (page 101). As with all career assessment instruments, practitioners are encouraged to cautiously utilize all assessments in facilitating career planning and decision-making processes with employees. Further critical reviews by Pittenger (2005) and others suggest that the MBTI, while offering much intuitive appeal, may not yet be able to support all the claims its supporters make. Using the MBTI in your individual and organizational interventions may simply come down to whether you are a Thinker (T) or a Feeler (F); either more research is required to really establish the instrument's validity and practical usefulness in organizations or if it seems to be working, why try to fix it?

Nowack, K. M. (1994). The secrets of succession: Emphasizing development in succession planning systems. Training and Development, 48, 49-54

Most organizations have a system for developing and advancing employees, typically using one of three traditional approaches: replacement planning, succession planning, and succession development/talent management. This article compares and contrasts these three approaches to succession systems and presents a seven-step plan for developing high-potential talent for leadership and non-leadership positions in your organization.

Each of the following seven steps to designing and implementing a talent management/succession systems are discussed:

  1. Job Profile/Job Analysis;
  2. Identification of core leadership competencies;
  3. Assessment approaches to measure these core competencies;
  4. Administration of a succession/talent management system;
  5. Succession and development process and analysis;
  6. Providing developmental feedback and implementation of professional development plans; and
  7. Monitoring and evaluating your succession/talent management system.

This article also includes a sample competency-based succession development worksheet and a table summarizing critical issues regarding the administration and implementation of your system.

Nowack, K. and Pentkowski, A. (1994). Lifestyle habits, substance use, and predictors of job burnout. Work and Stress, 8, 19-35

This study explores differences in self-reported lifestyle habits, substance use (alcohol, drugs, and smoking) and predictors of job burnout in 879 professional working women employed in dental health offices in a cross-sectional design.

Job burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and self-reported substance use and lifestyle habits were assessed using the Stress Assessment Profile (Organizational Performance Dimensions). Self-reported drinking and drug use was only modestly correlated with each other in this sample. Employed women with higher levels of drinking reported significantly lower quality lifestyle practices, eating/nutritional habits, and more frequent use of avoidant coping strategies in the face of work and life hassles compared to non-drinkers. Women who smoked also reported significantly lower overall eating/nutrition and lifestyle practices. Those who reported using drugs for recreational purposes reported significantly greater hassles, poorer lifestyle habits, a less hardy outlook on life, more frequent use of dysfunctional coping strategies. Although women who reported using drugs experienced significantly higher interpersonal burnout (depersonalization) compared to non-drug users, in general, self-reported substance use was not significantly associated with measures of job burnout.

After controlling for age and psychological distress, perceived stress, Type A behavior, cognitive hardiness, and lifestyle habits significantly contributed to predictions of job burnout in multiple regression analyses. Despite methodological limitations, the prevalence of substance use found in this study supports previous research findings. Professional working women who practice poor lifestyle habits appear to be at risk of experiencing greater job burnout.

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