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Group Work: Does The Big Five Model

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In an increasingly competitive business environment, organizations are seeking to find the key factors that will help them to get ahead of their competitors. One of these factors is how group work can be improved by determining the most essential traits of individual group members. With regards to the Big Five Model, we investigated how group success relates to these five traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, emotional stability and extroversion. We searched for indications that would support the notion that the personality traits pertaining to the Big Five Model positively affect group success.

The personality trait conscientiousness is a component of the Big Five Model that contributes to group performance and group cohesion, which in turn results in group success. It is a trait that consists of six facets. These six facets are competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation (Costa & McCrae, 1992).

Conscientious people are individuals who are described as being careful, responsible, dependable, persistent, self-motivated and task-oriented (Barry & Stewart, 1997). In particular, as a result of being self-motivated and achievement striving, a conscientious person increases group cohesion by promoting the notion of goals and the steps that lead to these goals. These goals can then build a bond between group members, as they are all trying to achieve the same end. In addition, conscientious members pose a positive externality on the rest of the group by exhibiting persistence and a desire to achieve. The rest of the group members observe this "self-motivation" and in turn can become more motivated themselves to achieve the goals set by the group. Moreover, Hogan and Ones (1997) maintain that being responsible and trustworthy are characteristics of conscientiousness that are fundamental to group cohesion. For instance, having conscientious members in a group implies that these people are more than likely to show up on time for meetings and complete their end of the project. They are also not the type of people that would disclose group information to outsiders or break any promises. This type of behavior that is displayed by conscientious members means that they avoid conflict situations, accept group norms and as a result, reduce the amount of conflict within the group. The elimination of conflict, arguments, and altercations will therefore ultimately increase group success.

The tendency for conscientious individuals to be task-oriented can help to improve the success within a group by improving the performance of the group. By merely possessing the characteristics of being task-oriented and self-disciplined, a conscientious individual helps the rest of the group to stay focused on the task at hand by eliminating or reducing the degree to which social loafing and free riding occur (Barry & Stewart, 1997). Conscientious individuals are committed to getting the job done well and on time, which in a way pushes the rest of the group members to pick up the slack and maintain a performance level that is equivalent to that of the conscientious individuals of the group. Hogan and Ones (1997) present various reasons for the correlation between conscientiousness and job performance:

...individuals high on Conscientiousness set goals and persist in attaining them, and, consequently, perform well on the job. So one reason why Conscientiousness predicts job performance is because Conscientious individuals plan and organize their work, spend more time on their job tasks, and persist at performance, all of which result in more job knowledge and superior supervisory ratings of job performance. (p860)

Hence, conscientious group members are more committed to the task and are therefore likely to put forth more effort into their work, which is likely to have positive effects on other group members. This in turn improves the overall performance of the group and the success within the group.

Some may argue that conscientiousness inhibits the creativity of the group due to excess consistency and cautiousness, which can lead to conformity (Waung & Brice, 1998). Although this may be true under certain circumstances, conscientiousness is still the only element of the Big Five Model that has been proven to be positively related to job performance across various jobs and situations (Hogan & Ones, 1997). Moreover, Robbins and Langton (2001) assert that conscientiousness is the only facet of personality that foresees organizational citizenship behavior. Hence, there are benefits to having conscientious individuals as part of a work group, so long as there is not a dire need for creativity or innovation.

The effect of agreeableness has also provided some research to indicate links to group success. In an article by Neuman and Wright (1999) there is evidence that shows that the agreeable nature of an employee helps to predict many facets of their group performance. An individual who is agreeable is someone that is cooperative, trusting and good-natured (Robbins & Langton, 2001).

In the article by Neuman and Wright (1999), data was collected about group performance from an experiment involving three hundred and sixteen human resource workers from different areas in the United States. These employees were separated into groups and the different groups were required to do several human resource tasks as well as complete several tasks in the most efficient manner possible. The results from the experiment detailed in the article by Neuman and Wright (1999) revealed that agreeable team members were better at conflict resolution and showed more cooperation with other team members. One interesting fact discovered throughout the experiment was that because agreeable team members were often more likeable, they received more positive evaluations from supervisors. The experiment was designed with that thought in mind and so the results were based on completion and accuracy and not of how well the supervisors felt the team members were doing. Agreeable team members were also good workers; however, their work was not completed any more accurately than the non-agreeable team members. The agreeable team members still made mistakes attributed to human error just as the non-agreeable team members.

The article by Neuman and Wright (1999) shows evidence that agreeableness can predict positive group performance in a person. In the experiment it was clearly stated that agreeableness only helped predict and did not in any way guarantee positive group performance. Group members who excel have several positive personality traits that aid them to achieve their goals. In this particular experiment it was shown that conscientiousness was a greater predictor of positive group performance then agreeableness. It should be noted that the authors stated



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