Have you ever wondered why different people react differently to the same situation? Why do some people think their job does not “align” with their personality? Or, you have been really unsuccessful to excel in your role despite having all the necessary skills. Experts have been trying to answer these questions for ages now.

According to them, there are certain factors such as environmental as well as natural which shape our personality and make us behave the way we do.

Research on personality has also generated hundreds of theories in a hope to precisely measure and define personality. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the most popular of such theories. Researchers have also been trying to determine actual number of personality traits a person can have. For instance, Gordon Allport suggested that there are more than 4000 personality traits. Similarly, there are only 3 and 16 traits in Hans Eysenck’s and Raymond Cattell’s theories respectively.

However, the personality model which has garnered immense popularity in last 20 years or so is the Big Five Personality Traits Model also known as Five Factor Model of Personality or the OCEAN Model. According to the OCEAN Model, there are only five main components of personality. These five components are Openness, Consciousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. As you can understand, OCEAN is the acronym of the five main traits in the model.

There also seems to be remarkable consensus among the psychologists and other personality experts over the validity and usefulness of Big Five Personality Traits Model. However, they never seem to reach an agreement on the exact labels for these traits. Apart from OCEAN, you can use another acronym, CANOE for Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion to understand the model.

HISTORY OF BIG FIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS MODEL

It is worth mentioning that this particular model is the outcome of hundreds of researches. The credit of the creation of The OCEAN Model goes to many different researchers. In fact, several different teams of researchers worked independently to discover or determine these 5 personality traits using data-driven, empirical research. Although, this particular personality traits model started gaining traction in 1990s yet its history goes back to mid-20th century.

D.W. Fisk carried out the original research about the five personality traits in 1949. The United States Air Force’s Research Laboratory also presented a similar model in the early 1950s. Other researchers including Raymond Crystal, Earnest Tupes, Smith, Norman and Lewis Goldberg further worked on the model in later years. Similarly, J.M. Digman presented his own five personality traits model in 1990. However, it was Lewis Goldberg who really refined the idea and implemented it in all types of organizations, both small and large, in 1993.

THE BIG FIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS

It is pertinent to note that each of the personality traits in the model represents a point between two extremes. For example, Extraversion may represent a range between extreme introversion and extreme extraversion. Common people lie somewhere between the two extreme ranges of a trait or dimension in the real life.

Following is a detailed explanation of Big Five Personality Traits Model and how it can help you better understand people and their behaviors.

Openness

This is the first and the most important trait in the OCEAN model of personality assessment. Insight and imagination are some of the major characteristics of this trait. If you have this trait, you usually have a dynamic personality and wide range of interests. You are always willing to explore the world. You are curious about other things and want to find out more about other people. Similarly, you are very keen to enjoy new experiences and learn new things.

People also tend to be more creative and bold if they have this trait. People high on open continuum are usually imaginative and creative whereas those low on this continuum are usually conventional and down-to-earth. Similarly, “open” people have the tendency to hold unusual beliefs and they are sensitive to beauty and logically curious. They love to take on new challenges as well.

On the other hand, you may find it difficult to think abstractly and are more on the traditional side of things if you are low on this trait. You dislike change and do not enjoy new things or want to learn them. You are not very imaginative and as a result, resist new ideas as well. You deride theoretical or abstract concepts. You normally discard novelty in favor of familiarity. You may have no desire to change and are happy with your current lifestyle if you are not an open person.

Typical example of an open person would be of someone who spontaneously decides to visit new places. It means he is willing to embrace new ideas and open to new experiences. Reserve example would be of a person who occupies himself with his daily routines and does not want to experience new things.

Conscientiousness

If you are high on this extremely important personality trait, you are actually a goal-oriented person. You have exceptional pulse control with highest levels of thoughtfulness. Similarly, mindfulness to details and exceptional organizational abilities are main characteristics of highly conscientious people. They are extremely mindful of deadlines and constantly think about how their behaviors and actions are affecting people. Similarly, they plan everything well in advance and organize their lives accordingly.

A highly contentious person is also highly disciplined, deliberate and careful. Contentiousness is also a measure of a person’s productivity, especially of low level employees in organizations. Such persons are better planners as compared to open ones who prefer to live their lives more freely. They are dutiful and self-disciplined. In fact, they spend a lot of time planning and preparing for their next tasks. They like to follow a set schedule and try to finish important tasks right away.

People low on this particular trait often exhibit totally contrasting behaviors. They are more impulsive and therefore, deride schedules, planes and structures. They usually do not care about most things and have the tendency to make messes. They find it very difficult or even impossible to rectify their mistakes. They fail to put things back to where they belong. Unlike highly conscientious persons, they are adept in procrastinating and seldom complete important tasks in time. Moreover, they seldom do anything in life which they are expected or supposed to do.

A person who always plans his morning meeting in advance and stick to the agenda in the actual meeting can be an example of a highly conscientious person. On the other hand, if a person does no planning and has no idea of what to do in the day both at his work and home is an example of a typical procrastinator. Such people are low on conscientiousness and always make mess of even the most basic things in their lives.

Extraversion

If a person is emotionally expressive and likes to assert his ideas on others, he happens to be an extravert or extrovert. Such people also tend to be very talkative and characteristically social and excitable. Being in social situations gives them more energy and courage to go about their business. As expected, extraverts are very outgoing and they derive energy and excitement by talking to other people and sharing their ideas with them.

Extroverts are highly energetic, enthusiastic and easily visible to people around them. They like to take action and see results no matter whatever it takes. They are often the conversation starters in social gatherings and like to be the center of attraction as well. As a result, they also have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Similarly, they befriend new people rather easily. However, they normally do not think before speaking which sometimes undermine their personality. Extraverts tend to be better leaders as well.

Opposite to extraversion is introversion. Introverts like to keep to themselves. They do not like to be a part of the social world. They love solitude, tend to be low-key and get bored and exhausted whenever they have to socialize. Similarly, they are also not good conversation starters and tend not to become part of any discussion as well. However, they carefully think before saying anything and dislike small talks. Most importantly, they do not want to become the focal point of any social gathering.

It was commonly believed that introverts do not become good leaders but recent studies suggest they can do equally good as extraverts when it comes to leadership.

Typical example of an extravert would be of a person who loves to party and going out with friends. Reverse example would be someone who feels less energetic and exhausted even on the thought of any social engagement. He rather likes to submerge himself in a pile of books in a locked room than attending a party or office meeting.

Agreeableness

Agreeable people are some of the best people you would ever meet. They are affectionate, kind, full of empathy for others and extremely trustable. They are very helpful, generous and considerate. They can even compromise their own interests in order for you to get what you want. Altruism is another extremely important characteristic of agreeable people. These are the most cooperative people both in your personal and professional lives. They get along and interact with others nicely, making them an indispensible part of any team as well.

People high on this important personality trait often like to volunteer and engage in pro-social behaviors. Similarly, such people take keen interest in other people lives. They contribute heavily to make them happy and live a better life. They never hesitate to help those who are in trouble.

Agreeable people try their level best to avoid negative thoughts and behaviors and live a happier life as a result. One of the most interesting studies related to personality traits also suggests that people having a looser gate tend be less conscientious and more agreeable.

People who are low in agreeableness prefer their own self-interest over anything else. They have no concern for others and always try to mind their own business. They are normally unfriendly and will never compromise their interests for the welfare of others. They take little to no interest in solving other people’s problems and have no regard for their feelings. They often look down upon people in distress. Just like people with narcissistic personality disorder, they manipulate others to grind their own axe. They also never hesitate to bully and insult others.

For example, a person is agreeable if he takes time out of his extremely busy schedule to attend his friend’s wedding. On the other hand, Sherlock Homes is the classic example of people who don’t bother about being agreeable. They take no interest in others’ problems. They even feel insulted if someone calls them for help because they never want to compromise their own interests.

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is the last and yet another important trait of the Big Five Personality Traits Model. Some of the important characteristics of neuroticism are emotional instability, sulkiness and unhappiness. People having high levels of neuroticism are easily irritable and experience frequent bouts of anxiety, sadness and mood swings. Therefore, neuroticism is also a person’s ability to counter stress in a complex or difficult situations.

Neuroticism may also lead to many psychological problems including a lot of stress. You start worrying about a lot of things, most of which do not really matter. You always feel anxious and get upset rather easily even by trifles.  People with extreme case of neuroticism also find it very difficult to recover from a period of high stress and anxiety.

If you have a high score of neuroticism, you are very likely to suffer from depression, anger, frustration and exhibit many other negative behaviors. A high score also means you are temperamental, very self-centered and you vary between emotions and feelings a lot.  You might often have constant feeling of insecurity as well. Some people correlate Freudianism and neuroticism. They do have many similarities but they are not identical in any respect.

As you might have guessed, emotional stability is the opposite of neuroticism. People with high levels of emotional stability are emotionally calm and deal with stress rather successfully. They always remain relaxed regardless of the situation and seldom feel depressed or sad. They do not worry much and always see positive side of things.

You can find examples of people with high scores of neuroticism in everyday life. For instance, if a person shouts at a waitress for too much sugar in his coffee or not getting his order in time, he is likely to have high levels of neuroticism. On the other hand, a person is low on neuroticism if he calmly handles even the worst of criticisms in the office or anywhere else.

IS THE OCEAN MODEL UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE?

Various researches and studies carried out on big five personality traits determine that they are remarkably universal. According to a study carried out on people from more than 50 distinct cultures, we can use the OCEAN Model to describe and measure personality across the world irrespective of your upbringing or culture.

Some scientists have further refined the above mentioned study. They also come to the surprising conclusion that big five personality traits also have biological roots. David Buss, a prominent psychologist, is also of the opinion that these traits originated from some of the most important features of any given culture of society.

The five personality traits normally influence how people behave in different situations they find themselves in. Although, your behavior also depends on situational variables yet the underlying personality traits are mostly responsible for your responses to specific situations.

You also need to keep in mind that human beings may have any or all of these traits at the same time. For instance, a person having a high level of openness might show no signs of conscientiousness. However, most people have a combination of these traits where some traits are more powerful as compared to others.

MEASURING KEY FIVE TRAITS OF PERSONALITY

Now that you have fully understood the key five dimensions of your personality it is time to learn how to measure your personality using these dimensions or traits. There are in fact many websites where you can take different types of personality tests for free. One of the most popular of these websites is Out OF Service.

The type of test you take will actually determine how your traits will be scored. For instance, some websites scores each of your personality traits separately. They also inform you how much you have scored as compared to other people who also have taken the test.

Other tests display results asa combination of letters and numbers such as O96-C70-E35-A98-N7. As you can imagine, each letter in the result stands for each of the personality traits. The numbers in the result are actually the percentages of other people who obtained less marks than you in the test.

For instance, a score of C70 means 70% of people scored less than you in conscientiousness. It suggests that you are more self-discipline, organized, thoughtful and goal-oriented than 70% of people who participated in the test.

APPLICATION OF BIG FIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS MODEL IN THE WORKPLACE

Biggest application of The OCEAN model is seen in offices or workplaces. Most studies focus on predicting a person’s performance and workplace social behaviors through the big five personality traits. Managers and coworkers can develop better workplace cultures, improve relationships with each other and build trust by having deeper understanding of all five traits of the OCEAN model.

Most psychologists believe that you can predict someone’s job performance by measuring the level of his conscientiousness. Highly conscientious people are curious and have the tendency to learn more. Therefore, they usually have more job related knowledge as compared to other members of the team. Similarly, they happen to be better leaders as well.

One downside of the conscientious people is that they often put work before everything else. They also resist vigorously to changes and new ideas. For instance, they might find it difficult to learn a new skill in the beginning because they tend to focus too much on their current role and performance. Similarly, they are not too creative as well.

Neuroticism on the other hand is generally associated with high employee burnout rates. People high on neuroticism are often extremely emotional which directly leads to employee dissatisfaction and burnout. You actually need to have high emotional stability to have low stress levels and high job and life satisfaction. Similarly, people with high neuroticism scores don’t deal with ever increasing workplace demands particularly well, especially in fast paced environments.

When it comes to extroverts, they are more adept in assuming leadership and taking charge of the situation. You need to remember that high leadership abilities are directly proportional to high extraversion scores. However, one thing which usually decreases their chances of becoming a leader is their ability to behave impulsively. In this regard, introverts are more composed and seldom react impulsively to any situation.

Open people are the most versatile employees you can find in any organization. They are more adaptable and embrace workplace changes happily and rather easily. The have the ability to maintain same standard of performance over a long period of time without showing any signs of decline. Most importantly, people who are open are also the most effective leaders.

Lastly, agreeable people are those who wholeheartedly follow the rules. They are also the apple of administration’s eyes. Everyone in the workplace tend to like them. They seldom involve in workplace accidents and scuffles. They are usually extremely satisfied with their jobs.

People having low agreeableness score tend to be counterproductive and behave in ways that create problems both for coworkers and higher authorities. As a result, they are never satisfied with their job and have less career success rate as compared to more agreeable people.

HOW TO USE THE OCEAN MODEL?

You can use the OCEAN Model’s test result in many different ways. You can use it to enhance your career prospects or find a totally new role for yourself. Similarly, you can also use the test to your favor if you are hiring new employees for your organization and the following lines explain how.

For Your Own Career

First and foremost, you can determine whether you are in the right job by using your test score. For instance, you are very likely to be successful in a crowded workplace if you score particularly high in extraversion. On the other hand, you may get nervous or stressed easily by work overload if you are an introvert.

If your level of neuroticism is high, you struggle to meet deadlines or demanding targets. Similarly, you are not the right fit for the job if you are under extreme pressure and mostly confine yourself to your office or cubicle. It is actually the time for you to start looking for a new role in your current organization or bid farewell to it for good.

You can easily find a perfect new role for yourself using your test scores. You can successfully pursue the career that suits your personalities by fully understanding the Big Five Personality Traits Model.

For Recruiters

Hiring managers can make full use of the OCEAN Model by hiring perfect candidates against certain roles in their organizations. You can identify people that meet your minimum requirements and are likely to excel in the work environment you are going to provide them.

First of all, you must determine the responsibilities associated with the position vacant in your organization. Subsequently, you will determine whether you need a team player or someone who likes to work independently to fill that position. You also need to figure out the nature of your organizational culture. Is it relaxed and flexible or bureaucratic and structured? Does the role require the employee to be more conforming to routine work and structured processes or have problem solving skills and a lot of creativity?

Once you have figured out the nature of the role, you can measure different personality traits of candidates through the OCEAN Model. Ultimately, you will be able to find the best candidate you can hire. However, it is also advisable to use other recruitment tests to improve your hiring process.

CONCLUSION

The Big Five Personality Traits or the OCEAN Model is one of the most popular models to define and measure someone’s personality. However, keep in mind that the model only does a general assessment of your personality.

Organizations who want to use the model to recruit new employees must also remember that it gives only the indication of which role best suits the personality of a candidate.

Even if you are trying to assess someone’s personality, you need to keep a range of information and factors in mind and should never rely on the results of personality tests only.

The Big Five Personality Traits Model (OCEAN Model)

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