Which Personality Attributes are Most Important in the Workplace | Thomas.co

Personality attributes are the individual characteristics and traits that define a person's behaviour, emotions, and thought patterns. In the workplace, personality attributes play an important role in determining job performance, relationships with colleagues, and overall work environment. Understanding and identifying personality attributes in the workplace is essential for creating a positive and productive work environment.

Personality attributes can impact hiring decisions and career progression, as they determine how an individual interacts with others and approaches their work. Employers may use personality assessments as part of their hiring process to identify candidates who possess the necessary attributes for success in a particular role. Additionally, understanding an employee's personality attributes can help managers to provide tailored feedback and development opportunities to support career progression.

Understanding personality attributes is vital for building strong relationships with colleagues, improving job performance, and achieving long-term success in the workplace. In this blog, we’ll look at the personality traits that are most important in the workplace. 

The 'Big Five' personality traits

The Big Five Personality Traits model is a widely used and accepted model for measuring personality traits. It proposes that there are five broad dimensions of personality that can be used to describe individual differences. These traits are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.


Openness to experience refers to a person's willingness to try new things, seek out new experiences, and engage in creative or intellectual pursuits. This trait is associated with curiosity, imagination, and a desire for variety.


Conscientiousness is characterised by a person's degree of responsibility, dependability, and organisation. People who are high in conscientiousness tend to be diligent, reliable, and focused on achieving their goals.


Extraversion is a trait that reflects a person's sociability, assertiveness, and energy level. Extraverts tend to be outgoing, talkative, and enjoy being around other people.


Agreeableness refers to a person's level of kindness, empathy, and desire to get along with others. Individuals who are high in agreeableness tend to be cooperative, compassionate, and willing to compromise.


Neuroticism is a trait that reflects a person's emotional stability and tendency to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, and anger. People who score high in neuroticism are more likely to experience stress and worry and may have difficulty managing their emotions.



The history of the ‘Big 5’


The Big Five Personality Traits model originated in the 1960s and 1970s as a way to describe and categorise personality traits. Over time, the model has been refined and is now widely accepted and used in personality research. Each of the five traits can manifest in different ways in the workplace. For example, an employee who scores high in conscientiousness may be punctual, detail-oriented, and reliable, while an employee who scores high in extraversion may be outgoing, sociable, and enjoy teamwork.

The Big Five Personality Traits model is related to other personality models and frameworks, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the HEXACO model. However, the Big Five is considered to be more scientifically robust and comprehensive than other models.

Understanding personality traits is important when it comes to hiring, team building, and employee development. By using personality assessments, employers can identify candidates who have the necessary personality traits for a particular role or team. This can help to reduce turnover and improve job satisfaction. In addition, understanding personality traits can help managers to build stronger teams by matching individuals with complementary traits and providing targeted development opportunities.

There are several ways to measure or assess the Big Five Personality Traits in the workplace. The High Potential Trait Indicator developed by psychologists Dr Adrian Furnham and Ian MacRae measures the five facets of the model. However, behavioural and peer assessments can also be effective. It's important to note that while personality assessments can be useful, they should be used in conjunction with other selection criteria to make hiring decisions.

How personality affects work performance

Studies show that personality can affect all aspects of a person’s performance and behaviour, from how someone deals with stress to their communication preferences. Personality can affect work performance by influencing how an individual behaves, interacts with others, and approaches their work tasks. High functioning organisations know how to unlock their people’s potential, capabilities and inner sense of motivation. By doing so, they make productivity, innovation and performance gains that of them ahead of the competition. Here are some examples of how personality traits can affect the workplace:

1. Conscientiousness

People who are more conscientious will regularly plan ahead and analyse their own behaviour to see how it affects others. This trait has consistently been shown to be the biggest predictor of workplace success, besides sociological factors such as access to opportunity.

2. Curiosity 

Someone who scores highly for ‘openness’ is more likely to think creatively, be inquisitive and inclined to seek new adventures. They are also more likely to embrace change and the alternative perspectives that fuel innovation. 

3. Extraversion

Studies show that people who are climbing the career ladder are more outgoing. These individuals may become less motivated over time in remote working contexts or roles where they are shut away from other people.

4. Agreeableness

People who are more agreeable are strong team players, however they may be less comfortable with interpersonal conflict than others and can lack assertion. Perhaps because of this, high agreeableness is negatively correlated with leadership.

5. Neuroticism

People who have higher levels of neuroticism tend to be less self-confident and may be inclined to worry. Those who are lower in neuroticism are generally more relaxed and even tempered, and studies show that leaders are typically lower in this trait. 

It is important to note that while personality traits can provide valuable insights into how an individual may perform in certain roles, they are not the sole determinant of work performance and should be used in conjunction with other factors such as skills, experience, and qualifications. When an employer understands different personality types they can better manage individuals to help them overcome challenges, improve productivity and help them to achieve their potential within the organisation.

Common characteristics of good employees

A great employee is someone who understands their role with a company and interacts well with their supervisors and co-workers. An ideal employee who complements their team’s skills and personalities, and whose internal motivations align with the organisational goals and ambitions. The traits of a great employee are linked to their personality and approach to their responsibilities. Let’s take a look at some of these qualities. 


Reliable employees are an essential component of any successful business. Their punctuality, consistency, and ability to meet deadlines are critical factors that contribute to their reliability. Punctual employees show professionalism and respect for their colleagues, managers, and clients, while consistent employees provide stability and predictability to the workplace. Meeting deadlines demonstrates responsibility, organisation, and time-management skills, all of which are highly valued by employers. Ultimately, reliable employees form the backbone of an organisation, and their contributions are crucial for the smooth running and success of the business.


Leadership qualities are important for all employees, not just managers, as they allow individuals to take ownership of their work and inspire others around them. Employees with leadership skills are able to take initiative, think critically, and solve problems independently, which can help to streamline processes and improve productivity. These individuals are able to motivate and encourage their colleagues to perform at their best, which can help to create a positive and collaborative work environment. By exhibiting leadership qualities, employees can demonstrate their value to the organisation and position themselves for career growth and advancement opportunities. Ultimately, leadership skills are essential for all employees as they enable individuals to contribute to the success of the business and make a meaningful impact on the organisation as a whole.


Self-reliance is a crucial trait for employees to possess, particularly when it comes to problem-solving and decision-making. Self-reliant employees take responsibility for their own work and are not afraid to take the initiative when necessary. They are able to identify and address issues independently, without relying on others to guide them. This can help to increase productivity and reduce the need for micromanagement. Self-reliant employees are also able to make decisions confidently, without waiting for approval or direction from superiors. This can help to improve efficiency and streamline processes. Ultimately, self-reliance is an important trait for employees to have, as it demonstrates accountability and autonomy, which are highly valued by employers.


Honest employees play a crucial role in fostering a positive work environment by building trust with their colleagues and customers. Their honesty demonstrates a commitment to integrity and ethics, which in turn fosters an environment of trust and transparency. This environment is essential for collaboration and effective teamwork, as well as for building strong relationships with customers. Honesty is also a core value that is highly valued by all employers, as it allows for greater transparency, accountability, and reliability in the workplace. Overall, honest employees are a vital asset to any workplace, as they promote a culture of trust and ethical behaviour, which is essential for the success of any organisation.


Ambitious employees are highly driven individuals who are motivated to achieve their goals and often exceed expectations. They possess a strong desire to succeed and are constantly looking for ways to improve their skills and knowledge. This drive and determination often result in them taking on additional responsibilities and going above and beyond what is expected of them. They are self-motivated and always seeking out new challenges to enhance their skills and advance their careers. Ambitious employees are valued by employers as they bring a sense of energy and enthusiasm to the workplace and are instrumental in driving the organisation towards success. Their passion and dedication inspire others around them and set a high standard for the entire team.


Creativity is a valuable trait that is essential in many different industries and job roles. Employees who think creatively are often able to see problems from different perspectives and come up with innovative solutions that others may not have considered. This ability to think outside the box can be particularly valuable in industries where disruption and change are frequent, such as technology or marketing. Creativity can also help employees to develop new products, services, and strategies that can give their company a competitive edge. By bringing fresh ideas to the table, creative employees can help their company stay ahead of the competition and adapt to changing market conditions.


Self-awareness is an important trait for employees to possess as it allows them to understand their strengths and weaknesses and work effectively with others. Self-aware employees are able to identify areas where they need improvement and take steps to develop their skills. This awareness can also help them to understand how they are perceived by others and adjust their behaviour accordingly, which is important in team settings. Self-aware employees are also more receptive to feedback and criticism, as they are able to see these comments constructively, as opportunities for growth and development. They are able to take feedback objectively and use it to improve their performance. By understanding themselves and their impact on others, self-aware employees are able to build stronger relationships with their colleagues and work more effectively as part of a team.

Tenacity and dedication

Tenacity and dedication are important traits for employees to possess, particularly when faced with challenging tasks or projects. Dedicated employees are committed to their work and are willing to put in extra effort to achieve their goals. They are persistent in the face of obstacles and are not easily discouraged by setbacks or failures. This determination and perseverance enable them to overcome difficult challenges and achieve success. Dedicated employees often go the extra mile to ensure that their work is completed to the best of their ability and are willing to put in extra time and effort to meet deadlines. This level of commitment is highly valued by employers as it demonstrates a strong work ethic and a willingness to take responsibility for one's work. 

Collaboration and teamwork

Collaboration and teamwork are essential for most workplaces as they enable employees to work together towards common goals and achieve success. Employees who are good team players are able to work well with others, share their knowledge and expertise, and help their colleagues succeed. They understand that the success of the team is just as important as individual success and are willing to put in the effort to ensure that the team achieves its goals. Good team players are also effective communicators, able to listen actively and express their thoughts and ideas clearly. They are adaptable and flexible, able to work with a variety of personalities and adapt to changing circumstances. In addition, they are supportive of their colleagues and work collaboratively to achieve success.


Communication is a vital skill for employees to possess in any job role as it enables them to express themselves clearly, listen actively, and build strong relationships with their colleagues and customers. Employees who are good communicators are able to articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly, convey information effectively, and listen attentively to the needs and concerns of others. They are skilled in both verbal and written communication, able to adapt their communication style to suit the needs of different audiences. Good communicators also understand the importance of building strong relationships with their colleagues and customers, and are able to do so through effective communication. They are able to build rapport, establish trust, and work collaboratively towards common goals. 



Which personality traits are most valuable to employers

Personality traits play an important role in an individual's success at work, and studies show that personality is more predictive of professional effectiveness than previous experience (Furnham). The Thomas Personality assessment was explicitly developed to measure the traits that correlate most strongly with professional success. 

Studies and analysis of large datasets show that conscientiousness – which involves being dependable, persevering, and orderly– is the most predictive of academic and professional success and is also the most highly sought after personality attribute in employees. Conscientious people are self-disciplined, organised, deliberate, and have a need for achievement. They characteristically arrive on time, are focused on completing their tasks, and are helpful to their co-workers. Perhaps counterintuitively, one study found that conscientious people "have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease."

Agreeableness – which indicates cooperative behaviour as well as being flexible and tolerant, has been shown to be the second most valued personality trait among employers. This personality trait refers to an individual's ability to work well with others and be cooperative and supportive in a team setting. Agreeable employees are often empathetic, kind, and easy to get along with, which can lead to improved communication and collaboration within the workplace.

At the bottom end of personality hierarchies, emotional intelligence is a crucial trait for workplace success, and is especially important for people managers and leaders. The inverse of neuroticism, an emotionally intelligent person will typically be better able to manage their emotions and those of others and remain calm in high-pressure work environments, helping teams to push through adversity to achieve results. 

In our fast paced and competitive market, openness to experience is increasingly important. This personality trait is characterised by a willingness to try new things and explore new ideas. Employees who are open to experience tend to be creative, curious, and adaptable, helping organisations to innovate to stay competitive and respond in an agile way to constantly evolving business environments.

Personality: predicting professional success

Discovering different personality types can help organisations to optimise workforce efficacy and productivity, improving people metrics across the board and ultimately elevating company performance. Understanding which of the personality attributes that are most important in the workplace, in different teams and environments can help leading organisations get ahead. The Thomas Personality assessment for hiring assesses six core traits which help identify the best candidate for a role.

To find out more about how personality tests for hiring with Thomas can help you make smarter recruitment and development decisions, speak to one of our team.